Matt Brocklebank picks through the key pieces of video form ahead of Saturday's Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock.
Haydock stages the fifth Group One sprint of the British Flat season as a huge field bids for glory in the Betfred Sprint Cup on Saturday.
It has been an incredible year for the Edward Lynam-trained 'power pair', with Slade Power and Sole Power cleaning up all four top-notch dashes between them thus far.
With Slade on the mend after a setback and reportedly heading for an Australian swansong, King's Stand and Nunthorpe hero Sole Power flies the flag again this weekend and connections are hoping for a first ever win over six furlongs for the seven-year-old.
The July Cup and Diamond Jubilee are the other flagship contests over this weekend's distance in the British calendar and they come under the microscope here, with the form of the Group Two King George at Glorious Goodwood set to be well represented on Saturday.
Newbury's Group Three Hackwood Stakes saw the real emergence of Music Master and that is another piece of video evidence well worth revisiting, while last year's winner Gordon Lord Byron is back for another shot at the Sprint Cup following a close second in the Curragh's Renaissance Stakes.
Richard Fahey's Baccarat is due to have his first outing since winning the Wokingham and, given his revised rating, it would be wrong to overlook the big handicap in this feature.
In a bid to help unravel the puzzle, Matt Brocklebank revisits the video form archives, focusing on those key races.
1. Sole Power 5/1
3. Hot Streak 3/1
9. Es Que Love 12/1
Clearly an essential piece of form to revisit, but who could forget the image of Richard Hughes coolly looking for a way through/round the pack as every other horse was hard under the pump passing the furlong marker? Such is Sole Power's class and explosive speed off a fast pace, Hughes was able to coast from dead last as the front-runners gradually ran out of gas and, although switching all the way to the far rail from a central position, essentially won a Royal Ascot Group One without coming under anything like maximum pressure. Three-year-old Hot Streak was heavily backed in the build up to the race and although he possibly failed to match the level of form he'd shown when winning the Temple Stakes at Haydock, ran a mighty race. He went for home soon after halfway and stayed on strongly after being headed by Stepper Point, but was ultimately helpless as Sole Power's finishing kick left him looking one-paced. Es Que Love was having just his third start for Clive Cox after a couple of encouraging runs and not surprisingly found the five-furlong trip too sharp for him. He probably didn't do his Diamond Jubilee hopes much good with this outing.
3. Aljamaaheer 4/1
4. Music Master 16/1
5. Astaire 8/1
8. Gordon Lord Byron 10/1
9. Tropics 25/1
11. Es Que Love 20/1
Roger Varian's classy miler from last season Aljamaaheer did best of the Sprint Cup entries in this, without ever really looking like beating subsequent July Cup hero Slade Power. He gave the Lynam runner around three lengths with a slightly sluggish start and Paul Hanagan found himself near the back of the far side pack approaching the two-marker. For a horse who had been beaten just three quarters of a length by Declaration Of War in the previous season's Queen Anne, he picked up really well from that point, but he still hadn't bridged the gap as Wayne Lordan effectively put the race to bed a furlong out. Aljamaaheer put in some strong late work as you'd expect, getting his head in front of runner-up Due Diligence a stride or two after the line, and connections were left encouraged enough to aim at the July Cup (see below). Music Master ran a massive race given his relative lack of experience and high draw, and showed a good burst to come from behind Due Diligence in the small stands side group before the O'Brien horse fought back past him. It was his first attempt in top-notch company and he didn't look out of place by any means, while he proved he is a horse very much on the upgrade in the Hackwood (see analysis) subsequently. Astaire made the running on the far side but was readily mastered by Slade Power and could only box on at the one pace, while Gordon Lord Byron ran a long way below his best and it wasn't the first time he hadn't really looked himself on Ascot's straight course. Tropics, on the other hand, has an Ascot victory on his CV but he found himself in no-man's land in the middle of the two groups and that can't have helped his cause. Es Que Love was in a decent position when the race began to hot up but he was hanging when Adam Kirby went for the stick and the rider accepted the inevitable close home.
1. Baccarat 9/1
2. Profesor 10/1
The Wokingham one-two are available at 33/1 and 50/1 respectively (at the time of writing) for the Haydock Sprint Cup but there's a chance the form may have been drastically underestimated. It's worth bearing in mind the lowest-rated horse in this year's renewal had an official figure of 97, while Baccarat's new mark of 112 puts him 1lb higher than G Force and on a par with Moviesta. Unlike G Force, Richard Fahey's runner is a proven six-furlong specialist and it's not like the Wokingham win came as a surprise. Second on his two previous 2014 outings, the five-year-old gelding was given a peach of a ride by George Chaloner (claiming 3lb) and it could be argued it was his decision to push the button a furlong and a half out which saw him emerge in front of Professor, who looked to be going the better of the two under Ryan Moore at the two-pole. Richard Hannon's charge was conceding 3lb but the winner was never stronger than at the line and it will be fascinating to read Fahey's thoughts in his exclusive column on these pages on Friday.
2. Tropics 66/1
3. Gregorian 12/1
5. Cougar Mountain 16/1
7. Hot Streak 15/1
8. Moviesta 40/1
9. Aljamaaheer 8/1
11. Astaire 10/1
The generally progressive Tropics proved his Diamond Jubilee run all wrong with a fantastic effort in second. Sent off a completely unconsidered 66/1 chance, Dean Ivory's star was helpfully drawn high along with Slade Power and the speedy Noozhoh Canarias and he was going at least as well at the winner approaching the final two furlongs. Slade Power's quality shone through from there but Tropics clung onto his coat-tails, clearly relishing the softer ground than he'd encountered at Ascot. It was also a huge run from the third home - Gregorian. John Gosden's charge was another suited by the going as three of his six career wins have come in very demanding conditions. He 'won' the stands side group, despite being denied a clear passage at a crutial stage, and was unlucky not to finish second. The Aidan O'Brien-trained Cougar Mountain belied his lack of experience with an accomplished performance. He only had a Naas maiden victory under his belt coming into this but was beaten just three lengths by Sole Power, finishing third of six in his group on the near side. It was a run that screamed future Group One winner and he's obviously in the right hands to fulfil his potential. The other four who are heading for Haydock this weekend were all a shade disappointing though Hot Streak and Moviesta bounced straight back, in a sense, with creditable efforts in the Nunthorpe and King George respectively. Aljamaaheer took a real backward step, weakening badly up the hill, but connections have always stated he's a more effective performer on better ground. Astaire, winner of the Middle Park Stakes as a juvenile, once again left the impression he might not make the grade this season.
1. Music Master 3/1
3. Es Que Love 17/2
Henry Candy wasn't hiding the regard in which he holds Music Master after the late-maturing four-year-old made an impressive seasonal debut at Warwick in April and, having come of age with a huge effort from a far from ideal draw in the Diamond Jubilee, he got back to winning ways here. That may not have been the case had the gaps not opened up for Fergus Sweeney as there was a moment when his passage appeared to be blocked by Hallelujah and Godolphin second-string Complicate, but his response when the door opened was impressive. Eventual third and weekend rival Es Que Love got first run, but he was headed by Heeraat before Music Master swept by them both three strides from the finish. There should be more to come from the winner after just 11 career starts and the nature of the track promises to suit this imposing son of Piccolo.
3. Moveista 9/2
5. G Force 7/1
Olly Stevens' three-year-old Extortionist has been a revelation this season, improving with every start since his handicap victory at Newmarket in June. He opened his Group-race account at Sandown the following month and almost followed up under Ryan Moore here. He couldn't live with Take Cover in the early stages but got to within a length at the line, despite constantly having to switch to the far rail, and deserves enormous credit. After struggling to build on a pleasing reappearance run at Newmarket at the start of the year, the return to Glorious Goodwood saw Moviesta bounce back to his very best and there was a split second where he looked set to repeat his 2013 victory in the King George. Bryan Smart's charge was given a typically patient ride by Paul Mulrennan before being produced with his run and it could well have been a different outcome had he angled towards the far rail and had a direct shot at Take Cover and Extortionist, rather than hang slightly to the left when asked to finish the job. It was a welcome return to form, nevertheless, and one he had hinted at when eighth in the July Cup following a near two-month break. G Force has made giant strides in a short space of time this season and handled the step up to Group Two level creditably. He didn't appear to have many excuses here, despite getting a slight bump from Hamza passing the furlong marker, and finished his race off well, suggesting a first try at six furlongs could be worth a go. He and Moviesta clashed again in the Nunthorpe (see below), but the placings were not overturned.
1. Sole Power 11/4
5. Hot Streak
6. G Force
9. Cougar Mountain
Another Group One over the minimum distance and another Sole Power masterclass. Sent off the 11/4 favourite, compared to the 100/1 when successful in the 2010 renewal of York's feature sprint, Lynam's speed machine had reportedly not been at his peak in the week before the race, but he brushed aside those fears with another scintillating display. Richard Hughes, now 2-2 on the gelding following his King's Stand win, had to wait even longer than at Ascot but Sole Power motored home after being angled off the stands rail for a run between Hot Streak and Moviesta. Sole Power's chief assets are obvious - the ability to travel sweetly and quicken dramatically inside the final furlong. To do that he needs a strong gallop, which he is bound to get this weekend, and top of the ground, so connections will be delighted with the dry forecast. However, and it's a considerable caveat, from seven previous attempts over six furlongs Sole Power has been beaten every time. Extortionist and Moviesta ran right up to their Goodwood form, the former confirming his superiority and enhancing his reputation as a consistent and progressive sprinter with a big future. Whether that will be over six furlongs remains to be seen, as he's been kept to five throughout his career so far. Hot Streak again wasn't disgraced and left the impression a step back up in distance would be to his benefit, though ease underfoot may be essential if he's to taste success at the highest level. The real eye-catcher here was G Force, who was all dressed up with nowhere to go when trying to track the winner through from near the back. He again finished well enough without suggesting an extra furlong is definitely what is required. Cougar Mountain proved his July Cup run no flash in the pan and, having caught the eye staying on at the finish at Newmarket, it's no surprise he found this an insufficient test of stamina. Joseph O'Brien is on record saying "we thought he was our best two-year-old (last year)" and the potential is there for all to see. The question mark is whether the Haydock Sprint Cup will too much too soon.
2. Gordon Lord Byron 7/2
Just the one to focus on here, but it would be folly to ignore the latest video form of last year's winner Gordon Lord Byron. He was the thick end of 20/1 for a repeat when the betting first opened but has worked his way towards to the top of the market in light of this Curragh run and a positive bulletin from Tom Hogan, which can be heard right here in our latest Racing Podcast. The globetrotting six-year-old landed a Leopardstown Group Three prior to his runaway Haydock victory 12 months ago and he heads into this year's contest following a nose second to Jamesie. Another look at the replay shows a horse clearly on good terms with himself, travelling well under Saturday's big-race jockey Joseph O'Brien, though he had to sit and suffer for a brief moment before getting a clear run entering the final furlong. Conceding 7lb to a very solid yardstick, it was a performance packed with promise and it's fair to say O'Brien didn't get overly serious with his mount. Soft ground is considered GLB's preferred surface and it figures more a stamina test would be ideal for a horse who has won top-class contests over seven furlongs and a mile. But he also has three Dundalk wins to his name over this six-furlong trip and Hogan is adamant good ground will be fine.
If this were over the minimum distance then Sole Power would be trading around even money and most likely win but bookmakers and rival trainers are keen to have one more pop at him this season and that's purely down to the fact that he has never won over the trip. He has come close and he has run well at six, but he has never emerged in front. Compare that to his brilliant form over five furlongs, especially over the last two seasons, and it must be a concern for favourite-backers. G Force, Extortionist and Moviestar have all shown solid form at the minimum too, but history suggests this race suits a stronger stayer, which was highlighted further by Gordon Lord Byron's triumph last year. He didn't have a hard race at the Curragh last month and looks sure to go close, while fellow Irish raider Cougar Mountain very much falls into the 'could be anything' bracket. But MUSIC MASTER isn't far behind the very best six-furlong sprinters judged by his Diamond Jubilee fourth, when a high draw did him no favours, and he has since shown himself to be a horse very much on the upgrade by winning the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury. Henry Candy's charge comes here a fresh animal and can take the required step forward to open his Group One account.