Who wins the big sprint at Newmarket on Saturday? Watch galloping clues, analysis, interviews plus read the views of Andy Stephens.
Blue Point has set the bar high for those with designs on becoming champion sprinter but his retirement has at least left the door open for others to take centre stage in the £500,000 Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday.
Nine of the past 11 winners ran at Royal Ascot en route and it is cramped price that sequence being extended.
Advertise and Cape Byron won at the Royal Meeting, while Dreams Of Dreams was runner-up in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
The trio dominate the ante-post betting, while six of the other 15 entries to stand their ground on Monday also ran at the Berkshire venue.
Frankie Dettori is still seeking a belated first win in the race but is on the crest of a wave after being top jockey at Royal Ascot and guiding Enable and Too Darn Hot for Group One glory over the weekend. He will be aboard Advertise.
Here’s a guide to all the potential runners.
Trainer: Kevin Ryan. Official rating: 114. General odds: 9-1
Kevin Ryan told Gordon Brown more about Brando after his latest win at Hamilton
The demands of this race clearly suit him Kevin Ryan’s big bruiser as he was third behind Harry Angel two years ago and beat all bar US Navy Flag in last year’s renewal.
Connections again spurned the Diamond Jubilee Stakes to keep him fresh for this day and he instead warmed up with a comfortable success in shallower waters at Hamilton.
There’s no reason to doubt he will again give his running but, aged seven, his window has probably passed. His overall form in Group One contests reads 931972824.
2. CAPE BYRON
Trainer: Roger Varian. Official rating: 113. Odds: 9-2
Will the big-field handicap specialist be able to translate that into Group One company?
His wins in the Victoria Cup and Wokingham at Ascot this year off marks of 103 and 107, beating an aggregate of 50 rivals, show that he has been ahead of the official assessor and that he ideally suited by the rhythm of races run at end-to-end gallop.
The manner in which he powered through the Wokingham last time make it difficult to believe that the five-year-old was having his first run over six furlongs, although I’m not sure it was the strongest of renewals.
This represents a different kind of test and keep in mind that probably every other horse in this field would have won the Wokingham off a mark of 107.
He reminds me of Harmonic Way, who glided to success off a mark of 102 in the Wokingham in 2000 before subsequently proving to be vulnerable at the highest grade.
Sakhee’s Secret, who had previously run only six times, was the last July Cup winner (2007) not to have won any kind of Group race beforehand.
Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute. Official rating: 119. Odds: 100-30
Take a walk down Memory Lane and watch finishes of the July Cup going back to 1983
Had won only three of his 19 races heading into this season and anything but a Group One winner in waiting but this campaign he has been transformed – winning at Chelmsford and Windsor before all but clawing back Blue Point in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last time.
Some will be a bit suspicious about his career-best last time – he motored home after being anchored in rear – but it was hard not to be impressed by the way he tanked through the race and the way he quickened past all bar the brilliant winner. He would have been in front in another stride or two.
He ran poorly the only previous time he ran on the July Course, two years ago, although he was having his first run for four months on that occasion (and first for Sir Michael Stoute having previously been trained by Kevin Ryan) and, in any case, we are now dealing with a different model.
The Diamond Jubilee has yielded the July Cup winner four times since 2008 and Stoute, seeking a fourth win in the race 38 years after his first with Marwell, is enjoying a fine season.
4. GLORIOUS JOURNEY
Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Official rating: 108: Odds: 25-1.
Something of a yardstick to compare others by here as he has been a support player in races won by Cape Byron, Dream Of Dreams and Limato this season.
Perhaps did not get the credit he deserved when splitting Dream Of Dreams and The Tin Man at Windsor on his penultimate start, and he rallied when edged out by Limato over 7f here last time, albeit in receipt of 5lb.
It will be a surprise if he is up to winning but, equally, no surprise if he outruns odds which perhaps underestimate him.
5. LIM’S CRUISER
Trainer: Stephen Gray. Official rating: 114. Odds: 50-1
The Singapore raider adds a dash of the exotic but it will be a surprise if he can make an impact.
He faded when eighth in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last time, when finishing more than seven lengths behind Dream Of Dreams.
Difficult to see him turning the tables, let alone beating the others here.
Trainer: Henry Candy. Official rating: 114: Odds: 12-1
Henry Candy talked to Nick Luck after Limato's latest win. "He's a wonderful horse and hasn't deteriorated much at all" the trainer says
Was at the peak of his powers when winning the 2016 renewal in emphatic fashion three years ago and went down on his sword when runner-up to Harry Power 12 months later.
Only beat a couple home 12 months ago but has since shown there is still fire in his belly, winning four of his six subsequent starts, including in the 7f Group Three Criterion Stakes on the July Course last time.
He travelled with a lot of his old brio last time, when burdened with a penalty, but age is against him and whether he’s up to still winning at the highest level is doubtful. His rating is 8lb lower than two years ago.
In his past eight runs at the top table he has finished 60320009, although some of those efforts were over a mile.
7. MAJOR JUMBO
Trainer: Kevin Ryan. Official rating: 109. Odds: 33-1
Majo Jumbo again gives his all in the Palace House
Perhaps worth overlooking a slightly subdued effort by the front-runner over 5f in France last time as he’s usually tremendously reliable and had previously run well in defeat in the Palace House Stakes (behind Mabs Cross) and Duke Of York Stakes (Invincible Army).
He has probably hit his ceiling, though, and the official ratings tell their own tale. Is going to need a big personal best and others to misfire to hit the bullseye.
Trainer: Martyn Meade. Official rating: 119. Odds: 3-1
Watch how Advertise won at the July Meeting last year. He has since won two Group One races
He was among the best two-year-olds around last season when he won the Group 2 July Stakes at this meeting (over course and distance) plus the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh.
Arguably, he ran even better races in defeat when runner-up in the Coventry (to Calyx) and Dewhurst (behind Too Darn Hot).
Advertise flopped in the 2000 Guineas on his return, when his stable was out of sorts, but bounced back with a bang when landing the Commonwealth Cup back over six furlongs in first-time blinkers at Royal Ascot last time.
So his one career defeat over 6f remains in the Coventry, when he was first home on the far side.
He’s difficult to knock and, while it’s early days, the inception of the Commonwealth Cup seems to be helping the cause of three-year-olds in this race.
Muhaarar did the double in 2015 and the winner a year later, Quiet Reflection, finished third. In 2017, Harry Angel won the July Cup after finishing runner-up in the Commonwealth Cup.
Watch what Martyn Meade had to say after Advertise's win 12 months ago
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official rating: 116. Odds: 8-1
Watch what our experts said about the Middle Park Stakes
Looked to have the world at his feet when preserving his unbeaten record and landing the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in July but arrives her with something to prove.
He faded in the closing stages when fifth in the 2000 Guineas on his return after being sent off a heavily-backed favourite and was similarly strong in the betting dropped back to six furlongs for the Commonwealth Cup last time.
However, he looked in trouble some way out at Royal Ascot – keeping on at the one pace to be fourth to Advertise. It is too early to be writing him off but he’s going to have to be a lot sharper if he is to provide his trainer with a fourth success in the race.
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official rating: 112. Odds: 16-1
Our experts put the Cheveley Park Stakes under the microscope
Hard to fault as a two-year-old when she showed an excellent attitude to land the Lowther and Cheveley Park; her only defeat in five starts coming when third in the Albany Stakes.
I thought she lacked a bit of scope and might struggle this year, but she ran a cracker to be beaten only a couple of lengths in the 1000 Guineas, over a trip that seemed sure to stretch her, and again gave a fine account of herself when fifth in the King’s Stand, when shaping as if five furlongs was too sharp.
In between, she was among those who made up the numbers in the Irish 1000 Guineas but sprinting is her game.
The return to six furlongs seems certain to suit and she’s a fair price to make the frame, although you have. to go back to flying machine Habibti, in 1983, to find the last three-year-old filly to land this.
11. PRETTY POLLYANNA
Trainer: Michael Bell. Official rating: 112. Odds: 16-1
Remember this from 12 months ago?
She was brilliant when running away with the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at this meeting 12 months ago and followed up in the Prix Morny, but things have not quite gone to plan since.
Her subsequent defeats as a two-year-old probably read better now than they did at the time, and she showed she had trained ion by chasing home Hermosa in the Irish 1000 Guineas.
However, she was unable to replicate that in the Coronation Stakes last time and finds herself back among the sprinting ranks.
The way she operated on the July Course last year has to be a tick in her box, but others make more appeal for win purposes.
12. SO PERFECT
Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Official rating: 107. Odds: 20-1
Last, but not least. Her form as a two-year-old stands close inspection, not being beaten far by Advertise in the Phoenix Stakes (despite racing keenly) or when behind Fairyland in the Cheveley Park.
Her penultimate effort, when landing a Group Three contest at Naas in fluent style, showed her powers remain intact and I fancied her to defy a penalty in the Jersey Stakes but, for whatever reason, she did not fire.
Dropping back to six furlongs will clearly not inconvenience her and, while she’s clearly got to squeeze out improvement from somewhere, her overall form points to her price being on the chunky side.
Advertise and Dream Of Dreams deserve to be at the head of the betting after their respective exploits at Ascot. The latter would have collared Blue Point in another stride and should probably be shorter than 7-2. What price would his narrow conqueror be if he were in the race? Limato and Brando operate well on the July Course but neither are getting any younger, so the younger legs of Fairyland and So Perfect make more each-way appeal.