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There’s racing out of the top drawer on both sides of the Irish Sea this weekend. The big domestic meeting is at Haydock and the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup is a race that would light up even the most prestigious card. The best sprinters in Europe join battle and the horse they all have to beat is Sakhee’s Secret.
The sprint division has been crying out for a champion for many a long year and if Sakhee’s Secret can win on Saturday he will have earned that mantle. The Darley July Cup winner will be the first to notch the big summer sprint double since Adjal twenty years ago if he can stick his head in front at the tape. With most of the principle contenders left trailing in his wake at Newmarket, the form is in the book. However, it is also reflected in his cramped price.
He is the most likely winner, but only if you don’t baulk at taking 11/10. The mighty Oasis Dream was turned over in this race at 8/11 and Sakhee’s Secret is yet to prove he is in that class. A better option is French raider Marchand D’Or each-way at around 13/2. He was fourth in the July Cup just over two lengths behind the favourite, but has a handy pull at the weights.
Since then he has scored for a second time in the Prix de Maurice Gheest in a time a full second faster than his 2006 win, which suggests he is still on the upgrade. The biggest concern about Marchand D’Or is whether his favoured hold-up tactics will be suited by his draw in stall one.
The richest race of the weekend is the appropriately named Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. The winner will grab a pot worth more than £400k. A small but highly select field has gathered, with last year’s winner Dylan Thomas odds-on to repeat the trick. Again, it must be said that the bookies rarely get these matters wrong. However, he is another hot favourite to take-on.
First, no horse has won this race twice, though it is also worth noting that only three have tried since 1988. Second, he has already had a long, tough season. Dylan Thomas has been on the go since April and this will be his seventh race. In contrast, dual Guineas heroine Finisceal Beo comes into the race a fresh filly after a long summer lay-off. The ground has finally come right for her, she gets a big weight allowance from the older colts and is well worth a speculative punt at attractive odds.
3:10 Haydock: Marchand D’Or (each-way)
3:40 Haydock: Sagredo (win)
3:55 Leopardstown: Finisceal Beo (win)