Saturday’s Darley July Cup could prove to be as good a sprint as we’ve witnessed in many a year.
Newmarket’s July Festival showpiece has attracted a stellar cast, and it appears to be Caravaggio that has landed the leading role. Ballydoyle’s undefeated three-year-old is said to be the fastest Aidan O’Brien has ever trained. And he arrives at Newmarket fresh from a stunning success at Royal Ascot in the Commonwealth Cup. That victory came against his own age group, but tomorrow he is to be tested against his elders.
There’s no doubting that Caravaggio has been impressive to date, and though appearing slightly outpaced during the race at Ascot, he was well on top when it mattered. He renews rivalry with Godolphin’s lightning quick Harry Angel, and may well find himself a few lengths adrift heading into the latter stages. The testing final furlong of the July course will certainly play to his strengths, as he looks to maintain his unblemished record. This race is usually run a couple of seconds quicker than the Royal Ascot six-furlong features. Caravaggio is a powerful finisher, but he’ll need to be in striking distance coming out of the dip, if he is to land the honours.
Harry Angel is all about speed, and he’s likely to be at the head of affairs heading into the final stages. Much of the July course is downhill, and I can envisage the Clive Cox trained speedster holding a decent advantage as the field hit the rising ground. If Adam Kirby can steal enough of a lead, the youngster could take some pegging back.
The first three home in the Diamond Jubilee are set to take on the youngsters, and it was The Tin Man that came out on top at Ascot. James Fanshawe’s classy sprinter has a stunning finishing kick, and is likely to be played as late as possible by his jockey Tom Queally. He’s yet to run at Newmarket, though his trainer appears confident that he’ll handle the track. He’s another that will be coming hard and fast at the business end, and looks sure to go close.
He beat Tasleet by a neck at Ascot, and the pair look closely matched. He’s yet another who is sure to be coming home with a wet sail. Trained by William Haggas, Tasleet is a progressive four-year-old owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum. Connections won this race with Muhaarar in 2015, and this fella certainly looks to have the class to go close. He has quite a high knee action and is not averse to softer ground, and it would worry me that a drying surface may see him slightly outpaced when it matters. Nevertheless, he’s a leading contender, and remains open to further improvement.
Third home in the Diamond Jubilee last month was Limato. That looked a huge effort from a horse returning from a small injury. Henry Candy’s classy five-year-old took this race last year, and would be the first since the 1950s to achieve back to back victories. He needs quick ground to be at his best, and if getting his conditions, he’ll take all the beating. He was devastating last year, travelling powerfully through the race, before scuttling clear inside the last two furlongs. There’s no doubting that he stays further, but he has the natural speed to maintain a prominent position during what is likely to be a furious pace.
Trends point to a fancied runner winning the race, with five favourites successful in the last 10 renewals. Four-year-olds have a strong recent record, though plenty aged three and five have captured this prestigious event.
Caravaggio is the obvious choice, but his price is plenty short enough for me, and I worry that he’ll be outpaced and have too much ground to make up. I can see Harry Angel reversing the Commonwealth Cup placings on this track, but he remains vulnerable to a fast finisher. Limato is the classiest horse in the race, and he’s the one for me. Proven on the track, and with the tactical speed to keep tabs on the lightning quick Godolphin youngster, I see him forging clear late on.
It has all the hallmarks of a truly memorable renewal. Best of luck to all those having a punt.