Horse Racing: Three picks for a sizzling Saturday at Haydock and Leopardstown

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RACING fan Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets from a brilliant day at of racing from Leopardstown and Haydock.

14:25 Haydock| The Sprint Cup | ITV

The Sprint Cup will be run on soft ground and this could move the emphasis from speed to stamina. It’s a really high-class race with the winners of the July Cup, The Diamond Jubilee and the Prix Maurice De Gheest clashing, so whoever wins this can hold strong claims to being a champion sprinter.

Harry Angel was one of my horses to follow for the season and has had a fine campaign. His win in the July Cup was authoritative and he made a good field look slow.

On the quick ground, I think he’s the best six-furlong horse in training, but on the soft ground he may be vulnerable at this level, however, he has won on soft before.

Tasleet is a decent sprinter but when soft is in the description he becomes high class. He disappointed in the July Cup on the quicker ground but that’s the only time since his debut he’s been unplaced over six furlongs. A consistent sort he may run into a place on soft ground but he’s a little short in the betting.

Brando has made his way through the ranks from handicapper to group one winner and I suspect there is more to come. His record on soft ground is very impressive and his win in the Ayr Gold Cup off top weight is a performance I feel didn’t get the recognition it deserved.

The way he traveled through the race at Deauville last time was incredible and I suspect this previous course and distance winner could hold all the aces on soft ground.

17:35 Leopardstown | The Matron Stakes | ITV

The Matron Stakes is shaping to be one of the best renewals of it ever and it’s a superb looking race. If all the main protagonists turned up in top form this would be a classic, and though the betting suggests Winter will add to her group 1 haul I think it’s closer than many believe.

Winter has been one of the stories of the season and is going for her fifth Group 1 in a row in what’s been a remarkable 5 months for her. She’s had a tough campaign but somehow seems to improve with each start. This is her toughest task to date but I’m prepared to take her on with each way alternative but she is the one to beat.

Persuasive was second in this last year where she tasted defeat for the first time and comes here a very fresh filly. She looked like she would improve for the run when making her return in France, this seems to be her target and anything representing Gosden and Detorri must be respected at this level. She has the talent to be competitive, but I’m not backing her.

The one I’m backing here is the enigmatic Qemah. On her day, I believe she is the best filly in Europe, however, she doesn’t show this often enough.

She has had a light campaign and should be at her peak, but there is one thing that draws me in with her. Her trainer JC Rouget has string in incredible form with a 67% recent strike rate. If he has Qemah at her best she will give Winter something to really think about here.

18:45 Leopardstown | The Matron Stakes | ITV

The Irish Champion Stakes last season was perhaps the highest quality race of my lifetime with Almanzor beating Found and Minding with an endless list of group one horses in behind. Though we don’t have a race to match that it’s a very good race and I’ve taken a chance on one at a price.

Aftet his Guineas win I assumed Churchill was going to go on to become champion three-year-old and would hold his own compared to recent champions. However, his shock defeat at Ascot was followed with a battling second in the Judmonte, and his reputation is bruised to say the least. I hope he wins, but I won’t be backing him.

Eminent has been spoken of by trainer Martyn Meade as if he is a horse of a lifetime and some his work at home has apparently been hard to believe. He was beginning to look like he wouldn’t live up to his trainers billing until he was an impressive winner last time in France.

However, that was a Group 2, he was left alone in front and there is no shortage of pace here. He may be improving and he’s not far off being up to winning this, but I’m against him today.

I’m taking a slight chance here and going for the Dermot Weld trained Zhukova. A top-class mare, she’s won at group 1 level in America and she stays really well. With soft in the title she has won every race and with rain scheduled before the off, she will get her ground. With this likely to be run at a really good clip I think she represents fantastic each way value and I’ve backed her here.

Best Bets

14:25 Haydock – Harry Angel to win (6/4 Bet365)

15:35 Leopardstown – Qemah to win (6/1 Paddy Power)

18:45 Leopardstown – Zhukovato win (8/1 Sky Bet)

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I grew up watching Hearts games with my dad and playing football at every opportunity so betting on it was the logical next step! Football coupons became a Saturday ritual and it introduced me into the world of horse racing. I started watching it on a regular basis, and after Galileo's Derby win in 2001 I was hooked. I follow both flat and national hunt racing attending the northern meetings when possible.

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