Racing's sales season starts at Newbury this afternoon, when the bargains can prove to be very valuable indeed. The Weatherbys Super Sprint is for horses bought at Tattersalls for less than 40,000gns, which, in the tilted world of the turf, is regarded as peanuts. The reward for the relative paupers of racing is a prize fund of £135,000.
It is not a contest which ever escapes the attention of Richard Hannon. The East Eversleigh trainer's modus operandi is to buy plenty of juveniles, not many of them expensive, which makes this race ideal for his operation.
The prize has found its way into his embrace for four of the 12 runnings via Lyric Fantasy (1992), Risky (1993), Miss Stamper (1996) and Presto Vento 12 months ago, but the yard's prospects of taking another edition dimmed yesterday when their unbeaten Vermilliann was ruled out with a back problem.
There was, however, no need to throw the hat earthwards as Hannon still has three live contenders, the two most fancied being bestowed with friendly high draws. Prince Of Denmark, the mount of Frankie Dettori, will emerge from stall No.17. "The horse belongs to Sheikh Rashid [Al Maktoum] and they wanted Frankie to ride," Richard Hannon jnr, the trainer's son and assistant, said yesterday. "On the form book he's our best chance. He's got good form, he's been second in Listed races and he's a real nice, fast horse. He'll have a great chance from his draw. You have to be drawn 15 or above."
Mac The Knife, who will be ridden by Richard Hughes, has been given the 21 box. "His second at Pontefract was a good run," Hannon jnr added. "He's the ideal sort of horse for this race. He cost 25 grand, so he has to carry a bit more weight than the others, but he's a very fast horse and he's tough and consistent."
This, appropriately enough, would be a totally different production without the Prince Of Denmark, who has ticks in all the right boxes. That will be reflected in his price and undoubtedly the value lies with a two-year-old with similar form to Dettori's mount. Cop Hill Lad (next best 3.10) has both speed and the ability to get six furlongs, both of which will be much needed, while his trainer, Rod Millman, is another with pedigree in the race, having sent out Lord Kintyre to victory six years ago.
The opening Listed Steventon Stakes sees a return to the track for Mubtaker, who was last seen in this arena 11 months ago when mopping up the Geoffrey Freer Stakes. The direct translation from Arabic for Marcus Tregoning's runner is unknown, but is should mean something akin to dependable.
"This is a good place to start him because it's not too far to travel and he's a Group Two winner without a penalty," the Lambourn trainer said yesterday. "He's totally consistent and is a lovely horse to train. He's never run a bad race - I don't think he's ever been out of the first three [in 13 starts]."
Mubtaker then is the Placepot horse, though maybe not the one for the win. That goes to Parasol (2.05), who is back in distance after failing to see out the mile and a half of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The National Hunt season flares into life briefly at Market Rasen with the Summer Plate. The 2m 4f chase has a guaranteed pot of £70,000, so it is no surprise to see one particular fin breaking the surface.
Martin Pipe took this event 12 months ago with Chicuelo, who is not such a dark horse now and runs from a mark 22lb higher. It is beholden therefore to look for another runner in his old image, a relatively young and unexposed horse on the way up. None fits the criteria better than Tom George's Cobbet (nap 3.40).