Why Starman Looks The Best Sprinter Going To Haydock

Welcome to Gavin Beech's weekly racing column for Bookmakers.co.uk. A veteran racing journalist, Gavin provides his opinion on the latest talking points across flat and jump racing.

Why Starman Looks The Best Sprinter Going To Haydock

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Star Looks A Penalty Kick In Haydock Feature

The Haydock Sprint Cup is a Group 1 race contested mostly by horses that just aren’t capable of winning at the top level.

Saturday’s feature is tall on quantity but not so much on elite-level quality, a summation backed up by the fact that only three of those in the five-day decs are rated north of 114. Starman, rated 120 by the official handicapper, is a standout contender providing conditions at Haydock don’t deteriorate significantly.

The Ed Walker-trained rocket wasn’t able to justify favouritism in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville but an extended six furlongs on soft ground were always going to stretch this improving 4-year-old and, in the circumstances, he ran a blinder to finish within a couple of lengths of the winner. Back down in trip and on what promises to be a sounder surface, the July Cup winner is going to take some stopping.

If ever a Group 1 sprint looked there for the taking, it’s this one. The only potential danger is a big field that splits into two groups, in which case there is a danger that any horse could get caught out of his ground in the wrong group.

That aside, Starman looks head and shoulders the best sprinter going to Haydock and it would be no surprise were he to go off somewhere around the even-money mark.

Baaeed Far Too Short For Moulin

Starman isn’t the only short-priced favourite for a Group 1 race this weekend but he is deserving of his cramped odds, unlike Baaeed who is odds-on to win Sunday’s Prix du Moulin despite never having even competed in a Group 1 race before.

Baaeed has looked a bit of a world beater in his four starts so far, not least at Goodwood last time where he dismantled Group 3 rivals in the manner of a horse destined for top-flight glory.

However, Baaeed faces much stronger rivals on Sunday and it’s hard to see why he should be shorter in the market than 2,000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes hero Poetic Flare.

Baaeed will need to be every bit as good as he has looked so far to justify such odds against bona fide Group 1 opposition and I for one wouldn’t be surprised if Shadwell’s latest star struggles to justify his price.

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Irish Champion Stakes Match-Up Narrative Is Misleading

The Irish Champion Stakes is one of the premier all-age ten-furlong contests staged anywhere in the world. By definition, it is one of the toughest races to win and this year is no different.

There is a media narrative building that next weekend’s Leopardstown is effectively a match between unbeaten 3-year-old St Mark’s Basilica and three-time Group 1-winning filly Tarawa.

Let’s deal with the facts to begin with; a 3-year-old has won the Irish Champion Stakes four times in the last decade but there have been some high-profile disappointments among that age group in that period, notably Churchill, who was sent off a red-hot 8/11 favourite in 2017.

As for the fairer sex, the last filly to win the race was The Fugue in 2013.

There is no doubt that St Mark’s Basilica and Tarnawa bring outstanding form credentials to the table but they both come with risks attached. St Mark’s Basilica hasn’t been seen since showing Addeybb and an undercooked Mishriff a clean pair of heels in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown while there is still a question mark over whether he can show his best form on ground quicker than good; all five of his career wins have come with the word ‘soft’ appearing in the going description.

Ground conditions are not going to be an issue for the versatile Tarnawa but the drop back to ten furlongs might.

Sure, she’s won races over the trip, including one at Leopardstown, but she’s a filly that stays a mile and a half well and her hold-up run-style could lead to problems if they don’t go much of a gallop or she runs into traffic issues. Confidence in her would be higher over an extra two furlongs.

The race is packed full of horses that have the ability to cause an upset and it hardly takes much of an imagination to see one of them upset the top of the market and come to the rescue of bookmakers.

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Goodwood Stewards’ Inquiry Raises Consistency Questions

It’s hard to think of a recent stewards’ inquiry outcome more surprising than the one that took place at Goodwood on Sunday. Even after seeing the head on, Luna Magic backers can’t have thought that they were going to be paid out.

The problem with this particular interpretation of the rules is that it’s exactly the sort of decision that will go one way one day and the other the next. We’ve all seen horses carried further across the track than Luna Magic, lose by a similar margin, yet not get the verdict afterwards. At tracks like Epsom where the camber plays such a big part in the way races pan out, horses are carried across the track with such regularity that it’s almost par for the course.

The issue of consistency could be resolved, or at the very least helped, by having a central stewards’ panel in the way that the Premier League’s VAR decisions are sorted out in Stockley Park.

I can’t think of a reason why jockeys cannot be interviewed by a professional set of stewards at the BHA’s High Holburn headquarters via video connection.

A centralised panel, capable of conducting multiple inquiries at once, should bring about the sort of consistency that would make decisions like the one at Goodwood on Sunday more palatable.

One other point regarding that result reversal: it will never cease to amaze me how many punters don’t know whether their bookmaker pays first past the post. It is unquestionably one of the most important factors in the small print of any betting account because if you bet even semi-regularly, you are going to back a horse that is involved in a stewards’ inquiry at some point.

If you are one of those punters hurling abuse at bookies or even connections of horses because you’ve backed the first past the post but aren’t being paid out, then you don’t deserve sympathy.

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