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Bluff should get them off the bit

A huge, grey horse will be in evidence at Haydock this afternoon and the only thing stronger than his massively muscular form will be the bridle and bit that forms the mechanism of his steering equipment.

Coastal Bluff would surely have won the Nunthorpe Stakes outright at York last month, had it not been for the malfunction in his bit which meant that Kevin Darley was forced to hang on to his mount's mane and effect an impression of a brave bearing down on the circled sanctuary of a wagon train.

The five-year-old's accoutrements will be checked so thoroughly today that they will surely not let him down again. The pertinent question will be whether he is good enough to hold off a refreshed set of new rivals in the Group One Haydock Park Sprint Cup. He beat Averti on the Knavesmire without a steering wheel and he should do so again, but now there are other foes.

Royal Applause was meant to be the champion sprinter earlier in the season until he was embarrassed in the July Cup, and since then there has been the trumpeting of Danetime, the victor in the Stewards' Cup. The latter travels to Newton-le- Willows with an impressive reputation, but as a handicap winner he can hardly be led to the same trough as Green Desert, Ajdal, Dayjur and Sheikh Albadou, all of whom have won this race inside the last 12 years.

In truth, nothing in today's field seems worthy of elevation to that standard, though the suspicion remains that COASTAL BLUFF (nap 2.50) is still spreading strength throughout his juggernaut frame. As he also achieves his venomous best like male wasps at this time of the year he must be the selection.

Epsom, too, has been brought forward to avoid the mourning of Saturday and gives us the September Stakes as its main dish. One of the contestants here is Dushyantor (3.40), a nearly horse of last season considered worthy of another campaign. This decision looked like being as deeply rash as an attack of shingles until the colt resurrected his reputation in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last month. Another hard-fought success seems likely.

The opening contest bears the words "hot water" in the sponsors' elongated title, which is exactly where punters are likely to end if they speculate extravagantly. When the change does come out of the pocket it should be proffered in support of the the course and distance winner, Dance So Suite (2.05). Another who has proved himself over this devilish terrain is Polar Prince (2.35), who captured the Diomed Stakes over today's distance at the Derby meeting. That was in the stratosphere of Group Three company and the four-year-old has been highly tried since without any tangible success. Back in the requisite company, he should be a winner.

And finally, funds should be preserved for Luca Cumani's Freequent (next best 3.05), who is sure to have come on for his pipe-opener in a white- hot handicap at York last month. The time for practice is over.


NAP: Coastal Bluff

(Haydock 2.50)

NB: Freequent

(Epsom 3.05)