Hyperfocus to deliver at Haydock

Haydock and Beverley take centre stage on ITV this Saturday on what is one of the more routine ITV days of the Flat season as expectation builds for the Derby meeting next week. Regardless, there are still winners to be found and I’ll do my best to pinpoint one or two of them.

Surface key to success

The Betway Handicap (13:45) at Haydock is my first port of call. While the weather seems set to dry up in the coming days, the surface is still likely to have plenty of juice in it for this race. I’ve mentioned it a few times in this column in recent weeks, but I am a believer that soft ground at Haydock should be considered a specialist surface and those that have performed well on it in the past can be marked up when returning to it.

With that in mind, the one that makes the most appeal at a big price is the Tim Easterby-trained Hyperfocus. The seven-year-old has an inconsistent overall profile, but when his record at Haydock is isolated, it reads three wins and a third from five starts in six-furlong handicaps. The most recent of those wins was a comfortable victory off a mark of 86 back in September and he has dropped back to a mark that is just 1lb higher.

His record when fresh isn’t good, which makes it easy to forgive his recent below-form run on his seasonal return at York. Returning to Haydock could well be the key and he is one worth supporting win and place.

Easterby’s horse catches the eye

The Betway Achilles Stakes (14:20) at Haydock is the other race of interest. It is a Listed race that brings together horses rated in a range from 87 to 107 and I’m going for one rated bang in the middle, the Tim Easterby-trained Count D’Orsay.

While the five-year-old is wrong at the weights with plenty of these with him being officially rated just 97, there are plenty of reasons to think that he can be very competitive in this contest. Having started the campaign rated 100, he has shaped better than the bare result in all four of his starts this season. Most recently, he didn’t get much luck in running in his last two starts at York.

As well as having very much proven himself on soft ground over the years, the eye is also drawn to Count D’Orsay’s record over this course and distance. He has only had two outings over it, beating Came From The Dark (rated 92 at the time and now rated 108) last September and then narrowly losing out to that rival three weeks later on a sounder surface on revised terms.

With speedsters such as Ornate, El Astronaute and Glamorous Anna in the field, this race is highly likely to be run at a strong pace which will set up well for hold-up performers such as Count D’Orsay. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he came with a late rattle to upset his higher-rated rivals.