The fastest six-furlong horses in Britain will clash in the Darley July Cup on Saturday but it’s safe to assume they will not be breaking any course records.
After another 8mm of rain on Thursday the ground was changed to soft and there were non-runners galore. The going stick reading on Friday morning ranged between 5.9 and 6, whereas it was 8.7 when Ten Sovereigns ran his rivals ragged last year.
The next couple of days look like being dry at Headquarters but not much wind is forecast. I’d imagine underfoot conditions will be on the easy/tacky side for the 13 runners.
Tactically, it looks a straightforward race to read. Hello Youmzain relishes attacking from the front and, if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Lord Of The Lodge is also usually very swift to reach top gear, while Shine So Bright enjoys dominating, too, although he is dropping back in trip.
Dettori has been riding in the July Cup for 30 years but has still yet to lift the prize
Expect the riders of Brando, Sceptical, Sir Dancealot and Equilateral to try and make their challenges from off the pace. Frankie Dettori, still seeking a first July Cup triumph 30 years after he first rode in the race, rides the well-fancied Sceptical.
Marchant D’Or swept from last to first in 2008, but invariably the July Cup is won by a horse never far from the thick of the action. Mayson, Lethal Force, US Navy Flag and Ten Sovereigns have been among recent winners to make all, or very nearly all, while Muhaarar, Limato and Harry Angel raced prominently.
Since the Commonwealth Cup was introduced in 2015, the grip that older horses had on the race has been loosened.
Four of the past five winners have been representatives of the Classic generation and three of them ran in the Commonwealth Cup. Last year, the first five home were all three-year-olds. Below is a guide to all this year’s contenders and a prediction as to where they may finish.
Trainer: Kevin Ryan. Official Rating: 112. General odds: 20-1.
Kevin Ryan tells us more about Brando
He’s been a fabulous servant over the years but come up short in three previous renewals and it’s likely to be the same story, even though the ground has come right for him. This will be his sixteenth Group One assignment (he’s won one of them) and eight-year-old winners of the race are a collector’s item.
Trainer: Charlie Hills. Rating: 112. Odds: 20-1.
If there were races over four furlongs he would be in his element because he has bundles of natural pace but he’s no easy ride and perhaps not the most resolute. He was ridden chilly to grab second behind his stablemate, Battaash, in the King’s Stand Stakes last time but never threatened. He seems unlikely to appreciate the combination this extra furlong, give underfoot or stiff finish.
Trainer: Kevin Ryan. Rating: 118. Odds: 5-1.
Relive Hello Youmzain's Sprint Cup win
There’s no doubt he’s up near the top of the sprinting tree, being a tenacious winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last month after his Sprint Cup win last year. He pinged the gates at Ascot and, unlike those who finished behind him, is proven on a slower top. Will take plenty of pegging back on a track which should play to his strengths.
Trainer: Charlie Hills. Rating: 114. Odds: 7-1.
Khaadem cruises home at Goodwood
Looked top class when sauntering home in the Stewards’ Cup last summer and traded short in-running in the Diamond Jubilee after tanking along for much of the way. Expect him to be covered up and played late but stall 1 is probably not ideal with main pace away from him and, all speed, he would have preferred the rain to stay away.
Trainer: Dominik Moser. Rating: 105. Odds: 33-1.
It’s good to see some international interest but this German challenger looks an ambitious entry, regardless of his Group wins this term. His defeats in France last year gives us a fair indication that he is not up to making a serious impact at this level.
Trainer: Roger Teal. Rating: 112. Odds: 12-1.
Roger Teal spoke to us about Oxted on Wednesday
Requires more than when landing the Abernant Stakes on his return but he arrives on the up with the best still to come. Ticks various boxes and interesting that his connections resisted the lure of Royal Ascot to keep his powder dry. Best form on a quick surface, although he is bred to relish slower conditions. He’s a player.
Trainer: Denis Hogan. Rating: 116. Odds: 4-1.
Denis Hogan on the attributes of Sceptical
The bargain buy has quickly developed into a top sprinter and he had one hand on the Diamond Jubilee last time, only for his finishing effort to falter. It looked like his stamina was ebbing away and, as a consequence, I imagine Dettori will count to ten this time. Softish ground no help and never easy pouncing late in this race.
SHINE SO BRIGHT
Trainer: Andrew Balding. Rating: 112. Odds: 33-1.
Zestful front-runner who ran too bad to be true in the Diamond Jubilee. Much more like it back over 7f at Epsom last weekend, without being able to hang on, but he looks up against it here turned out quickly, for all that he appears to have the weapons to be fully effective over this trip.
Trainer: David Elsworth. Rating: 114. Odds: 28-1.
His hold-up style has always made him a hostage to fortune but it’s not stopped him chalking up five pattern wins. He kept on to be fourth in the 2018 renewal of this race but 7f suits him best and his overall form in Group One contests is a revealing 674955070. Stable quiet since the resumption.
Trainer: Clive Cox. Rating: 118. Odds: 9-4 fav.
Clive Cox and Golden Horde
The striking chestnut was among the best two-year-olds last season and looked a picture before stamping his authority on the Commonwealth Cup on softish ground at Ascot last month. That race has had a big bearing on the July Cup in recent years and he has an obvious chance of emulating his sire, Lethal Force, who won this in 2013.
LORD OF THE LODGE
Trainer: Karl Burke. Rating: 109. Odds: 40-1.
The pick of his efforts as a juvenile was when chasing home Threat in the Gimcrack. That would put him somewhere in the picture but it has to be a worry that he has been underwhelming when twice racing on slower ground, including on his latest start when upped to seven furlongs in the Jersey Stakes.
Trainer: Adan O'Brien. Rating: 101. Odds: 33-1.
Watch how Ten Sovereigns won last year for O'Brien
Last year’s Windsor Castle winner failed to make an impact in the Commonwealth Cup after a year off, beating a retreat from two out. He may well last longer this time with that run under his belt but he has plenty on his plate turning the tables on Golden Horde and it’s hard to envisage him giving Aidan O’Brien a third successive win.
Trainer: Richard Hannon. Rating: 114. Odds: 9-1.
Won the Gimcrack and Champagne Stakes as a juvenile and was a big eye-catcher when fifth in the St James’s Palace Stakes, looking a palpable non-stayer over the mile. He’s well worth a second look back over six furlongs, although he finished behind Golden Horde each time he bumped into him last term.
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