I was at Haydock on Thursday and the ground was soft. The track is due to get another drenching with anything up to 25 mm of rain (or an inch in old money!) forecast It’s a case then of finding the ones that will cope the best with conditions and not what is necessarily the best horse in the race.
The opening contest on ITV is a six-runner handicap over a trip just shy of 1m 4f at 13.45. The early favourite in the market is Prejudice, who doesn’t strike me as one who wants bottomless conditions and he was well beaten on slow ground at this track as a two-year-old. Gantier looks quirky, but talented, and if Frankie Dettori can maintain his mount’s interest, he could be dangerous.
However, I am going to side with Mind The Crack. Mark Johnston’s charge won very nicely at Lingfield and his full-brother won on the soft ground over a trip for this trainer. He gets the nod.
John Gosden has a good record in the 1m 4f Group 3 Pinnacle Stakes at 14.25. His stable have won it twice since 2014 and Highgarden is one of the top-rated fillies In this, after her defeat of Mrs Sippy at Newmarket last year. She has a 3lb penalty to carry however, so that hands the advantage to Irish raider True Self, trained by Willie Mullins. She’s chasing her fifth win on the bounce, is proven on soft ground and has a fitness advantage over the Gosden runner.
The Listed 5f Sprint at Haydock 15.00 sees Stake Acclaim as the early favourite on the back of an all-the-way success at Newbury on soft ground. The ground is no problem as she was actually beaten a short-head at this track a couple of years ago on heavy ground, in a 6f handicap sprint. Intense Romance won at Ascot last October on soft ground to record a three-timer, beating a good yardstick in Mr Lupton. She didn’t disgrace herself on her seasonal bow in Ireland in a Listed 5f sprint last time.
With that run under her belt, she can win.
The Group 3 John Of Gaunt Stakes at 15.35 sees course specialist, Safe Voyage at the top of the market. Proven on soft ground, he’s run three times at Haydock and won all of them, and has to be the most likely winner. Sir Dancealot is a very good horse but is he as effective on bad ground while Breton Rock would love better ground.
Ralph Beckett’s Mitchum Swagger has had a couple of runs this season and was fourth in this contest two season’s ago and won a Listed race last November over 1m at HQ.
He loves soft ground and could be the each-way play for non-favourite backers.
*Prices correct at time of publishing