Harry Angel cranks up the revs
Clive Cox believes Harry Angel is the "finished article" as the speedster attempts to sign off a wonderful season with victory in the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot.
While he was defeated by Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup in June, he then had that rival a long way behind him in the July Cup at Newmarket.
But it was his performance in desperately heavy ground at Haydock last time that took the breath away.
Having broken the track record there on firm ground earlier in the season, the odds on him performing to the same level on such different terrain were high, but he blitzed his rivals to win the Sprint Cup by four lengths.
"We were thrilled with his performance at Haydock and he came out of the race absolutely super," said Cox.
"We've got no concerns from a going point of view, which is great. I know a lot of people say a good horse will go on any ground, but finding that one is pretty difficult in my mind. We are very lucky.
"In the Sandy Lane, he was very impressive and our concern at Haydock last time was the heavy ground, but we all witnessed he was equally impressive – breathtaking, really.
"He was a baby to begin with, but I'm delighted that with maturity – physically and mentally – he has become the finished article.
"I have great respect for all the other competitors but I would not be swapping Harry Angel for anything."
Quiet Reflection was a beaten favourite in the race 12 months ago and has had an interrupted season this year, but she looked as good as ever winning in Ireland last time out for the in-form Karl Burke.
"Earlier in the season we were running out of time to get a prep run before Royal Ascot so we went to Haydock over five furlongs on quick ground," said Burke.
"She ran perfectly adequately, but just before Ascot picked up a fracture in a pelvis and if you are going to pick up a fracture that's the least problematic.
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"She was only lame for four or five days and I knew in the back of my mind we had the Renaissance Stakes if we missed the Sprint Cup, which was unfortunate as she'd have had her ground there, but Ireland worked out really well.
"I actually think she's a bigger, more mature mare this year. If it's anything good or softer she'll run very well."
The Tin Man was a good winner of the race 12 months ago and his love affair with Ascot continued with victory in the Diamond Jubilee at the Royal meeting.
He is another to consider in a race that can lay claim to being the highlight of British Champions Day.
"He ran very well in the Sprint Cup, I just feel he'd have liked slightly quicker ground than that," said trainer James Fanshawe.
"But he's come out of the race really well. He worked nicely on Saturday and we've had this race in mind since Haydock.
"I wouldn't say he's been showing us so much (at home) but his work on Saturday was really nice for him.
"It's how he is in himself, generally. His demeanour is the biggest clue."
Aidan O'Brien's Caravaggio looked a superstar when beating Harry Angel at Royal Ascot but he was then twice below form before returning to winning ways last time out.
He will be joined in the race by stablemates Alphabet, Intelligence Cross and Washington DC.
O'Brien said: "Caravaggio's in good form and everything has gone well since his last run at the Curragh, where we were delighted with him.
"I'd say it is very possible it will be his last run. Obviously we are hoping it won't be too soft.
"Alphabet won't mind if it gets soft – she's very happy on that ground.
"Intelligence Cross ran well in the July Cup and he's in good form.
"Washington DC is also in good order – he's a horse who needs a bit of luck in his races."
Librisa Breeze comes into the mix, with jockey Robert Winston hoping he has a slice of luck on Dean Ivory's stalwart.
"He's loads of ability but we've been very unfortunate this season as he hasn't had the rub of the green," said Winston.
"A couple of times he's been unlucky in running and he's had a bad draw."
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