09/04/2014 3:55PM

Sole Power, Gordon Lord Byron may be vulnerable in Sprint Cup

Hong Kong Jockey Club
Sole Power has three consecutive wins coming into the Group 1 Sprint Cup.

There are 18 horses entered in the Group 1 Sprint Cup on Saturday at Haydock in England, and there are questions to ask about race’s two perceived major players, Sole Power and Gordon Lord Byron.

Sole Power has the stronger recent form, entering Saturday’s race after three straight wins, the last two at the Group 1 level. But Sole Power probably prefers a distance at least slightly shorter than the Sprint Cup’s six furlongs, while Gordon Lord Byron won this race last summer and probably is at his best at distances between six and seven furlongs.

Gordon Lord Byron, based in Ireland with trainer Tom Hogan, went to Hong Kong late last year and spent the first few months of 2014 in Australasia, and in March, he captured the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill in Australia. Back closer to home in June, Gordon Lord Byron could only finish eighth in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, and more recently, on Aug. 23 in the Group 3 Renaissance Stakes at The Curragh, he took a nose loss to Jamesie, a good sprinter, but hardly top class.

It’s possible Gordon Lord Byron got a needed prep for the Sprint Cup last out, and that he will rise up to repeat in the Sprint Cup. But Gordon Lord Byron is a 6-year-old making his 40th start, and it’s also possible he has fundamentally declined.

Sole Power has not been hapless at six furlongs, and in his most recent try at the trip, he finished second of 14 in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin last December. But it seems more than mere coincidence that all his top performances, including recent wins in the Nunthorpe and King’s Stand, came over five furlongs.

Of the many alternatives to the two favorites, Music Master might hold the most appeal. A 4-year-old with 11 lifetime starts, Music Master looks well enough suited to six furlongs, and, still headed toward his peak form, he managed a fourth of 14 behind Sole Power’s star stablemate, Slade Power, in the Diamond Jubilee. Music Master subsequently won a Group 3 over six furlongs at Newbury, and one further step forward could land him a first Group 1 victory.