| 10.9°C Dublin

Red-hot Shernando primed to deliver

The game Northumberland Plate winner Tominator attempts to add a second valuable handicap to his CV in the Betfred Old Borough Cup at Haydock today.

In two subsequent starts, Reg Hollinshead's four-year-old hasn't managed to follow up, but he kept on encouragingly from a wide draw to be second at Chester recently.

While he is progressive enough to run well again here off a 10lb higher mark than when scoring at Newcastle in June, Tominator could struggle to win under 9st 7lb.

John Gosden, who took the mile-and-six-furlong contest with Kansai Spirit in 2010, is two-handed this time. Zuider Zee, with William Buick up, is the one of most interest.

With just four runs to his name this year, the Sakhee gelding hasn't had a punishing campaign. He competes today off the same mark that he finished second off at Ascot last time, and ought to be thereabouts if the ground doesn't deteriorate.

Another that must be considered for the place market is Blissful Moment. Relatively lightly raced, the Michael Stoute-trained representative returned from two months off to be beaten five lengths in the Ebor a fortnight ago.

It's fair to assume that Blissful Moment will come on for that, but such a competitive race will be hard won under a burden of 9st 5lb. Preferred for the win is Shernando.

In three of his last four starts, Mark Johnston's son of Hernando has seemingly obliged with a bit in hand, and never more so than when stretching nearly four lengths clear over 12 furlongs at Hamilton last Friday week.

He has obviously gone up in the ratings accordingly and is 9lbs higher here than he was at Hamilton.

However, having had to be niggled along early on that day, it was only in the final furlong that Silvestre de Souza's mount asserted, so the step up to this trip could bring about further improvement. Shernando's sole recent attempt at the distance saw him well beaten in a muddling race on very testing going at Sandown three runs ago.

Today's 17-strong pursuit should be truly run from the outset, so 8/1 looks a fair offering about an in-form horse that handles a reasonable cut in the ground.

The Pat Cosgrave-ridden Society Rock also appeals at around the same price in the day's Grade One, the Sprint Cup. Hoof It and Dream Ahead both come into this seeking to redeem their reputations, with Hoof It probably the more interesting now.

A hot favourite for the five-furlong Nunthorpe, things didn't pan out favourably for him on the day at York, and the line always looked as though it would come too soon for him. Back over six now, Hoof It warrants serious respect at a general 9/2.

That said, Society Rock's form is solid, and he appears to be overpriced. Second to Starspangledbanner in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot last year, he went one better on soft ground this time round, before having his stamina stretched slightly when runner-up to Moonlight Cloud in a seven-furlong Group One at Deauville last month.

With the five-time Group One winner Marchand D'Or, third that day, collecting next time, that form reads well, and it's also worth noting that Dream Ahead was well held in seventh. As for the two Irish runners, Sole Power will struggle if any of the forecast rain arrives, while Bewitched disappointed badly behind Society Rock at Ascot.

In the opening Listed race over a mile, First City is the one to keep on side under Jamie Spencer. Representing Dream Ahead's handler David Simcock, the Diktat mare has produced some eye-catching efforts in Group company this term, not least when a fine fourth to Goldikova at Deauville at the end of July.

Also at the Liverpool venue, Stipulate can build on his debut victory at Leicester in the one-mile juvenile heat. Henry Cecil's Khalid Abdullah-owned colt only just held on under Tom Queally then, but it would be a surprise if he doesn't strip fitter now.

Best Bet: Society Rock

Irish Independent