The Godolphin-owned colt was named as the best sprinter in the world at the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings in January, having won the 32Red Sprint Cup and Darley July Cup in 2017, and all his powers looked intact when he gave weight and a beating to the race-fit Brando on his return in the Group Two Duke Of York Stakes at York in May.
However, things have subsequently not gone to script. He got his leg caught of the frame of the stalls when below-par in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, injuring himself in the process, and then faded to finish sixth when defending his Sprint Cup crown at Haydock last time.
Clive Cox is eager for redemption at Ascot on October 20, not least because his stable flagbearer remains without a victory at the track after five previous visits. He was fourth in the Champions Sprint last year, when sent off 5-4 favourite.
“At the moment we are all systems go,” Cox said. “He’s a horse I’m absolutely confident is as good, if not better, than last year. I hope the weather stays dry – the forecast is encouraging – and if that’s the case we will be very much looking forward to it.
“He’s in good form and the drier autumn than we have had compared to last year will give us a chance to lay the ghost of Ascot to rest.”
Having had time to digest his latest reverse at Haydock, he said: “On more heavy ground than last year, he quite visibly went a bit too quick. It was plain for all to see that he was just a bit too exuberant on the day.
“I’m very happy with him and he’s giving me all the right signals, as he has done all year.”
The past two winners of the Champions Sprint, The Tin Man and Librisa Breeze, features among 26 entries left in the race after the latest forfeits stage.
Other possible contenders Brando, Limato, Tasleet, and Mabs Cross.
There are also 26 entries left in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, headed by French cgallenger Recoletos, while the first three home in the Fillies and Mares Stakes last year – Hydrangea, Bateel and Coronet – remain on course to meet again.
Hydranger has subsequently not been at her best in three starts this year but O’Brien is hopeful of a revival. “The plan is to go back for the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares race,” he said. “We’ve had plenty of little issues with some of the horses and we’ve never really got her 100 per cent but we think she’s nearly back.”