THE countdown to the richest horse race of the year at Haydock Park - and the climax to the racecourse’s Flat racing season - has begun in earnest.

Some of the fastest racehorses in Europe will be making their way to the North West for the 2012 running of the Betfred Sprint Cup on Saturday 8 September.

The race, which is the highlight of the three-day Betfred Sprint Cup Festival starting on Thursday 6 September, is among those in the QIPCO British Champions Series which concludes with Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse in October.

The total prize fund during the Betfred Sprint Cup Festival is just under £475,000. All 19 races over the three days are sponsored by Betfred.

Dickon White, the managing director of Haydock Park, said: “Betfred Sprint Cup Day, which is the highlight of the three-day festival, is a hugely popular occasion with racing fans, attracts a big crowd, and is the major occasion of our Flat racing season.”

A maximum of 17 horses will take part in the six-furlong Group 1 race on Saturday.

Sponsor Betfred makes ‘Glorious’ Goodwood and York Nunthorpe Stakes winner, the Australian-bred Ortensia, its 3-1 favourite to complete a British trio of victories in 37 days. Last year’s Betfred Sprint Cup runner-up Bated Breath is second in the betting market on 5-1. Mayson, the Darley July Cup winner at Newmarket when he was ridden by Warrington-born jockey Paul Hanagan, is rated a 7-1 shot.

The entire racecard at Haydock Park on Saturday 8 September is very classy, including the Betfred Mobile Lotto Old Borough Cup, the Celebrating 45 Years Of Betfred Superior Mile and the Betfred ‘The Bonus King’ Be Friendly Handicap, which commemorates the horse that won the first two runnings of the Sprint Cup in 1966 and 1967.

Be Friendly – owned by the former BBC ‘Voice of Racing’ Sir Peter O’Sullevan - remains the only horse to have won the race twice, and a life-size bronze of him now stands resplendent in the paddock at Haydock Park.

The first race times on both Thursday and Friday are at 2.30pm. It is an earlier start on Saturday, at 1.45pm.

Friday 7 September is a fund-raising day for local charity Bolton Lads & Girls Club, in association with Betfred.

*The next racing at Haydock Park is the three-day Betfred Sprint Cup Festival between Thursday and Saturday 6 and 8 September. Admission: Premier (Thursday and Friday £36; Saturday £48); County Stand (£24; £35); Tattersalls (£13; £22); Newton (£13 Saturday only). The Newton Enclosure is merged with Tattersalls on Friday. Accompanied children under 18 are admitted free of charge. More information can be found and tickets booked at