Harry Angel, winner of the Darley July Cup Stakes (G1) at Newmarket, returns as the favorite for the 32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (G1) Sept. 9 at Haydock.
A 3-year-old son of Dark Angel (IRE) and one of the current stars of Godolphin's English string, Harry Angel bested a field that included group 1 winners Limato and Caravaggio in the Darley July Cup, handing the latter his first ever loss. The bay colt has multiple credentials beyond the Newmarket win, however. He established the six-furlong Haydock course record in the Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes (G2) in May, with a time of 1:08.56.
"I think the way he has been campaigned, he is still progressing," trainer Clive Cox said in the run-up to the six-furlong Sprint Cup. "The July Cup was his most professional performance to date."
Harry Angel's main rival may be Brando, a 5-year-old Pivotal (GB) gelding who arguably was unlucky in finishing third in the July Cup. He scored his first group 1 victory last time out with a late move in the LARC Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2 furlongs at Deauville Aug. 6.
With the threat of significant rain prior to the race, Tasleet also has found increased support with the bookmakers. The 4-year-old Showcasing colt, trained by William Haggas for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, was an impressive winner at York this spring over soft going but finished 10th in the July Cup over good to firm turf.
Magical Memory and Godolphin's second runner, Blue Point, also are in with a chance while Aidan O'Brien, who has never saddled a winner in this race, fields outside chances Spirit of Valor and Cougar Mountain.
Left out of this 12-horse field at the 48-hour confirmation stage was Caravaggio, the 3-year-old Scat Daddy colt who was regarded as a world-beater and a candidate for The Everest (G1) in Australia three months ago. O'Brien instead has Caravaggio in a group 2 event Sept. 10 at the Curragh.
Caravaggio defeated Harry Angel by three quarters of a length in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot before trending off form with a fourth-place finish as the heavy favorite in the July Cup, followed by sixth in the Gheest. O'Brien blamed a shoe issue and said he still has great expectations for Caravaggio.
Haydock officials moved the Sprint Cup up from the sixth race on the card to the third, intending to see it run over the best possible ground.
"I hope that they don't get too much rain but it will be the same situation for all the runners and I couldn't be happier with the form that Harry Angel is in," Cox said.