Third Win For Halford In The Sprint Stakes?

Sunday’s Group 3 Phoenix Sprint Stakes has attracted a talented crop of speedsters (4.35), and punters looking to find the winner should take note of the market, as all bar one of the last 10 winners returned at 8/1.

Such a trend helps whittle this field down to a short-list, including Russian Soul, who was beaten just a short head by Darwin in a Listed sprint at Fairyhouse last month (6f, good to firm), and was a Group 3 winner over this C&D last autumn (good).

The fact this 6yo’s trainer, Michael Halford, won this race twice from just four runners is another positive.

The old warrior, Maarek, is back over a C&D over which he has performed so well down the years, and while retaining all of his ability (won a Group 2 at York in May), he may need the ground to soften if defying a penalty after a 78-day break, when a 2l second to Slade Power; An Saighdiur was 2l back in third.

Any further softening of the ground will also aid An Saighdiur, while Tommy Stack’s Scream Blue Murder, flopped the last twice on fast ground and will enjoy any cut in the ground, as when winning a minor race in May at Cork (5f, soft). This filly has been unplaced in four Group 3 outings, however, and may be outclassed once more.

British Challenge
The Brits won three of the last seven renewals of this sprint, and are well represented this time around via the likes of the consistent 5yo, Hamza, who has been there and done it for Kevin Ryan, and won a Group 3 at Newmarket in May (6f, good). While he has been beaten three times since, though his 2l defeat in a Group 2 over 5f at Goodwood a week ago when visored suggests this return to 6f may not see him far away.

Roger Varian also brings over the 4yo, Rocky Ground, who has progressed to win a Listed sprint at Windsor (6f, good), before a sixth of 28 in the Wokingham Handicap. He then filled the same spot in a Group 3 sprint at Newbury last month (6f, good) when drawn badly, but this a good opportunity to put it all together.

Trends Summary
10 ran in last 16-60 days – others were 0-31
9 returned 8/1 or shorter – others were 1-43
9 drawn stalls 4 to 8 – other stalls 1-41
9 top two last three runs – others 1-32
8 were males (8-58, 14%) – females 2-28 (7%)
8 won 4 times or more in career
7 won at the Curragh at (7-33, 21%) – others 3-53 (6%)
Those up or down one furlong from last time just 1-32
M Halford won it twice (2-5)

The Classic generation is represented by Flight Risk, but this once-raced colt may lack the experience against these hardened sprinters – for the record, 8 of the last 10 winners triumphed four times or more in their career.

One such runner who has won four times is David Marnane’s, Jamesie, who can be relied upon to give his running. The off-putting factor, however, is that this 6yo struck just once in his last 27 outings.

Recommended Bets
A tight sprint, but one in which Michael Halford can strike for a third time since 2008 courtesy of Russian Soul, who was unfortunate to bump into the high-class, Darwin, last month. His chance will increase if the ground doesn’t soften too much.