By Andy Stephens
The Dark Angel colt found Caravaggio too strong on his first venture into Group 1 company, in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June, but turned the tables on him when landing the Darley July Cup at Newmarket before following up with a superb four-length success in the 32Red Sprint Cup on heavy ground at Haydock last time.
He is a general 6-4 to extend his winning sequence on Champions Day, with Caravaggio (4-1) and The Tin Man (13-2) next in the betting.
“He’s come out of the Haydock race absolutely super and I’m very pleased with him,” Cox said. “The time scale between his races - from July Cup to Haydock, and then from there to Champions Day - is perfect and I’m less concerned about what the ground might be than I was before Haydock.
“Thankfully, he’s won his races very cosily and for that reason I hope we’ve been able to maintain a fairly healthy edge on him. Our biggest concern was going to the July Cup after Royal Ascot but that worked out fine.”
Harry Angel, owned by Godolphin, has been beaten on both his starts at Ascot this season - on his reappearance when trying to concede 4lb to Blue Point in the Group 3 Merriebelle Stable Pavilion Stakes and then when runner-up, beaten three quarters of a length, to Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting.
However, Cox does not regard the course as a potential chink in his flagbearer’s armour and says there were mitigating reasons for those reverses.
“The first time he was making his reappearance, was quite revved up and having only the third race of his career,” Cox said. “Then, in the Commonwealth Cup, he was so well that he ran a little bit too fresh. It was a very competitive race and Caravaggio was right on the day, but in the meantime I’d like to think we’ve taken a step forward mentally and physically. I could not be more pleased with the progress he has made.”
A total of 25 remain in contention for the £600,000 feature after the latest forfeit stage, and with regard to the likely opposition, he said: “It was great to see Quiet Reflection back on track last time, along with Caravaggio on the Curragh. Then there’s The Tin Man, whose best performances have been at Ascot - it’s his territory.
“I have great respect for all the other competitors but I would not be swapping Harry Angel for anything.”
Tasleet chased home Harry Angel in the Sprint Cup, having split The Tin Man and Limato in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
William Haggas, his trainer, said: “Harry Angel was very good at Haydock and if the same Harry Angel appears we’ve got an uphill task. Tasleet is in great form and all I’ve got to do is get the horse there in top shape.”
Blue Point and Limato could clash beforehand in the Group 3 John Guest Bengough Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
The former is closely matched with Harry Angel to judge by their two clashes at Ascot in the first half of the season but could finish only a distant fourth to him in the Sprint Cup last time after an 10-week absence.
“He will go to Ascot on Saturday and we will make a call about Champions Day,” Charlie Appleby, his trainer, said. “He has come out of Haydock very well. Take nothing away from the winner that day - he’s exceptional - but Blue Point was coming off a break and, to be honest, he’d done a bit too well. He has come forward a good bit mentally and physically - it’s woken him up again.
“Rather than throw ourselves back in at the deep end again and go straight to Champions Day, we thought we’d go to Ascot and take it from there.”
Limato chased home Harry Angel in the July Cup but was beaten over 7f at Goodwood next time and has since missed intended races at Haydock and Chantilly because of ground deemed unsuitable for him.
“It would be lovely if it was nice and fast on Champions Day,” Henry Candy, his trainer, said. “If it’s dry then I won’t miss any opportunities. He’s in the Bengough Stakes at Ascot on Saturday and the Listed Guisborough Stakes up at Redcar - I’d like to get a run into him wherever the ground is good.