Lord Byron can strike winning note for Hogan in Sprint Cup
This day last week, I mentioned how simply backing the top-rated (or joint top-rated) horses in Group One races has actually produced a decent profit in recent years - although I also mentioned that punters should be selective and do some further analysis rather than backing such horses blindly.
With a strike rate of 28pc, the top-rated horse is always my starting point in any Group One so at first glance, Sole Power stands out at a big price in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock (3.45) with a rating of 118 which is a couple of pounds ahead of nearest rival Gordon Lord Byron (116). But when you start to dig a little deeper, there are a number of negatives and perhaps his price of around 16/1 is justified after all.
For a start, his age is against him. These type of sprints, it seems, are best suited to slightly younger and perhaps more energetic sorts, even though the older ones often have a better rating.
Since the race was established in 1966, no horse aged eight or older has won and while I haven't checked every runner back that far to see how many took part, I did look at each race from 1997 onwards. Since then, there's been seven horses aged eight or older, and only one has managed to place.
Seven-year-olds have fared slightly better and Henry Candy's Markab rewarded backers at 12/1 in 2010 becoming the first horse of that age to win since Dick Hern's Boldboy in 1977 under Willie Carson.
Of course it's not all about age - you need plenty of class to win a Group One and I'm sure the race's organisers are a little disappointed that one of the best six-furlong sprinter in Europe at the moment, Muhaarar, will swerve this contest with the Champions Sprint at Ascot in October his most likely target.
Getting back to Sole Power, he's really a five-furlong specialist and I suspect he'll find today's longer trip a little inconvenient.
Having pointed out how well the top-rated horses perform in Group Ones last week, I'll be left pulling my hair out if he actually wins at a massive price but, for me, there's too many negatives coming together today and he's probably one which is best avoided.
Muhaarar's absence leaves this year's renewal wide open but the aforementioned Gordon Lord Byron (below), which is expected to go off around 8/1, ticks the right boxes and is my idea of a value bet today.
A winner of this race in 2013 and runner-up last year, the Tom Hogan-trained seven-year-old had a slow start to the season but any notions that he had lost his ability were quickly put to bed with an emphatic win in a Listed race at the Curragh in June. He later finished just a length behind Muhaarar in the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville to claim the third spot.
That was, in fact, his second time claiming third spot in that particular race and if there's one word which describes Gordon Lord Byron, it's consistent.
He was third in a Group Three at the Curragh last time but his draw wasn't ideal and the pace was a little slow so that race is overlooked.
William Haggas' Adaay has won three of his last four races and is sure to be warm in the betting. He was a little disappointing when sixth to Muhaarar in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot but he bounced back to form when winning a competitive renewal of the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury last time.
Mattmu should also make his presence felt. Tim Easterby's colt is rarely out of the frame and is one of the four previous course and distance winners going to post today.
Ralph Beckett's She Is No Lady has been raised from an opening mark of 81 to 88 following two wins on the trot including a handicap at Newmarket last time in which she beat the odds-on favourite Rhythmical.
She's certainly heading in the right direction and her manner of victory suggests she may have more to come.
The handicapper's left her some room for manoeuvre so at a price of 8/1 or thereabouts, she can be taken each-way in the Appletiser Handicap at Ascot (3.25)
2.00 Haydock: Ivawood
3.25 Ascot: She Is No Lady (e/w)
3.45 Haydock: Gordon Lord Byron
4.05 Kempton: King Of Rooks
4.55 Haydock: Manaafidh