Twilight Son just came out on top in a thrilling renewal of the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock. The Henry Candy-trained three-year-old had just got the better of Stewards’ Cup winner Magical Memory deep inside the final furlong but needed the line to come in time as Strath Burn motored home down the centre of the track.
A brief photo ensued before the still-unbeaten 10-1 winner – who was stepping out of handicap company – emerged victorious by a short head in the hands of Fergus Sweeney. Magical Memory was another three-quarters of a length away as Charlie Hills sent out the second and third.
Sweeney said: “I thought I had it, but I wanted to hear it called out first. He’s done nothing but improve all year, he’s an absolute star. He really wanted to win and full credit to Mr Candy.
“I thought this level might come a year too soon, but I couldn’t believe the ease in which he travelled into the lead. I’d have loved to have a lead for a bit longer, but nothing was good enough.”
Candy said: “I thought I might look incredibly stupid, but Fergus was very complimentary about the horse, he said he couldn’t believe the ease in which he took him into the race. He said he just felt that nothing would get by him, that the horse wouldn’t have let anything by him if they’d gone on for another furlong. He’s incredibly tough.
“He’s a natural, he’s kept on improving. He’s twice the size he was a year ago and is a magnificent specimen. He was a baby for a long time. He just needed time.
“I think he might have one more run, the championship race at Ascot [on Champions day] would be the logical next run and then hopefully next year as well.”
Earlier, Maljaa (5-1) showed speed in abundance to take top honours in the Betfred TV Be Friendly Handicap.
Disputing matters from the off as the field raced mainly together in the centre of the track, the Paul Hanagan-ridden winner again showed the benefit of headgear, as he had when wearing blinkers for the first time in winning at Doncaster earlier this month.
B Fifty Two was slowly away but finished with a real rattle and might have been counted a shade unlucky in being beaten a neck in second.
Half-brothers Seve and Ballesteros showed up well for some way but were ultimately found wanting at the business end.
Winning trainer Roger Varian said: “He’s not very big, but has some gears and is a very fast horse. He’s really getting the hang of sprinting.
“The headgear is just helping him concentrate. I was a bit worried two out, we were up there for the taking, but Paul said he stuck his head out and wasn’t going to get beaten.”