Champions Day: Can Muhaarar complete the sweep, or will another sophomore jump up in the Sprint?
Saturday's British Champions Sprint (G1) (8:20 a.m. EDT) features Muhaarar in search of his fourth straight Group 1 prize. A devastating winner of the Commonwealth Cup (G1) over this course and six-furlong distance at the Royal meeting, the Shadwell homebred has since defeated older horses in both the July Cup (G1) and Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1). One slight concern about the 9-5 favorite is the ground: he was a little more workmanlike on a slower surface at Deauville in his latest.
This has been the year of the three-year-old sprinters, and four other sophomores are capable of winning this as well. Twilight Son extended his unbeaten sequence to five in the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1), just holding on from Muhaarar’s fast-finishing stablemate, Strath Burn. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Strath Burn turns the tables at twice the price. The Tin Man – not the 2006 Arlington Million (G1) winner – decimated a course-and-distance handicap October 2, prompting connections to add him back into this race that they’d taken him out of during a prior stage.
Adaay, Shadwell’s other colorbearer besides Muhaarar, has a sneaky look at 15-1. He might be something of a forgotten horse at this point, with flops in the Commonwealth Cup and again at Haydock. But when the William Haggas sophomore is on his game, he’s very good, having upset Limato in the Sandy Lane (G2) and smartly disposed of his elders in the Hungerford (G2).
Defending champion Gordon Lord Byron is another aiming to rebound. I might be underestimating the seven-year-old globetrotter, but he appears to have lost a step, making him a place chance at best.
The wild card is Singapore shipper Emperor Max, who has some compelling international formlines through his consecutive second-place finishes in the KrisFlyer International Sprint (G1). Of course, he had a home field advantage when chasing home the likes of Lucky Nine (2014) and Aerovelocity (2015), and the shoe is on the other foot now – over a straight, stiff six furlongs, unlike the turning around Kranji. This may be described as a fact-finding mission ahead of a possible Royal Ascot tilt next summer. If he can transfer his game to a very different kind of playing field, the Australian-bred son of Holy Roman Emperor would be a live longshot.