Sole seeking Sprint success
View from connections ahead of Saturday's Group One Betfred Sprint Cup from Haydock Park.
Sole Power bids to cap an amazing season by adding the Betfred Sprint Cup to his impressive record at Haydock on Saturday.
The seven-year-old has dominated the five-furlong division this season, mopping up the King's Stand and the Nunthorpe, but gets a great chance to notch a Group One over six furlongs as his stablemate Slade Power, winner of the Diamond Jubilee and July Cup, has been forced to miss the race.
Sole Power has yet to win over six furlongs, although he has run creditably in his few efforts at the trip, notably when second in the Hong Kong Sprint behind Lord Kanaloa in December.
The key to Sole Power staying the extra furlong will be whether he settles and while trainer Eddie Lynam accepts he is better over the minimum distance, he does believe he can stay the six.
"The ground seems OK. He's drawn in the middle (nine) which doesn't seem a bad draw and he's in good form. We're hopeful of the best," said the County Meath handler.
"He needs to settle and you wouldn't need to be too bright to realise he's probably better over five, but I believe he'll get six and we're going to let him take his chance as he seems in very good form.
"It's the last Group One sprint over in England, so we're having a shot at it."
Paddy Power, son of Sole Power's owner Sabena Power, is also of the opinion that six furlongs is within his compass.
He said: "It's a shame Slade Power couldn't make it, but we'll let him do his talking in Australia and the fastest horse in the world isn't a bad super-sub.
"Some pundits reckon he's better over five furlongs, but he would have won the Hong Kong Sprint over six if he hadn't met a monster horse."
Gordon Lord Byron bids to become only the second horse since Be Friendly, who won the first two runnings of this race in 1966 and 1967, to claim the title twice.
His trainer Tom Hogan reports the globe-trotting six-year-old to be 100% again after being under-par in the summer.
"He suffered a bit of a back injury at Royal Ascot which he had to be medicated for and he also had some issues with his feet but they are all sorted now," he said.
"He is ready for a winter campaign in some far-flung places and Saturday is his first task. He has loads of international invites but we will take a decision about where he goes after Saturday - he should just be reaching his peak now at the age of six.
"In terms of the ground, the only thing he can't manage is heavy. He floats on fast ground and he ran one of the best races of his life on firm when he was second in this race two years ago in an extremely fast time despite being drawn on the wrong side where there was no pace.
"He has also twice run well in Hong Kong on very fast ground, which he loved, so firm ground is not an issue.
"They tell me that the only horse to win this race twice was Be Friendly many years ago and I remember him racing for Sir Peter O'Sullevan. Last year I was told that he was the first Irish winner for 40 years so he is used to making history and hopefully we can make a bit more on Saturday.
"It has been a wonderful experience to have a horse capable of taking me to so many different places and performing at the highest level. He is pretty unique as he is effective over six furlongs, seven furlongs and a mile.
"It has been the stuff of dreams and hopefully there are plenty more chapters to be written. We will certainly be a while looking for another one like him when he's gone."
Wayne Lordan gets the leg up after Joseph O'Brien, who had been expected to be aboard, decided to stick to Cougar Mountain, trained by his father, Aidan.
Cougar Mountain is the least experienced horse in the line-up with just three runs to his name, but two have come in Group One sprints
"He came out of (the Nunthorpe) at York quite well. He ran very well there and he ran a blinder in the July Cup before that," O'Brien told At The Races.
"He worked very nicely the other morning. He's going to take his chance and hopefully he will run a good race.
"There's no doubt he has a chance. It's great that I had the opportunity to ride Gordon Lord Byron and I'd love to ride either of them, but Cougar Mountain ran a blinder in York.
"He was only beaten two lengths in one of the fastest and biggest sprints in the world on his third ever start. He's stepping up an extra furlong on quick ground in Haydock. The track, the trip and the ground and all should suit."