The climax of Newmarket’s July meeting could not have been more thrilling. Muhaarar established himself as this summer’s ‘Sprint King’ with a last gasp victory in the Darley July Cup.
Astaire on the stand side and Tropics down the centre had set the early pace, and when Pat Cosgrave kicked for home on Tropics it looked as though the pack would fail to peg him back. However, Charlie Hills’ three-year-old turned on the turbo as he met the rising ground, and in a pulsating finish hit the line a nose to the good.
“He didn't really come down the hill but he's a fighter and battled all the way to the line,” said the winning trainer after the race. “He's just a very, very good horse.”
Winning jockey Paul Hanagan, who was completing a big race double having earlier taken the Bunbury Cup, said: “This is what it’s all about. The whole team works hard, I'm delighted. He didn't really handle the track and the dip and I could only really move on him when he hit the rising ground. I always just thought he was going to get there.”
Hills hinted that the Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Haydock Sprint Cup and British Champions Sprint Stakes back at Ascot would be likely targets for the new star of the spring division.
Dean Ivory’s seven-year-old was filling the runners-up spot for the second consecutive year, but the trainer could not have been more thrilled, saying: “He travelled so strongly and it's not ideal ground for him. He was just unlucky really, we'll keep going. I've got so much faith in the horse.”
Of the remainder, the Aussie Brazen Beau proved slightly disappointing. He took up a prominent position for much of the contest before fading in the final furlong. Anthem Alexander was another that found the stiff finish blunting her natural speed. She had again travelled beautifully for much of the race before looking a little one-paced at the crucial stage. A flat-track six furlong may yet see her taking a major prize before the summer is over.
But it’s Muhaarar who looks sure to sweep all before him as the season progresses. His win in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury over seven furlongs in April suggests that a stiff six is probably his optimum trip. The hope for the rest is that a speedier type may give him the slip on a flatter track, and just maybe gain enough of an advantage to hold off the powerful finisher.
Tropics tried and only just failed. The new sprint sensation will certainly take some stopping. The scene is set for further thrilling encounters during the summer, with Hamdan Al Maktoum’s new star playing a leading role.