Dancing Star heads to Haydock for Sprint Cup
Stewards' Cup heroine Dancing Star bids to complete her relentless ascent through the sprinting ranks in Saturday's 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock.
Having won just one of her three starts as a juvenile, the daughter of Aqlaam kicked off the new campaign with a fairly lowly rating of 75, but has made rapid progress in the subsequent four months.
A comeback victory at Salisbury and an early June romp at Goodwood were followed by a fine effort in defeat at York, while a lucrative triumph at Newmarket earned her a shot at the Stewards' Cup.
Bidding to become the first filly or mare to win the prestigious handicap since the mighty Lochsong in 1992, Dancing Star carried the same colours of owner-breeder Jeff Smith to an impressive success.
Lochsong's facile Goodwood triumph for Ian Balding 24 years ago set in motion a career that saw the flying mare notch up three Group One wins, as well as a handful of other verdicts at Group Two and Three level, and now her relation gets her chance to graduate to the top level on Merseyside for Balding's son, Andrew.
"She had a little break after Goodwood for 10 days. She did her last serious piece of work last week and worked again on Saturday and we were really happy with her so we decided to supplement," said the Kingsclere handler.
"She was progressing very well in the spring and we really fancied her first time out off 75 at Salisbury and she probably needed the race as she won but wasn't very impressive.
"She's really picked up since then and she's a high-class filly with a great attitude.
"We're very lucky to have had some of Jeff's great fillies and this is very much a female family, Lochangel and Lochsong being the stars of the show, but hopefully she can carry on that tradition, obviously she's got a fair way to go to be anywhere near what Lochsong achieved.
"Lochangel was a similar type and at the same age she ended up in Group One company so we're very hopeful she (Dancing Star) is a Pattern-race filly in the making.
"I was worried the ground would be too fast in the Stewards' Cup and while she was effective on it, I think she's better with a bit of ease."
Another three-year-old filly with major claims is the Karl Burke-trained Quiet Reflection.
The daughter of Showcasing has already proved her worth at the highest level having completed a five-timer in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, after which she was far from disgraced in finishing third behind Limato in the July Cup.
"She's in great form. She did her final piece of work on Tuesday morning, just a strong breeze over five furlongs and she seems on top of her game," Burke said.
"I was keen to give her a couple of easy weeks, which she's had, and she put on 15 kilos in those two weeks she was off.
"We've had plenty to work at to get it back down and she's bang on her racing weight again now."
Following his stunning July Cup display, connections of Limato made the bold move to supplement him for last month's Nunthorpe at York.
Making his first appearance over five furlongs, the four-year-old had to make do with the runner-up spot as Mecca's Angel successfully defended her crown.
Limato steps back up in distance just over a fortnight later and trainer Henry Candy is keeping his fingers crossed it does not come too soon after his recent exertions.
He said: "Limato looks like he has recovered from the Nunthorpe but we won't know until he runs.
"I've been told to expect 4mm of rain Friday and the same again on Saturday so I'm hoping it's just genuine good ground."
Jockey Harry Bentley told At The Races: "We've made it pretty clear that quick ground is pretty vital for him.
"I've been looking at the weather forecast quite a lot and I see we're due a little bit (of rain).
"His preparation has been very good. I rode him on Tuesday and he seems to be in very good form.
"We've just got to wait and see what the weather will do now."
James Fanshawe claimed this prize with Society Rock in 2012 and has high hopes for this year's contender The Tin Man.
The four-year-old looked every inch a top-class prospect when making a winning reappearance at Windsor and although he fluffed his lines when well-fancied for the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, he bounced back to win the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury in July.
Fanshawe said: "Society Rock was sometimes like a stick of dynamite, really explosive, whereas The Tin Man is very chilled and never shows you a great deal at home.
"He's a very exciting horse when he is right but he gives you absolutely no clues whatsoever at home. For him, I was pleased with how he worked at the weekend. He quickened up nicely, looks well and is in good form with himself.
"This year hasn't been smooth with him, there's always been a niggle along the way. Despite that he has done very well and hopefully he can progress again.
"We purposely missed the July Cup and then he was really good when winning the Hackwood. It was a Group Three, rather than a Group One, but he came from last to first and was pretty exciting. That's his style – the main thing is that he gets a bit of cover and relaxes."
The David O'Meara-trained Suedois has been running well in defeat all year, finishing fifth in the Diamond Jubilee, second in the July Cup and fourth in the Prix Maurice de Gheest on his last three starts.
Jockey Daniel Tudhope said: "We're very happy with him and he's in good form. I just hope they get a shower or two.
"He's done nothing wrong this season and I don't think he's got the credit he deserved.
"I've won the Sprint Cup before with G Force (2014) and it would be nice to win it again."
Donjuan Triumphant was runner-up in the Prix Maurice de Gheest last month for trainer Richard Fahey and owners Middleham Park Racing.
Middleham Park racing manager Tim Palin said: "He ran really well in the Sandy Lane at Haydock and his run in the Maurice de Gheest was good. That race was like the July Cup.
"Suedois was in the mix in the French race and was in the mix in the July Cup as well.
"It's a very competitive sprint, but our form is right up there with the best of them.
"You'd hope you'd go there very competitive if the ground was right for us."
Strath Burn and Magical Memory were second and third respectively in last year's renewal and both take their chances again.
Strath Burn's trainer Robert Cowell said: "He's in great order. His last two bits of work for us have been very good. I just have a feeling he's coming to himself.
"He's back at the scene where he was a good second in this last year. It's probably a tall order on the back of what he's done.
"It's a tough race and we are on a bit of a recovery mission but I do feel I'm just getting somewhere with him. I'm a lot happier with him now."
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