Godolphin's Harry Angel quashed any fears about the heavy ground with a tremendous performance to win the 32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (G1) at Haydock Sept. 9.
Connections only gave the go-ahead to run less than an hour before the six-furlong race and the decision was fully justified as the Clive Cox-trained son of Dark Angel (IRE) put in a top-class display to dominate the field of 11.
Jockey Adam Kirby had the 3-year-old up colt with the pace from the outset, before pulling clear by showing a brilliant turn of foot. The race favorite scored by four lengths from Tasleet, with The Tin Man a further 1 1/2 lengths away in third. The final time was 1:13.90.
"I'm a believer in a proper champion can win on any ground, but he's so fast I was a little bit concerned," Kirby said. "It's a great team effort and all credit to Clive. I knew he'd won as soon as he picked up.
"He's a machine. He's got speed to burn and that's not how good he is, he's there now mentally and he'll keep on getting better."
Harry Angel has not been worse than second in seven career starts and came into Saturday's test off a victory in the Darley July Cup Stakes (G1) over good to firm ground at Newmarket July 15. That day, he handed previously unbeaten group 1 winner Caravaggio his first career loss, turning the tables after falling just short of that rival in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot.
"It's difficult to change gear on ground like that and to win by four lengths against soft-ground horses was super," Cox said. "He's a champion on fast ground and he's proved a champion on easier ground now, I'm so pleased."
Trainer James Fanshawe felt conditions did not help group 1 winner The Tin Man, who was second in the Sprint Cup one year ago.
"He ran very well again, but the ground has blunted his speed," Fanshawe said. "Ever since Royal Ascot, the main aim has been to head back to Ascot on Champions Day as he runs so well there."
The QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes (G1) at Ascot Oct. 21 will be the next target for Harry Angel.
"I hope he stays in training next year," Cox said. "It's a huge relief after walking the course, as that ground is as bad as it gets. "Thank goodness we made the right decision, he's maturing all the time and now we know we can head to Ascot without worrying what the ground does."