Macarthur to prove worthy leap of faith
On a busy afternoon for racing on both sides of the Irish Sea, the Old Borough Cup at Haydock is the pick of the day's big-field handicaps.
A total of 17 go to post for the one-mile-six-furlong contest, with a number of up-and-comers out to enhance their reputations. Kansai Spirit, representing the potent John Gosden-William Buick partnership, seems likely to start as favourite.
The Sinndar gelding won his maiden on the all-weather in July, before following up in a handicap off 83. Having looked limited in eight starts prior to getting off the mark, 5/1 is short enough about Kansai Spirit now that he has been raised to 92.
It is a similar story with a couple of the other market leaders. Red Cadeaux, the general second favourite, is back up to a mark of 95 after finishing second to Lady Eclair off 92 at Chester. However, Ryan Moore's mount struggled to make an impact off 94 and 95 prior to that, so holds little appeal again now.
Of those three four-year-olds, Lady Eclair is the most appealing at around 8/1. Mark Johnston's filly has enjoyed a remarkable year, winning seven times in 13 starts. She is 28lbs higher than when she set out, but remains on the up.
That said, it might pay to take a punt on an outsider defying some middling recent form figures. Macarthur, which won a Group Three at Royal Ascot after finishing third in the Coronation Cup two years ago, has been tumbling down the handicap.
From a high of 119 during a fruitless spell with Mike de Kock last year, Macarthur competes here off 91. That is 3lbs less than his most recent outing at Ascot and, if you factor in his claimer's 7lb allowance, his net rating is just 84.
There's no doubt a leap of faith is required to see the son of Montjeu prevail, but if you excuse his last run, when he got bumped about, his previous seventh off 97 to Overturn in the Northumberland Plate reads respectably. With the trip and ground to suit this afternoon, the available 40/1 about Macarthur is too big.
In the Be Friendly Handicap, sprint king Dandy Nicholls saddles two, Courageous and Strike Up The Band. At up to 12/1, the latter deserves consideration.
A Group and Listed winner in years gone by, Strike Up The Band is past his best but he is another that has dropped significantly in the handicap. Third in this last year off 100, a few lacklustre efforts saw him drop to today's mark of 87. The seven-year-old recaptured some of his old zest to finish a close third off that rating at Epsom on Monday and, if he can build on that now, he could be thrown in.
In the cross-channel feature, the Betfred Sprint Cup, 7/4 about Starspangledbanner isn't off-putting. The colt suffered a surprise defeat in the Nunthorpe last time, but he was always liable to be vulnerable over five furlongs.
Once he broke slowly at York his chance was effectively gone, yet he kept at it to eventually finish second to a horse that everything fell right for on the day. Today's contest will be by no means a cakewalk but, over six furlongs, Starspangledbanner ought to get back on track.
At home, Rip Van Winkle deserves the favourite's tag in the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown but there is too much of a discrepancy between his price and that of Twice Over. Aidan O'Brien's colt is as short as 4/6, while Henry Cecil's raider can be backed at up to 7/2.
Given that only half a length separated them at York and that Rip Van Winkle needed all of the long straight to get up, Twice Over has a chance of turning the form around.
Best bet: Starspangledbanner