Steve Hughes concentrates on the meeting at Haydock for the majority of his selections on Saturday.
For the second weekend running Haydock takes centre stage with three group races on the card, plus a listed contest. I have selections from three of those plus a best bet from a competitive card at York.
Haydock 2.00: Queen of Ice
After a slowish start to the season, normal service has been resumed and trainer William Haggas is once again rattling in the winners – indeed in the last ten days he has an incredible 6-10 strike rate.
Despite this being her first outing of the season, Queen of Ice looks well worth following as a result. She has won on her seasonal debut both as a 2yo and 3yo and also has winning form on soft ground as befits a daughter of the mudloving Selkirk. Therefore yesterday’s rain should not inconvenience her in the slightest.
She is also happy front-running which can be an advantage around Haydock’s tight and flat track. She improved with every run last season, finishing on a high with two listed wins at the York Ebor meeting and then again at Newmarket the following month, making all on both occasions. Whilst this is a step up to Group 3, this race is not as strong as it might have been so she can maintain her first time out record.
York 2.20: Clever Cookie
The 3mm of rain that fell at York yesterday might sway the balance of this race in the favour of the progressive Clever Cookie despite having to give away weight all round.
The former hurdler enjoyed a stellar first season on the level last year and was a winner twice at this track including dead-heating in this race. He soon progressed beyond handicaps into group company and was a fair fourth in the Doncaster Cup last season.
He has few miles on the clock for a 7yo and returned better than ever when wearing down Tac de Boistron to land the Ormonde Stakes at Chester recently, relishing the rain softened ground. A strong traveller from off the pace, he should get the race run to suit, just as he did last season with plenty of pace expected from the likes of Big Orange and Odeon.
Haydock 2.35: Breton Rock
7f and give in the ground are exactly what Breton Rock needs and he will get both today at Haydock making him a solid selection for this Group 3.
He made a pleasing reappearance in the Group 1 Locking at Newbury recently, finishing seventh even though a mile taxes his stamina and the ground was drier than ideal. However he rarely goes to the track unless there is soft in the going description and he has earned plenty of cash for his connections over the years on testing ground.
Beaten in a photo in this race last year, he had already won a listed race here over 7f at the previous meeting and landed his first group race in game fashion at Newbury in August. He avoids a penalty for that win by two weeks and although a strong case can be made for the likes of Cable Bay and Aljamaaheer, Breton Rock looks the more straight forward ride and more willing competitor.
Haydock 3.10: Music Master
This will be Music Master’s first ever try at 5f, however connections seriously toyed with the idea of running in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York last year before deciding to aim him for the Sprint Cup over 6f here two weeks later. He performed excellently to place third that day and this strong traveller can cope with the drop back in trip.
A little cut in the ground will make this a little more of a stamina test which should help and he already has a second place at Group 3 level on similar ground to his name. Indeed he might even appreciate the slower going as he never quite had the pace to challenge Astaire on his return on rattling ground at Newmarket last month.
He is the sort of horse best bursting through from off the pace just as he did when winning a Group 3 over 6f at Newbury last summer, displaying the sort of pace that made connections consider dropping him to 5f at that point. They have taken the plunge today and he looks the class horse in the field.
1pt win – Queen of Ice – 2.00 Haydock – 9/2 general
1pt win – Clever Cookie – 2.20 York – 9/2 Bet2365, Totesport, Betfred
1pt win – Breton Rock – 2.35 Haydock – 4/1 general
1pt win – Music Master – 3.10 Haydock – 5/2 general