Softened ground may blunt Lethal edge

Top sprinter could make heavy weather of Haydock event after stablemate is ruled out

Clive Cox began yesterday with two live hopes for the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock today, the season’s top speedster Lethal Force and the smart three-year-old Reckless Abandon, filling the first two places in the betting.

By the end of the afternoon Reckless Abandon had been ruled out of the race lame while Lethal Force’s chances had been seriously dampened by heavy rain which turned the Haydock going from good to firm into soft.

Cox revealed that Reckless Abandon, twice a Group One winner last season and fifth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on his most recent start, had been found to have a hamstring problem. “It’s a big shame, but he’s not 100 per cent and he can’t be there,” the trainer said. “Lethal Force is in excellent form and I really hope conditions are suitable for him. He came back very well indeed from his run in France. He’s very full of himself. [Jockey] Adam [Kirby] knows our horse really well and his impression on the day was he probably wasn’t quite as sharp as he was for the July Cup.”

On an easy surface Lethal Force has yet to impose himself with the same dominance he exhibited when winning the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and, in particular, Newmarket’s July Cup. He had no answer to the challenge of Moonlight Cloud on good to soft ground in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last month and the going at Haydock is likely to be more testing.

Gordon Lord Byron, three-quarters of a length behind Lethal Force in third at Deauville, was second in the Sprint Cup 12 months ago. “He’s in very good form,” said his trainer, Tom Hogan. “The rain is fine, but a drop was needed. We were catching Lethal Force in Deauville the last day we met, so hopefully there will be a good pace and we might get by him one of these days. He improved last backend, so hopefully he will improve at the same time of year again.”

Richard Fahey’s three-year-old Garswood is another the rain will favour. “The more rain the better to slow the others down a bit because we’re dropping him back in trip. Slowing down the race a bit would help us. He’s in great form.”

The dominant pair at 10 furlongs, Al Kazeem and Declaration Of War, are set to renew rivalry in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in a contest also prey to the elements, with rain again threatening. Roger Charlton has sent Al Kazeem to Ireland with the proviso the horse will be  withdrawn if conditions fail to ease. “The weather forecast seems to change by the hour and there is a wide range of opinions as to how much [rain]  they will get,” the trainer said. “The gun is loaded, so fingers crossed  yet again.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien said of Declaration Of War: “He is a horse with an incredible constitution as he showed at York when winning the Juddmonte International. He has won on soft but he loves fast ground.”

O’Brien, who also saddles the one-time leading Derby hope Kingsbarns, sidelined since he won the Racing Post Trophy last autumn, added. “We’ve been happy with the way Kingsbarns has been progressing since he went back into work. He’s been a long time off and is just ready to start back.”

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