And then there was one.
It takes little more than 70 seconds to win the Darley July Cup but Frankie Dettori has not yet got around to landing it. The 49-year-old has won every other Group One race there is in the UK - and plenty more all around the world - but the big sprint on his doorstep still taunts him.
Thirty years after his first ride in the race, he will try again on Saturday afternoon. A flying dismount is a certainty if he cracks it, even if there will be nobody there to catch him.
He gets another chance to fill the void aboard the Denis Hogan-trained Irish challenger Sceptical, a leading fancy after his close third in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
Thirty years of hurt: Dettori is seeking an elusive July Cup triumph
Last season's champion apprentice, Cieren Fallon, 21, who will take part for the first time aboard Oxted, should take note. You might still be trying to win it in the year 2050, young man!
“The July Cup is the only Group One I haven’t won in England. Newmarket is my hometown, and I was second again last year,” Dettori told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast this week. "It’s a good ride to have. It looks a wide-open contest, and we’re going to try again.
“I felt I went too soon at Ascot – I hit the front and stopped. Denis said he could improve the horse a bit, because he missed one gallop before the race. I think perhaps a bit softer footing and me going too soon might have made the difference between winning and losing.
“In the July Cup we have to take on younger horses, so it’s not going to be easy, but he’ll have a good chance.”
A Group One winner at three last season at Haydock, Hello Youmzain then also prevailed in a close finish in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last month.
He was sold as a stallion prospect by Jaber Abdullah following his Haydock win, to Haras d’Etreham and Cambridge Stud, but Ryan dismisses the notion that the pressure is therefore already off.
“It’s not a free hit, it’s a Group One – and they are all important races,” he said. “We’re very happy with him going into the race, but it’s another tough race – they’ve all turned up.”
Ryan also believes it would be folly to dismiss Brando, his eight-year-old who has been placed in the race twice previously.
“We’re very happy with Hello Youmzain, he’s in great form – as is Brando. He loves it at Newmarket and has run well in the race before,” said the North Yorkshire trainer.
“The ground will be right for Brando – he ran well at Newcastle when nothing came from off the pace that day, so we’re more than happy with him as well. He’s got low mile mileage for a sprinter.
"Hello Youmzain was always going to strengthen up in the winter – he’s a big horse, and as a sprinter they always do that. To win at Ascot first time out was a huge thrill. It’s a Group One, and they always take plenty of winning.”
Cox gave an update on Golden Horde this week
The Darley July Cup is part of the 2020 Qipco British Champions Series – as was the Commonwealth Cup, won by Clive Cox’s Golden Horde.
Cox has handled classy sprinters such as Lethal Force and Harry Angel in recent years, so should have a good guide. Cox said of his three-year-old: “I think mentally with a sprinter, it’s more important than anything to have a proper race.
“It’s great we’ve got that run under our belt and we’ve won his Group One, which is fabulous, and I have every confidence he’s bound to have taken a step forwards mentally as much as anything for having that race.
“He’s going in here with a 6lb weight-for-age allowance – which is very helpful – and I think physically he’s in good nick. It’s a formula that works – it’s tried and tested, and I believe in it very much, but as an individual, this fellow is extremely mature and strong as a three-year-old.
“I think that extra maturity helped Lethal Force as a four-year-old. But he is very mature, and I think with the weight-for-age allowance, that is going to give him the ability to be a worthy favourite.
“It’s a pleasure to know we’ve won it in the past, but it’s all about being in the right races with the right horses, and I’m just so thrilled we’ve got a horse of this calibre to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Harry Angel and Lethal Force.
“I think he’s pretty uncomplicated, so I think there are many more horses besides that would be more affected by being too keen or not having enough pace and that sort of thing. He can make his own running, but he got a lead in the Richmond last year – I don’t have any particular concerns.”
Threat won the Gimcrack last season for Richard Hannon, and ran over a mile on his comeback at Royal Ascot when appearing not to get home.
Chris Richardson, managing director for owners Cheveley Park Stud, said: “We didn’t learn anything from Ascot. It was one of those races. He was running a bit free, he was always wide, never got any cover, but it got the fizz out of him and basically we were toying with two options – the Jean Prat over seven and this over the stiff six at Newmarket.
“Whatever happens, we will learn from the race and whether we go for the Prix Maurice de Gheest afterwards or the Lennox.
Teal spoke to Nick Luck on Wednesday at Newbury
“We are still in that learning curve (over trip). We know he’s a good horse. He showed plenty of speed to win the Gimcrack. He is in good form, and Richard (Hannon) has been very vocal on that.”
Roger Teal’s Oxted, winner of the Abernant Stakes last time out and the mount of last year’s champion apprentice Cieren Fallon, also boasts claims.
“Winning the Abernant the way he did justified his entry'" he said. "He’s been working really well and is pretty easy to train. He can get a little excited on race days but that's the way with all sprinters - it goes with the territory."
“We talked about running him at Royal Ascot, but when he ran at Newmarket the last day it was quite quick and he was a little bit stiff afterwards. Our main aim was always the July Cup so we made the decision to keep his powder dry, and let any soreness get out of his muscles. We wanted to give him every chance to turn up fighting fit for the Darley July Cup and he’s bounced back really well.”
Teal is himself seeking a first Group One success and added: “We’ve been threatening for a while but the big boys always seem to have one. It would be brilliant to come home with the pot."Get your free Racing TV fleece - the latest in our range of high-class Racing TV merchandise! Click here for more details.
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