HARRY ANGEL returns to the course on Saturday where he will attempt to record back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock – a race he took he devastating style last year.
Only Be Friendly has won the prize in successive years and Harry Angel lines up at the weekend for the first time since injuring himself in the stalls before the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
We spoke to his trainer Clive Cox about Harry Angel, what he has been doing to help his star sprinter at the stalls and get his thoughts on some of his other weekend runners.
Harry Angel has not run since injuring himself at Royal Ascot. How are things with him?
It was a huge disappointment to miss the July Cup, and the Sprint Cup was the next logical target. I’m delighted he’s back in good form and he has given me a really positive feel. Things have improved markedly since a couple of weeks after the July Cup and his work has been impeccable.
Harry Angel injured himself in the stalls at Ascot, not his first problem with the stalls. Have you done any work with him to try help him be better at the start?
We’ve done a lot of confidence-building work to be sure with the stalls and I’m as happy as I possibly can be. Any sprinter is basically a coiled spring, but we’re very happy with the progress he has made.
Having had an injury and missed the second half of the summer with Harry Angel, are you happy he is in tip-top shape for the weekend?
I would’ve preferred to have run in the July Cup but the upside is that he’s going into Saturday as a fresh horse. I guess every cloud has a silver lining. He holds the course record at Haydock on very fast ground. We have done our bit at home and are very happy that everything is in good order.
Some rain is forecast for Haydock, is that a potential problem at all for Harry Angel?
It was concerning when the ground got very soft last year and whether he would even took part. Although there is rain forecast, I don’t think we have quite the amounts that we saw prior to last year.
We have only seen Harry Angel twice this season, once being his effort at Ascot. What did you make of his other performance this season when winning at York?
I was delighted with his first run this season at York. He won with a 5lb penalty that day, which showed and confirmed to us that he had come forward. We took him to Kempton ten days ago. He had a nice airing there and that went really well, so he has had an away day.
Looking ahead, if Harry Angel runs well on Saturday the next likely target is the Champions Sprint back at Ascot, a course he has not won at. Do you think he has an issue with the track?
You are quite right about the Ascot thing and, although I have defended it all the way, the facts are there for everyone to see. You can draw conclusions; the second to Caravaggio was pretty special; we had a penalty when Blue Point beat us; he was beaten a nose there on his first racecourse appearance. He has not run badly at Ascot and that is why I have defended it, but he has clearly shown a top level of form at Haydock and I’m pleased we are going back there on Saturday.
You have handled some very talented sprinters in the last few years. Where does Harry Angel rank among them?
He’s the best horse I’ve had anything to do with. We have had some really nice ones in Lethal Force and Profitable. Lethal Force still holds the course record in the July Cup, so that was pretty special, but the performance Harry Angel put up in this race last year was scintillating. It’s joy to have a horse like this on our hands and I hope from Sheikh Mohammed’s point of view of keeping him in training that we can justify that decision because I think he’s as good as ever.
Harry Angel is joined at Haydock by Zonderland, who runs in the Superior Mile (2.25). How are things with him?
He ran a really good race in the Celebration Mile and he’s come out of that race really well. It would help him if as much rain stayed away as possible and I would be hopeful of him running very well at this level. It looks a good opportunity for him.
You have a couple of interesting runners at Kempton as well on Saturday, particularly Konchek in the Sirenia Stakes (4.25). How do you rate his prospects?
Konchek has been very consistent this year. Although this is his first run on the all-weather, there is no reason he shouldn’t handle it and be extremely competitive again. I hope he’s got a very good chance.
And, finally, you run King’s Slipper in the London Mile Final (3.15). What do you expect from him?
King’s Slipper won very well over course and distance last time. He’s up 7lb but his course form is a big positive, especially as it was on a standard to slow surface, which is looks like being again on Saturday. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do and hopefully his draw in 12 isn’t too much of a problem.