STRONG SUIT (3.25) can upset the applecart in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock. Media focus has centred on Aussie sprint queen Ortensia following her astonishing last-to-first swoop at York 15 days ago. William Buick’s availability is a real bonus and Ortensia goes off a worthy favourite. However, Ortensia and principal market rival Bated Breath have been drawn on both extremes of this 15-runner field, which is rarely ideal when searching for early cover. Fast ground is perfect for Bated Breath, but that remark applies equally to Strong Suit, who struggled on deep ground in the July Cup. He finally found some firm terrain at Newbury three weeks ago but, unfortunately, outsider Lethal Force was given too much rope and Strong Suit’s late charge could only carry him into second spot. Richard Hannon’s stable star pulled quite hard in the early stages and although this six-furlong trip is on the sharp side, Richard Hughes should be able to settle Strong Suit in behind from stall nine. He makes sound each-way appeal at around 7-1.
Elsewhere on the Betfred-sponsored card, TROPICAL BEAT (4.00) looks the part in the Old Borough Cup. John Gosden’s four-year-old has gradually stepped up in distance since running third, beaten less than a length, to Encke at Sandown in early July. Tropical Beat ran a cracker at York when third behind Kirthill and Martin Chuzzlewit over 12 furlongs and the extra two furlongs here shouldn’t present a problem.
Another 1m 6f handicap brings the curtain down on an excellent programme and FLASHMAN (5.05) has shown a liking for the track, powering clear by 10 lengths here in July. Richard Fahey’s three-year-old has since posted two solid efforts at Doncaster and York off his new rating and remains competitive.
Mark Johnston saddles no less than 22 runners on home soil today, four of which contest the Ladbrokes Mobile Handicap at Ascot. The pick of his quartet may be MODERNISM (4.15), a wide-margin winner at Goodwood 15 days ago, who makes plenty of each-way appeal from a nice draw near the fence in this highly competitive 19-runner affair.
Stablemate BANNOCK (3.45) is being kept busy and ran another cracker in defeat at Chester last Saturday. Michael Murphy’s 7lb claim will help ease the handicapper’s lofty perch in this 18-runner 7f handicap.
Johnston’s consistent filly PARTY LINE (4.05) hasn’t so far to travel, with the Hambleton Cup her target at Thirsk. She finally poked her head in front at Beverley just under a fortnight ago and looks sure to make her presence felt in another tough Saturday handicap.
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