The average Timeform rating of winners of the betfred Sprint Cup is 135. This year Lethal Force has already achieved a rating of 141 and as such he is a worthy favourite, but given his profile and the likely going conditions is he really a good bet?
If he can repeat his July Cup effort, he wins, simple as that. His performance that day was that of a world class sprinter. It required a massive effort but that effort took its toll when he was subsequently beaten in the Prix Maurice De Gheest? It can be argued that he was simply beaten by an outstanding mare in the form of Moonlight Cloud and that much is true, but it was disconcerting how he hung right under pressure and I believe he was below his best that day. It may have been the case that he went too hard too early in that race but the answer may lie in what happened in the July Cup. The physical exertions of Newmarket, having to charge through the pain barrier to break the track record has left scars and they were not healed by the time the Maurice De Gheest came around, the question for us all now is, are they still there or will he be back to his brilliant best?
There is another important consideration and that is what the ground is going to be. The North West looks set to get a fair bit of rain on raceday on top of what has already fallen. The evidence of the form book shows that he can handle good to soft ground, whether he will be at his best on it is difficult to assess, but I think we can say with some certainty that if it is any softer than that he is in trouble. Last year he ran no sort of race in the Foret at Longchamp on heavy ground behind Gordon Lord Byron.
It is perfectly conceivable that Lethal Force will bounce back to his best today, particularly if the ground is not too soft, but there are enough significant doubts to give him a swerve.
With every drop of rain that has fallen the chances of Gordon Lord Byron increase and I think he represents a solid wager each way wager in the race. He has got form on decent ground but he is a different horse when there is some cut. He won the aforementioned Foret last year on heavy and also won the City of York Stakes on an easy surface. Given his conditions he is hard to beat. He finished second in this race last year on firm ground behind Society Rock and although he is effective on fast ground, easier conditions make him a more potent force. I think he is certain to run well and an each way wager is advised.
Of the others. Slade Power interests me given that he was given a poor ride in the Nunthorpe Stakes. Having missed the break he was then forced to run a 10.23s furlong between the four pole and the three and that took its toll later on in the race. In effect this was a chick out effort and given that he is versatile as far as the ground is concerned he has to be of interest.
I am aware that the Stewards Cup winner, Rex Imperator, is quietly fancied by some, but I think he has got a lot prove in Group one company and is a place lay for me. The speed figures he has produced tell us that he has not yet shown that he can win at is level. Yes he was impressive at Goodwood, but the early pace of that race was not furious and he is going to have to show he can perform in a race when the pace is strong from the outset. This is going to be a real shock to his handicapping system and he should be laid for a place.
I will be at Haydock today where James Willoughby will be my guest. We look forward to your company.