Ground concerns see Hannon hold off on Paco sprint call
PACO BOY, the leading miler in England, is only 50-50 to drop back to six furlongs in Saturday's Group One Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock, for which he is the third favourite behind Ballydoyle's big hope Starspangledbanner , writes Marcus Armytage.
Richard Hannon's five-year-old is also entered in Sunday's Prix du Moulin at Longchamp and connections will make a decision on whether he goes up north or to France as late as possible.
Richard Hannon Jnr, for whom Saturday is already an important date -- he is getting married -- said the ground would be a key factor in the decision as Paco Boy appreciates a bit of give.
Last year's winner Regal Parade is among 20 five-day confirmations for the Haydock showpiece. David Nicholls' six-year-old won this season's Prix Maurice de Gheest.
Starspangledbanner, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is the 5/2 favourite, while Regal Parade is next at 7/2 with Paco Boy 4/1. "There's no doubt Starspangledbanner would be a warm favourite if a definite runner in the Sprint, but connections have yet to commit to the race and a shake-up in the market could be on the cards if they decide to give Haydock the swerve," said the Tote's George Primarolo.
Yesterday, Paco Boy's jockey Richard Hughes took the day off with stomach cramps, but lost no ground on Paul Hanagan in the jockeys' title race after the title leader drew a blank at Ripon.
Hanagan, on 136 winners, is 16 clear of Hughes and, with no racing in the north today, ventures down to Lingfield for two rides including the odds-on shot Two Feet of Snow before dropping in for one ride at Kempton on the way home.
Meanwhile, Godolphin's Emerald Commander took the Group Two Darley Oettingen-Rennen at Baden-Baden yesterday under Frankie Dettori, grabbing the lead at the top of the home straight before easing home. (© Daily Telegaph, London)
Betfred Sprint Cup betting -- 5/2 Starspangledbanner, 7/2 Regal Parade, 4/1 Paco Boy, 7/1 Equiano, 8/1 High Standing, 11/1 Borderlescott, Kingsgate Native, Markab, 12/1 bar.