Hannon confident of Shouldvebeenaring in wide-open Abernant

Sprinters of Group 1 quality are more likely to slum it in lesser Pattern races compared to horses who race over further. The Abernant is one such example and it is a sensible target, with the winning purse worth slightly more than for finishing third in the Sprint Cup.

Shouldvebeenaring was second last year's Sprint Cup and is among the standard-setters. He flits between six furlongs and seven, which in theory suits the stiff nature of the Rowley Mile.

Last year's winner Garrus falls into that category too, as does Spycatcher. Connections of the latter, who was placed in the Champions Sprint on British Champions Day, will be keeping a particularly close eye on the sky as he's suited by soft ground.

Those horses dominate the early betting, along with the likeable Commanche Falls who generally needs a run or two to get going. Those lower down the market are archetypal handicappers who find themselves rated out of such events. The big six-furlong handicap this week was a 0-100 but there are a few younger sprinters who could step up to this level.

In particular, Mill Stream was progressive last year. He placed in some of the traditionally strong three-year-old handicaps before beating Garrus in a Group 3 at Deauville. He has had wind surgery so is one to note in the betting.

Tiber Flow and Mitbaahy are both five but still have a bit of unfinished business. Tiber Flow only made the track four times last year but beat Spycatcher while that one was still on the up in the Chipchase at Newcastle. Mitbaahy was more of a stiff five-furlong/easy six-furlong horse with Roger Varian. It will be interesting to see how his career develops now he has joined Charlie Hills, who is more readily associated with sprinters.

'Commanche will come on big time for the run'

The Abernant Stakes features a host of familiar names, and after serving up a thrilling finish last season the first two home, Garrus and Commanche Falls, are back for more.

Commanche Falls had a productive campaign after being beaten in last year's race, winning the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes alongside Listed sprints at the Curragh and York.

"It hasn't been great weather for getting them ready but Commanche Falls is doing well," said trainer Michael Dods. "He can be a bit lazy at home so he needs to get to the racecourse to move him forward. He's a hard horse to have A1 first time as he just goes through the motions at home but this is a good starting point.

"There's not a lot of opportunities for him with his rating and this looks more competitive than last season. He's as fit as we can get him at home and he'll come on big time for a run. He's tough on his day and he'll follow a similar route to last season after this."

Garrus recorded the biggest success of his career when denying Commanche Falls by a head last year, having himself been beaten by a short head the previous campaign.

The eight-year-old has a consistent record at this level and has won three Group 3s, including the 2021 Prix de Meautry and 2022 Prix de Ris-Orangis, both at Deauville.

Trainer Charlie Hills will also be represented at Newmarket by Mitbaahy, a Listed winner at Chester on his most recent start in August 2023 for former trainer Roger Varian.

"I've never seen Garrus move so well," said trainer Charlie Hills. "He's been a grand horse, winning a Group race for the last three years. Mitbaahy looks a nice type with a fine turn of foot. Jamie Spencer sat on him recently and he worked great. He's another exciting, classy sprinter."

What they say

Karl Burke, trainer of Marshman and Spycatcher
I was quite surprised Clifford Lee chose to ride Spycatcher, who is ready to start off but if the ground dries out further he would be a doubtful runner. Marshman ran well on his comeback and has come forward from that.

Henry Candy, trainer of Run To Freedom
We're hopeful he can run his usual good race. He likes a bit of cut, which he won't get this week. He's a useful sprinter when things go his way.

Richard Hannon, trainer of Shouldvebeenaring
He’s been an absolute superstar for us and is probably one of the most consistent horses in training. His form is very strong and we took him to Wolverhampton to blow away the cobwebs. He’ll strip much fitter here and six furlongs suits him best.

Adam Ryan, assistant trainer of Washington Heights
He was very consistent last season and won impressively in Sweden. With his mark he's bordering on Pattern company so this looks like a good starting point and will determine the plan for the rest of the season.