Early September each year sees Haydock racecourse play host to its biggest flat race of the season, as the speedballs go to post for this pedal to the metal sprint event.
Established in that fine footballing year of 1966, and a Group 1 since that not so fine football year (for England at any rate) 1988, it remains one of the best events of its type of the British Flat season.
Sprint Cup Stakes Course Map (Flat Course)
The Sprint Cup is a straight six furlong dash which begins in a section outside of the main circuit which is just over a furlong long. The race joins the home straight just before the four furlong marker before passing the stands and reaching the winning post.
Sprint Cup Stakes Past Winners
|2021||Emaraaty Ana||11/1||Kevin Ryan||Andrea Atzeni|
|2020||Dream Of Dreams||5/2||Sir Michael Stoute||Oisin Murphy|
|2019||Hello Youmzain||9/2||Kevin Ryan||James Doyle|
|2018||The Tin Man||7/1||James Fanshawe||Oisin Murphy|
|2017||Harry Angel||2/1||Clive Cox||Adam Kirby|
|2016||Quiet Reflection||7/2||Karl Burke||Dougie Costello|
|2015||Twilight Son||10/1||Henry Candy||Fergus Sweeney|
|2014||G Force||11/1||David O’Meara||Daniel Tudhope|
|2013||Gordon Lord Byron||7/2||Tom Hogan||Johnny Murtagh|
|2012||Society Rock||10/1||James Fanshawe||Kieren Fallon|
|2011||Dream Ahead||4/1||David Simcock||William Buick|
|2010||Markab||12/1||Henry Candy||Pat Cosgrove|
|2009||Regal Parade||14/1||David Nicholls||Adrian Nicholls|
|2008||African Rose||7/2||Criquette Head-Maarek||Stephane Pasquier|
|2007||Red Clubs||9/1||Barry Hills||Michael Hills|
|2006||Reverence||11/4||Eric Alston||Kevin Darley|
|2005||Goodricke||14/1||David Loder||Jamie Spencer|
|2004||Tante Rose||10/1||Roger Charlton||Richard Hughes|
|2003||Somnus||12/1||Tim Easterby||Ted Durcan|
|2002||Invincible Spirit||25/1||John Dunlop||John Carroll|
About the Sprint Cup Stakes
Haydock Park hosts top quality meetings during both the National Hunt and flat racing seasons. Jumps highlights at the Merseyside course include the Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle, the Betfair Chase and trials for big races such as the Champion Hurdle and Grand National. Haydock’s flat course hosts well regarded contests ranging from the 5 furlong Temple Stakes to the 1 mile 3 furlong 200 yard Lancashire Oaks but it’s the Sprint Cup that really stands out.
Run over just 6 furlongs, the Sprint Cup is the sole Group 1 race held at Haydock during the flat racing season, having been promoted to that level in 1988. By that stage the race was already over 20 years old (it was first run in 1966) and was held in very high regard by fans and those in racing but it has been held in even higher regard since that promotion to the top level and has subsequently been won by some very high class sprinters.
AUTUMNAL GROUND CAN GIVE OUTSIDERS A CHANCE
The Haydock Sprint Cup saw an even bigger boost to its prestige when it was included in the inaugural British Champion Series in 2011. As with the other five races in the Sprint Division before the British Champions Sprint Stakes, the Sprint Cup is a very important race but it is a little different compared to the others.
QIPCO British Champions Series Sprint Races
|Race||Course||Month||Prize Money (2021)|
|King’s Stand Stakes||Ascot||June||£350,000|
|Diamond Jubilee Stakes||Ascot||June||£700,000|
|Sprint Cup Stakes||Haydock||September||£275,000|
|British Champions Sprint Stakes||Ascot||October||£500,000|
The reason for that is that the Sprint Cup is run in early September. Whereas the going is almost always good or firm in the big races run during the summer, underfoot conditions can often be rather softer at Haydock as the flat racing season approaches its closing stages. That demands a certain amount of stamina on behalf of the leading contenders, especially when the rain falls in the days leading up to the Sprint Cup.
The Sprint Cup has become a much more straightforward race since 1986 when Haydock increased their home straight to 6 furlongs and therefore got rid of the early bend that the field had to contend with. However, the slower ground means that it sometimes struggles to attract the stars that turn out for the other British Champion Series sprints. Whilst that poses some problems for the event organisers it does mean that punters have the chance to win big as winning favourites are relatively rare in the Sprint Cup.
YOUNGER HORSES SHOULD NOT BE WRITTEN OFF
The Haydock Sprint Cup was originally open to two-year-olds. Be Friendly (the first ever Sprint Cup winner) and The Blues were the only two-year-olds to win before the minimum age of competitors was raised to three in 1994. Since then, the youngest horses have had a very good record whilst those over five have struggled, as we can see below.
It is important not to take that stat in isolation. The three and four-year-olds who have won the Sprint Cup since 1994 all arrived at Haydock with their fair share of experience. Horses without at least two wins over 6 furlongs historically struggle to win the Sprint Cup. Moreover, those with previous experience at Haydock have a real edge, especially if they’ve dealt with the ground conditions found on the day of the race before.
With the caveat that many high quality horses get pulled from the Sprint Cup when the ground gets to the softer side of good, the trends show that it’s worth siding with horses who have already won at Group level. It always takes a high class performance to win this race so it’s little surprise that horses who have shown they can compete with some of the best sprinters around have a strong record.