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Mud not enough to clip Harry Angel’s wings

25/09/2017
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Weather, certainly not for the first time in England this year, was the key talking point in the week of the 6f Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup with heavy rain throughout the preceding week forcing officials to describe the ground on the big day as ‘heavy’. As a result, the feature was moved on the running order to become the third race, and the previous decision to race on ‘the inner course’ on the previous two days at least produced fresh ground on this, the third fixture of the week. Such wet conditions left numerous connections scratching their heads, pondering whether to let their charges run; among them Clive Cox, trainer of favourite, Godolphin’s Harry Angel.

Already winner of the Group 1 July Cup, on fast ground, the 3yo son of Dark Angel was, thus, already a winner at the highest level so there was no pressure to run him on that score. However, this was the next target and he had been working like a superstar at home so Cox and Team Godolphin were more than keen to run. Cox drove to Haydock, through plenty of rain, to make a decision after watching and talking to jockeys involved in the first race; the green light was given and it was all systems go for ‘Happy Harry’. And, basically, that was the last moment of worry Godolphin, Cox, the horse’s legion of fans and regular jockey, Adam Kirby, endured.

Bounced out, Kirby’s mount went straight to the front, seemingly racing well within himself and, somehow, floating over the sodden turf. At halfway, the jockey remained motionless with those in behind starting to niggle. Godolphin’s second runner, Blue Point, was one of the first to crack and, with 2f left only Tasleet, or an onset of extreme fatigue, appeared dangerous. Jim Crowley asked Sheikh Hamdan’s Tasleet, on his favoured softer surface, to chase Kirby but, a furlong out, Harry Angel quickened and the race was over. Trained by William Haggas, Tasleet was a comfortable second with The Tin Man running on to deny the game Blue Point third but there was only ever one likely winner and a simply breathtaking one at that.

Cox, no stranger to quick horses with Group One winning sprinters Gilt Edge Girl, Reckless Abandon, Profitable and Lethal Force others to have blossomed in his hands, said: “He’s so potent. He’s awesome. It’s hard to change gear on ground like that but he’s just lengthened away from them, and to beat them by four lengths is wonderful. “I keep saying it, but we’ve had a great year and it’s down to the great team we have at home. “Now we have no fears on the ground, I’d like to go to Ascot on Champions Day.

There’s a possibility he’ll stay in training next year, too, and that would be very exciting. His body language is so strong, he’s maturing all the time.” Of Tasleet, Haggas said: “Tasleet ran a very good race, he eradicated that last run and he enjoyed the ground. “He’ll go to Ascot but so will Harry Angel, unfortunately.” Of the morning doubts about his stable star’s participation, an almost apologetic Cox said: “We just wanted to avoid the deja vu we had when Lethal Force was beaten favourite in this in 2013. I was conscious Harry Angel was so fast, he broke the track record here in May on firm ground, and I just wondered if he’d be the type to handle heavy ground.

“It would have been easier to take him out, because you want to look after the horse. But credit to the team at Godolphin, they’ve let him take that jump into the unknown and he’s repaid it.” Kirby added: “I’m a believer a proper champion can win on any ground, but he’s so fast I was a little bit concerned. 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 has so much speed to burn and that’s not how good he is, he’s there now mentally and he’ll keep on getting better.” Richard Kingscote is enjoying a formidable season at Haydock, primarily for his boss Tom Dascombe, so it was no surprise he was the jockey to whom Sir Michael Stoute turned when seeking a rider for Saeed Suhail’s Ballet Concerto in the Group 3 Supreme Mile Stakes.

Obviously over a mile, it looked wide open on paper and so it proved with six of the nine runners still in contention a furlong out. It was then Kingscote drove his mount to the front, heading Kaspersky who had tried to make all under Paul Mulrennan and who ran on gamely for second with Morando never nearer in third. A 4yo gelded son of Dansili, Ballet Concerto has now won his last three starts, twice at this Group Three level, with James Doyle and Ryan Moore sharing the riding honours previously. Both were required in Ireland and Kingscote, who had already ridden three winners for Stoute in 2017 from 11 previous rides, took full advantage as he scored an astonishing 23rd triumph of the year at Haydock.

“I’ve been very lucky to get support from some big yards this year, notably Sir Michael, and I’m very grateful to all my owners and trainers,” the jockey said. “Ballet Concerto is a progressive horse and I had a nice tow through the race. He’s turning into a class act with two Group Threes in a month.” Stoute is a past master with this type of improving 4yo and Ballet Concerto could well be a name to look out for moving forward. Just because Chilean holds no fancy entries, that’s not to say he’s anything but a very smart 2yo and the Martyn Meade-trained juvenile proved the point with an easy victory in the Listed Ascendant Stakes over a mile.

Swooping from last to first, he was confidently ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, who said: “It was only his third start but it was very straightforward and I was very happy with him.” Meanwhile, on the Polytrack at Kempton, Saeed Manana’s Invincible Army proved himself the class act when marching up the straight to smash the 6f juvenile course record in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes. Martin Harley did not panic on the favourite when Corinthia Knight set sail for home in the straight, and was thrilled to be providing successful trainer James Tate with his first win at Group level. Previously runner-up in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes, Invincible Army brought the best form to the table and the homebred son of Invincible Spirit did not disappoint.

Harley said: “I’m delighted for James as he’s been a big supporter of mine through the years and it’s great to get a Group winner on the board for him. “This fellow is a serious horse and when I saw he wasn’t favourite in the paper this morning I couldn’t believe it; I knew the others would have to be Group One horses to beat me.” Tate added: “The race went perfectly for Invincible Army and it’s nice to finally win a Group race, especially for Saeed Manana, who has been a big supporter of ours. We’ve had Listed winners and been placed many times in Group Ones and Group Twos, but this is different.

“He could go for the Middle Park but he wouldn’t want it soft. There’s the Breeders’ Cup after that, which we may have a think about.” Oisin Murphy has been perfecting the knack of producing winners to lead in the dying strides and, earlier on the Kempton card, repeated the trick on Chemical Charge for Ralph Beckett in the 1m4f Group 3 September Stakes. Murphy said: “I’m only just getting the hang of riding Chemical Charge as I have lost on him when I should have won, so I’m glad it was all good in the end.” Beckett added: “He would have been an unlucky loser. The race I had in mind for him before this was the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine on 15 October. I’ve not had a runner in it before but I did run Look Here in the EP Taylor Stakes.”

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