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Newmarket hosts its excellent July Festival meeting on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week. Headlined by Saturday’s Darley July Cup, the three days are frequently punctuated with Group class contests.
The July Festival is hosted, of course, on Newmarket’s July Course (as opposed to the Rowley Mile, which hosts spring and autumn racing).
There doesn’t seem to be any discernible draw bias over the years, though runners can occasionally be favoured by one side or the other from meeting to meeting. What that means is we’ll need to use the evidence of the early skirmishes to establish if any such bias manifests itself. Unless or until that happens, it is reasonably safe to assume there is none.
So, a level playing field – literally – and seven races to get stuck into on day one, Thursday, so let’s get to it.
A nice start yesterday, and another very tough day for Day Two, starting with the…
1.20 Fillies Handicap
Fifteen three year old fillies scheduled to go to post over seven rain-softened furlongs makes this a punting quagmire, as well as quite possibly a literal one.
Sir Michael Stoute has won it twice, as did Michael Jarvis, and Jeremy Noseda bagged it last year. This time, Sir Michael is not represented; and Michael Jarvis has handed over the reigns to Roger Varian, who does have a runner; as does Jeremy Noseda.
On the trends front, it might be tough for the top three in the betting as eight of the last ten winners carried nine stone or less to victory. There have been 20/1 and 66/1 winners during the past decade, but it usually goes to a fancied runner. Three favourites have obliged.
My thanks to Andy Newton’s Newmarket Trends piece, which tells me that six of the last ten winners ran at either Newmarket or Ascot last time out.
I’m going to look to those weighted below nine stone, fancied in the market, and ideally having run at Newmarket or Ascot last time (though I’ll be more interested in proven form on soft and perhaps a hint of ability at a mile, as I suspect this will take some gettting).
The most obvious candidate, and a filly with a strong chance, is the favourite, Perfect Step. Trained by Jarvis’ successor, the excellent Roger Varian, this lass beat all bar impressive Thursday winner Sovereign Debt last time, over a soggy seven at Ascot.
She’s likely to be ridden close to the pace, and stable jockey Neil Callan rides. She’ll take some beating here.
Cardigan is clear second best in the betting, and I hope she runs very well, not least because my lift to the track is from owner Raymond Tooth’s racing manager, Tony Stafford!
After an easy win in an easy ground six furlong maiden last backend, she was unsighted until popping up at Royal Ascot in a warm Group 1. She finished last there, but was sent off at just 12/1, implying connections believe she is pretty smart.
From a Group 1 at Royal Ascot to a Class 2 handicap at Newmarket’s July course is a helluva class drop, and on that basis alone, she’s worthy of respect. I couldn’t back her on reputation alone though.
The Queen’s Free Verse is a filly being dropped in class, as are a number of these, having chased the fabled ‘black type’ (important to be placed in a Listed race or better, for future breeding value) earlier in the season. She’s got seven furlong soft ground form, and has run respectably over a mile. As such, she enters calculations here.
But the pick of the bigger priced horses might well be the tastily named Tartiflette (so called after the delicious cheese and spud based skiers’ stodge served in over-priced Alpine lunch shacks). Her seven furlong soft ground form reads 222 and, whilst the win part of the wager may therefore be optimistic, she could reward place faith in a race where, barring the front two in the market, the bookies are having trouble making a case for any other.
The last lass to catch my eye is the ‘bred for water-skiing’, Savanna Days. By Danehill Dancer, whose progeny win at better than 12% on soft or heavy, compared to just under 11% for faster conditions; and out of a Monsun mare, this girl ought to sluice through the mud.
She’s got bits of decent form too, including when third in a mile soft ground maiden at Hamilton, which has worked out surprisingly well (six wins and another seven places, from 31 runs). Savanna then won a mile Kempton all weather handicap in Class 4.
Stepped up to Class 3 on quicker ground next time, she ran moderately, before returning to softer turf and recording a close up third in a decent enough Newbury handicap. This is tougher, but I suspect conditions might be optimal for her here.
Selection: Perfect Step
Best Each Way options: Tartiflette, Savanna Days
1.50 Heritage Handicap
We roll on, to a six furlong Class 2 handicap, contested by some twenty sprinters. Unsurprisingly, this is a race for small stakes and a prayer mat, a contention borne out by a single winning favourite in the last decade, and six winners at 10/1 or bigger.
The stats say that eight of the last nine winners lugged less than nine stone to victory. This is interesting given that fully fourteen of this field are scheduled to carry at least nine stone!
Now before you pile into the lower weighted beasties, it should be said that the handicap is much more compressed this year than normal (meaning there is a far narrower ability band between horses, which is why so many are carrying nine stone plus). So I think that could be a misleading titbit: lies, damned lies, and all that.
Looking at the form book… ha! Well, these are not my races, so this will be more a fleeting glance than a cold hard stare. Please understand I’d not be helping you by writing voluminously on a subject about which I know little (why change the habit of a lifetime, I hear one wag pipe up!), and accept my apologies.
I’ll offer this, for what it’s worth: front runners are favoured on this strip, and those that are likely to be near the pace are Piriwango, Balty Boys and Semayyel, among others no doubt.
Of that trio, Ger Lyons’ Irish raider, Piri Wango, is very interesting, dropping back from a mile, having gone really well until running out of puff in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot. Whilst this is competitive, it’s not as tough as that heat, and he still plugged on for fifth of the 29 who took part that day.
He’s got form over six furlongs – a win in a big field Dundalk maiden on debut – and has only had the four lifetime starts, so can be expected to improve. I’m surprised he’s as big as 10/1, but then I’ve already highlighted that I don’t really know what I’m talking about in these races!
Semayyel is dropping down both in class and trip, but – despite bits and pieces of form – she’s not one to have much faith in a replication of her best, which would trouble the pick of these.
Of the rest, Accession is a proper soft ground six furlong horse, and he ran really well when sixth on Newmarket’s Rowley strip in May. He was only beaten a length and a quarter then, and the Clive Cox yard is in much better form now.
(Tentative) selection: Piri Wango
(Tentative) each way alternative: Accession
2.25 Cherry Hinton Stakes
A Group 2 for for two-year-old fillies over the same soggy six as the previous contest. Some with which trends to conjure:
Thirteen of the last fifteen winners were placed first or second last time out. There have been six winning favourites in that time, and all of the last ten jollies have been placed.
Fourteen of the last fifteen winners ran between eight and thirty days prior to this race, and the same number had between one and three prior starts.
That narrows it down to a quartet of runners, and I’d be fairly confident the winner is in their midst. They are the Hannon pair, City Image and Maureen; Mick Channon’s Sandreamer; and the Irish raider, Sendmylovetorose.
Longer suffering readers will know that I mentioned both Sandreamer and Sendmylovetorose as lively sorts for a race at Royal Ascot in which the former was a non-runner and the latter had a nasty scrape in the stalls, which led to her withdrawal.
Both have run well since. Sandreamer was second to City Image in a Listed contest, and Sendmylovetorose won a soft ground Group 3 at the Curragh.
City Image was doubling up in that verdict over Sandreamer, having previously triumphed on debut over five furlongs on soft ground.
Completing the quartet is Maureen, who was very impressive at Newbury on her first and only start last time. That was good to soft, and she ought to be okay on this gloopier going, being out of a Linamix mare.
She has the most scope to improve, but also has the least form in the book. The question then is ‘can she leapfrog other lesser improvers here?’.
My suspicion is that she cannot, but it would be far from a shock if I am wrong in that. The one I like most is the unbeaten Sendmylovetorose. She already has a Group 3 win to her name, and she’ll love the ground and the trip. She’s achieved a good bit more than most, and still ought to improve further. Around about 3/1 looks decent to me.
Of the rest, Jadanna goes on the ground and wasn’t beaten far at Royal Ascot when fifth in the Queen Mary. She looks likely to be better for the extra furlong here, and might make the frame at a double figure price.
Each way: Jadanna
3.00 Falmouth Stakes
An excellent, but really trappy, renewal of this Group 1 contest for the ladies, over a mile. We haven’t seen so many French raiders since the Norman Conquest of 1066 (ok, probably a slight exaggeration), and they are responsible for the favourite, Golden Lilac, as well as two chevaux noirs in Giofra and Siyouma.
But first to the trends, such as they are:
All of the last ten had previously won in pattern company (i.e. a Listed race or better). Eight of the last ten were distance winners, and thirteen of the last fifteen were priced at 12/1 or shorter.
That doesn’t really help much alas, so it’s the good old form book for us. In such races as these, it pays to start with official ratings, in order to create a shortlist.
The even money favourite, Golden Lilac, is rated 120, and it’s hard for me to countenance a winner being outwith ten pounds of that figure. That does for the chances of Siyouma, Alanza, Barefoot Lady and Irish History. They were the ‘rags’ anyway!
As with most races where the favourite is around evens, you have to take a view about whether the jolly is likely to win, or if there are reasons to take her on with something at a price. I tend to favour the latter option as a rule, but let’s first consider the evidence of Golden Lilac.
A winner of six of her seven starts, including three Group 1’s, she’s been winning over further this season. Indeed, the shortest trip she’s won over is a mile. Last time out, she held the mighty Cirrus Des Aigles by three-parts of a length in the Prix d’Ispahan, with Planteur a half length back in third. If you take that form at face value, she’s unopposable here.
I do like to find at least two performances of serious merit before siding with a shortie, and Golden Lilac’s three length demolition job in the French 1000 Guineas is that second performance. She won comfortably, and ought to be tough to beat wherever she runs this season – at least in races against her own sex.
Of the rest, the most compelling place punt for me is Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Giofra. She’s a four year old but only got started at the end of last year, when finishing last of five on debut. If that hardly commends her unto our punting senses, then what she’s subsequently achieved is more alluring.
A win in a minor race at Compiegne was followed by facile wins first in a Listed affair and then in a Group 2. Those runs were either side of the change of season and, on her second start this term, she was second to.. Cirrus Des Aigles on heavy ground in the Group 1 Prix Ganay.
The Ganay is run over a distance of one mile three furlongs, and in top class the trip probably stretched her stamina. Behind her at respectful distances were Reliable Man (Prix du Jockey Club and Prix Niel winner) and Wigmore Hall (Grade 1 Northern Dancer winner), so the form is fairly solid at least.
It’s actually quite hard to make a case for the British and Irish challenge. Maybe was only third in the 1000 Guineas, form with plenty of holes in it when compared to some of these; Joviality is uncertain to appreciate testing ground (well beaten only time on soft, though that was over ten furlongs); Chachamaidee has never won beyond Group 3 and is up against proper Group 1 fillies and mares here; ditto Alanza, though she does look progressive (unproven on soft).
So, for me, I make Golden Lilac far and away the most likely winner. She goes on the ground, she easily gets the trip, she has a dazzling turn of pace, and she’s the classiest of these. Evens is not everyone’s idea of a good price, but there may still be a shekel of value in it.
Next best for me is Giofra.
Selection: Golden Lilac
Next best: Giofra
3.35 2yo Maiden
A two year old maiden, where most of the field are unraced. As with yesterday’s fillies’ maiden, six of the last ten winners were making their racecourse debut. That was the case with yesterday’s fillies’ maiden winner, Certify, too. (A nice 10/1 winner for my Winning Trainers product )
Richard Hannon has won four of those last ten, and Saeed bin Suroor another two. There have been winners at 12/1 twice, 14/1 and 25/1 in recent times.
The truth is this is a crap shoot, and a race in which I’ll be going deep on the placepot, assuming I’m still in. Requested and Alfonso de Sousa both ran well on debut, and should be better for the experience. Both were beaten far enough though, suggesting they’re susceptible to a talented newcomer.
This sort of a race demands a touch of improvisation on behalf of the punter, and so I’m going to side with… Improvisation. Ahem.
Apart from not having a clue in the race, I can tell you that Mahmood al Zarooni, the trainer of previously unraced winner, Certify, yesterday, has won with fourteen of 69 unraced horses at Newmarket since he started training, for a profit of 53 points at SP.
In an impossible conundrum, that’s good enough for me.
Random pig in a poke: Improvisation
4.10 Maiden Stakes
After the two year old maiden comes the three year old maiden, this time over a mile and a quarter. This one has seen winners at 14/1, 25/1 (trained by Sir Henry Cecil!) and 66/1 !!
It’s not a betting proposition of course, but for fun, let’s take a little looksee.
Awake My Soul is an obvious place to start. He was second over course and distance on chewed up ground behind a John Gosden, with Dr Yes about five lengths back. As an incumbent of Luca Cumani’s yard, he’s almost certain to improve for that effort, and his bare form already gives him a squeak.
Marshgate Lane is the favourite, but this son of Medaglio d’Oro surely wants a sprint trip on dirt. (His sire has only fathered two winners from 44 starters beyond nine furlongs). Whilst connections are respected, he’s certainly not for me.
Stencive is the other at the top of the form tree, but he’s probably flattered by his proximity to Noble Mission in a five runner Listed contest.
On balance, I like Awake My Soul, who is sure to improve for his debut, and doesn’t have to find too much to beat most of these.
An outsider with a place prospect is Hallmark Star. Gerard Butler’s son of Nayef has run his best races with dig in the ground, and he ought to lap up the sodden strip this afternoon. Although beaten far enough in his last two races, they’ve both been working out fairly well.
Dropped back in trip and on soft ground, I can see Hall making a mark here.
Tentative pick: Awake My Soul
Each way possible: Hallmark Star
We close with a sixteen runner handicap over a mile, which is bound to have at least one non-runner by post time, meaning you’ll only get three places (unless you bet in the place markets with Betfair, where you’re guaranteed four). And yes, the time is right, an hour and ten minutes after the previous race.
As this is Abu Dhabi day at Newmarket, I’m presuming there will be an Arab race as the in between the 4.10 and 5.20… [In fact, I’ve just been told it’s the President of UAE Cup, which is the Arabian horse Derby]
I managed to back a very nice handicap winner here yesterday in the shape of Stature, and I’m unlikely to be able to replicate that again at the meeting, I’m afraid!
However, there are a couple in the field of interest to me. Firstly, from a pace angle, it looks like Ariyfa and Hallings Comet might have it between them up front. The latter has greater scope to improve, but is also a shorter price (5/1). That doesn’t mean he can’t win of course, just that I’d rather have more jam in a race like this.
Ariyfa offers twice as much jam (10/1) and is from a shrewd enough yard: that of Noel Quinlan. True, he’s finished second on four of his five starts. But you’d be hard pressed to suggest he’s ungenuine. A little one paced maybe.
In any case, he’s run second on this strip; on good to soft ground; in this class; and in big fields, and he’s still progressing. He might be hard to shake from the frame again.
Three year olds have won three of the last six runnings of this contest, and Presburg is interesting for that age group. Rated 84, he would be almost top weight if a year older, but the weight for age concession enables him to get in here off less than nine stone. Kieren Fallon rides, and this chap has one piece of decent soft ground form.
On balance, though, the higher weighted horses have it. Indeed, eight of the last ten winners lugged 9-06 or more! Taking into account the going, that brings me back to Ariyfa, and also Barwick of Mark Tompkins’. We’ve talked about the former, so a quick line on the latter.
Barwick has won on good to soft, and been second on heavy, so the ground should be ok. He’s been progressive and was sent off a fairly short-priced favourite for the Carlisle Bell last time, in which he was drawn out of it (first three drawn 15-17-12, Barwick drawn four, as they all came near side, heavily favouring high numbers).
He ran very well in the circumstances to finish fifth, and if you took that run off his card, you’d get recent form of 121. 10/1 is perfectly fair and I think he’ll run well here.
Wily Willie’s (Haggas) are always respected, and Jawhar will definitely go in the ground and is progressive but, like Halling Comet, 9/2 is not a price that would tempt me into a race like this.
Two against the field: Ariyfa, Barwick
I’m not going to be able to post tomorrow, I’m afraid, but do check the blog for TV Trends, Well I Declare and Stat of the Day, all of which are designed to arm you with the informational ammo you need to battle the bookie…
Have a great weekend, and good luck!
1.20pm Bahrain Trophy
We start at 1.20pm UK time, with the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy, for three year olds only, over one mile and five furlongs. There have been some decent winners in recent times, none more so perhaps than last year’s St Leger victor, Masked Marvel, who used this as his prep race.
He was sent off the 2/1 joint favourite, and the Bahrain Trophy has been a race for the front of the market predominantly. Aside from Donegal’s 16/1 shock in 2008, none of the other winners was priced bigger than 8/1 in the past fifteen years.
Moreover, the first four in the market have claimed thirteen wins between them. With only six going to post, that’s unlikely to help us much, though, so we’ll keep digging.
It may (or may not) be pertinent to note that only one of the last fifteen Bahrain Trophy winners won last time out. In fact, only a third of those fifteen placed 1-2-3 last time. Each of the last six winners had finished out of the frame in either the Derby or a Royal Ascot race last time out. The one horse who fits that somewhat contrarian profile is Yazdi.
Of those Bahrain Trophy winners to have an official rating coming into the race, eight of the eleven were rated 99+, and ten were rated at least in the nineties.
That doesn’t bode well for either of Good Morning Star or Naseem Alyasmeen, who are rated 88 and 84 respectively.
Twelve of the last fifteen winners had raced at least four times in their career to date, which is a mark against the twice raced Valiant and the thrice raced Yazdi.
Those are the trends, but what about the formbook. Well, with the majority being unexposed, and a number stepping up in trip/down in class, it’s a bit of a nightmare to go through. But I’ll give it a whirl anyway!
The first thing to say is that in a six runner ‘marathon’ event, there’s every likelihood of there being no pace. Shantaram and Yazdi could make it; and, Good Morning Star and Naseem Alyasmeen have led occasionally in the past. But it’s very hard to be clear about what will happen from a pace angle.
Indeed, this race is a bugger’s muddle whichever way you slice it. I certainly won’t be betting in it, except to try to get through the placepot.
From a form perspective, Shantaram has solid claims on a line through Derby second Main Sequence, and has won on rain softened ground on this July strip. But he looks a tad reluctant to lead (prevailed by only 3/4 length last time at odds of 1/8!), and unless he can be cajoled past his rivals, might dog it in again. Blinkers could help him in future.
Valiant lines up with a 100% two from two record. Those wins came in a pair of ten furlong contests – a maiden and a class 3 handicap – and this step up in trip should be fine for a son of Motivator, out of a Desert Prince mare. Whether he’s good enough is impossible to know, and I’d be inclined to side with proven levels of ability when most of the runners have scope to improve.
The one which interests me most (and that is damning him with faint praise!) is James Toller’s Rewarded. This fellow – also a son of Motivator – has been suggesting a longer trip would help for a while now. His last two runs have been a staying on fourth over ten furlongs in a very competitive Newbury handicap; and a staying on third in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot, also over ten furlongs.
The extra three-eighths here should be fine, and I’m hopeful he can make the first two at least. Yazdi ran his best race last time in the Queen’s Vase, despite finishing only seventh, beaten fifteen lengths. That was a massive step up in grade, to the same level as the Bahrain Trophy, and – whilst it could have been the two mile trip which found him out – he’s got a bit to find with some of these on known form.
The other two are battle hardened, but probably not good enough.
A fiendishly tricky opener, where Rewarded might just be the value against Shantaram.
Chief danger: Shantaram
1.50pm July Stakes
A two year old race for colts/geldings over six furlongs, and a fascinating contest it is too. No such pace concerns here, as two year old male sprinters tend to leave the traps and run until they’re knackered!
Some really good juvies have taken this race, including the likes of Noverre, Bold Fact, Bertolini, and Frederick Engels last year. Again, it’s rare for a big outsider to snatch the pot, with just 16/1 Strategic Prince triumphing above an odds ceiling of 10/1.
A top three finish last time out seems material (13/15), as does a run between 16 and 30 days ago (10/15). And thirteen of the fifteen winners had had two runs or less prior to rocking up here.
If you’re a stats man or woman, you need look no further than Alhebayab, Richard Hannon’s twice-raced Windsor Castle Stakes second. He’s stepping up in trip from five to six furlongs here, and both breeding and the way he finished last time suggest the extra 220 yards will be fine. (Eight of the last fifteen winners had not previously won at the six furlong trip).
The other form protagonists look to be Gale Force Ten, Sir Prancealot and possibly Ahern.
Gale Force Ten represents the Aiden O’Brien team and, strangely for him, he has had very few runners in this race down the years. Indeed, since 1997, just Mull Of Kintyre and Ivan Denisovich have run for the yard. The former was second and the latter won, which underlines Gale Force Ten’s stable intent.
His level of form, headlined by a silver medal in the Norfolk Stakes, is up to a race like this too. But there is just a suspicion in my mind that the Norfolk was a muddling heat. The winner, Reckless Abandon, must have lost five lengths in veering across the track but was still too good.
The next five home, headed by Gale Force Ten and with Ahern back in fifth – were separated by less than three lengths. But, saying that, maybe it was just a very competitive race: the fourth and tenth have both won since and the only other runner to race again, seventh placed Ocean Applause, also made the frame.
Ahern ran pretty green here, and was picking up late, implying he’ll appreciate the extra furlong. He’s a horse I like, from a stable I like (David Barron’s), and I think he might be able to reverse form with Gale Force Ten.
Sir Prancealot was a good winner of the National Stakes at Sandown, before finishing fourth to Dawn Approach in the Coventry Stakes. The Coventry is usually a better race than either the Windsor Castle or the Norfolk and, consequently, Sir Prancealot should be considered a player here.
To my eye, though, Sir Prancealot wasn’t making any progress in the last furlong, and I’m not sure what to make of him as regards trip. The evidence of the eye suggests he’s better at five than six, and yet his breeding lends itself to miling…!
In the circumstances, I’m prepared to let Sir P beat me. And I think it might be stablemate, Alhebayab who lands the July Stakes spoils. He gives a strong impression he’ll appreciate the extra trip, and if he can improve half as much as he did from his first race to his second, he’ll go mighty close.
Gale Force Ten and Sir Prancealot are obviously respected, but I think the main danger could be Ahern. With another race experience under his belt, and an extra furlong to get his mid-race act together here, he could well give Alhebayab most to do.
Chief danger: Ahern
2.25pm Goldsmiths Handicap
The first handicap of the week and, naturally enough, it features oodles of unexposed three year old up-and-uppers. Ten furlongs, or a mile and a quarter if you prefer, is the trip.
Six of the last ten winners have started at double figure odds, including horses at 20/1, 25/1 and 40/1. ‘Handle with care’ is the watch phrase here…
2006 winner Formal Decree was the solitary favourite to oblige in the past decade, so demand some jam on your bread if you’re playing this one.
There are no trends of note, so I’m going to have to side with a different tack. Looking at the likely pace scenario reveals that Andrew Balding’s Stature may well get a fairly easy lead. He’s running here under a penalty having made all at Windsor on the first day of July.
Before that he was held up in a very in a very opulent renewal of the Edinburgh Cup, worth £31,000 to the winner. That probably didn’t suit, and he was staying on all the way to the line over a mile and half, implying he’ll not be stopping out in front here.
If Stature is taken on for the lead, it will most likely be by one or both of Fennell Bay and Samba King. The former is a typical tough-as-boots Mark Johnston runner, and has a similar profile to Monterosso, who subsequently improved out of all recognition and won the richest race in the world, the Dubai World Cup.
Fennell Bay has already had twelve starts, and won five of them, including his last two. The latter of that pair was in the King George V Stakes, one of the most competitive handicaps of the year. He’s tenacious, he races close to the pace – which gives him every chance; and he is improving. As a winner at both a mile, and a mile and a half, the trip will hold no fears; and nor will the ground, as those victories were both with the word soft in the description.
Samba King’s stamina probably gave out behind Fennell Bay over that mile and a half last time. Prior to his last two runs, he’d looked progressive, which is why carries top weight here. A six pound pull with Fennell Bay gives him a chance of getting closer, as does the shorter trip.
But I just have a suspicion he might be better bossing smaller fields. His form in fields of nine or less is 3113; in ten-plus fields it’s 570.
Razorbill and Beaufort Twelve may comprise the next rank, in pace terms. The former is stepping up from a mile to ten furlongs for the first time, but I’m not sure this son of crack US sprinter, Speightstown, needs further. Not for me.
Beaufort Twelve was vanquished by Stature the last day at Windsor, and has a three pound pull for a neck beating. The going rather than the weight change could be more material here, however, as it was good to firm that day, Beaufort Twelve’s favoured conditions. Now he’ll be racing on good to soft, where Stature has already demonstrated his, erm, stature.
One of the form picks is Hajras, who had both Rewarded and Thomas Chippendale behind when running up to Expense Claim in the London Gold Cup, a Newbury handicap. Expense Claim is a stable mate of Stature, so Andrew Balding will know where he stands relatively, and presumably expects his chap to be up to this.
Hajras, for his part, was losing his two race unbeaten tag there, and clearly has more to offer. He stuck on really well that last day, whilst still showing signs of greenness, and I see him being there or thereabouts here.
Another with a strong chance is Pilgrims Rest. This boyo was on a hat-trick last time, when going down by around two lengths. The drop back in trip is in his favour, and the going will be fine.
The last horse I’ll mention here, though not necessarily the last worthy of mention, is Greek War. He dotted up at the end of June over course and distance by six lengths, and did Stat of the Day readers a big favour in the process.
The ground was good that day, but this son of Monsun is bred for a bit further and a bit deeper, so if anything he ought to improve for it. I do have a slight reservation about what he beat that day, but you can only stuff the oppo going away, so that’s fair enough.
You’ll have gathered that this is a trappy old race, and I’m going to take three against the field.
Selection: Greek War
Dangers: Stature, Hajras (among many)
3.00 Princess of Wales’s Stakes
The feature race on the opening day of the July Festival, a Group 2 over a mile and a half for three year olds and up. Alas, none of the classic generation take their chances here, so it’s older horses only.
Sir Michael Stoute has won five of the last fifteen renewals, Mark Johnston three, and John Dunlop and John Gosden two each. Sir Michael is the only one of that illustrious group to saddle a runner here, and Fiorente is of immediate interest in such a context.
Thirteen of the last fifteen winners either didn’t have a rating (three) or were rated 111+ (ten). That figure excludes a quartet of the nine entries, one of which is Fiorente!
The last favourite to win was Millenary back in 2002.
Jakkalberry is the highest rated of these, and he has a number of pieces of form that give him a strong chance here, not least his third place in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
He’s a Group 1 winner in Italy, and has won two Group 3’s as well. Trip, class and going are not an issue for him, and I think he’ll reward each way support. Whether he’s quite good enough to win is another question.
Harris Tweed and Red Cadeaux are the pair burdened (in the context of this race’s history, at least) with joint favouritism, and both have obvious prospects. The former loves soft ground and a mile and a half, but he’s never won in Group 2 or higher company, which must be a negative here, against some proven Group 1 performers. He’s certain to lead, but likely to be passed at the sharp end.
The latter is a fantastic horse. He was heartbreakingly touched off by Dunaden in last year’s Melbourne Cup, and both before and since has continued to run his socks off. He seems better than ever this year, and must go close.
Dandino has been a brilliant servant to Elite Racing Club, and this is his trip. But he probably wants the ground firmer, and I suspect he’s not quite as talented as some of these.
Most of the rest of the field would want the ground firmer, and I think Jakkalberry and Red Cadeaux will both go very close.
Danger: Red Cadeaux
3.35pm Maiden Fillies Stakes
Ah, the respite of a big field with only a few possible winners. Twenty runners go to post and, yes, there was a 40/1 winner in 2010. But the other nine gold medallists in the last decade were all priced 9/1 or shorter, with four and a half favourites asserting (one joint, in case you were wondering).
Six of the last ten were making their debut, and the other four had all finished second in a prior start, so stick with fancied debutantes and a proven level of form.
Fleeting Smile is perhaps the most likely of the eight to have raced. Her second place behind Newfangled, who hacked up in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot, was a really good debut effort, and she was sent off as the heavily backed even money favourite that day.
Obviously, it’s impossible to know how good the newcomers are, but Fleeting Smile brings a very solid level of course and distance form to the table and is the logical play.
Selection: Fleeting Smile
4.05pm Conditions Race
A mile Class 3 conditions race, featuring some of the fallen aspirants of the first part of the season. Crius and Eastern Sun started in the Craven Stakes; Saigon in the 2000 Guineas; Mister Music in the Listed Feilden Stakes; and Red Duke has run in the UAE Derby, the 2000 Guineas, and the German 2000 Guineas (!).
Despite all of that, very few of them have actually looked like winning in Group company, and it might be one of the progressive horses which started in handicap or maiden company this term who prevails.
The one most likely in that context is Gabrial, who is versatile as regards ground, and for whom one mile is the perfect trip. He wasn’t beaten far in the Group 1 St James’ Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and he ought to win against so many disappointing types.
Another improver, Mukhadram, might follow him home.
4.40pm 5f Handicap
They’re not very nice to us, these race planners, are they? We close a really tough day with a twenty runner five furlong sprint handicap. There are people who love these type of races – like NagNagNag Gavin’s brother, Gary – but I’m not one of them.
Those close to the pace tend to do better than those trying to come from further back, and the most likely pace pressers here are Bertoliver, Solemn, Taurus Twins, Kingsgate Choice and Nomoreblondes.
Of those, the five furlong good to soft class 3 winners are Solemn and Taurus Twins. Both are in good form, and in a race that is nigh on impossible for my methods, I’ll side with them.
Two against the field: Taurus Twins, Solemn