Newmarket July Meeting 2014: Day 1 Preview, Trends, Tips
It's the opening day of Newmarket's July Festival and, although HQ may have been usurped by those upstarts over at Ascot in recent years, they still know how to throw a summer party.
Day one of three on the July course features seven races, the highlight being the Princess of Wales's Stakes at 2.40.
1.40 BAHRAIN TROPHY (Group 3) 1m5f
Three year olds over a mile and five furlongs might sound like a St Leger trial, and indeed it has been, with Masked Marvel achieving the double in 2011 and both Corsica and Kite Wood placing in the last Classic since 2009.
Bahrain Trophy Trends
Only two last time out winners have taken this since 1997, and just seven of the 17 winners in that time were placed last time out. This is because most winners have tended to have run at Royal Ascot or Epsom in the Derby on their prior start.
14 of the 17 winners in that time have were either rated 99+ (ten) or did not have an official rating (four). Only half of today's eight deep field are rated 99+, with all having a rating.
16 of the 17 winners ran over 1m4f to two miles last time out. Interestingly (perhaps), seven winners raced over two miles on their last start. And 12 of those 16 last ran at Ascot (8), Epsom or Chester (two each).
Bahrain Trophy Form Preview
The percentage call is to focus on those rated higher than 100 that ran in a Group race last time, quite possibly at Epsom or Ascot. The shortlist on that basis comprises Odeon, Bunker and Hartnell. Windshear also ran at Royal Ascot, and is also rated over 100 - 101 to be precise - but was beaten in a Class 2 handicap there. Whilst obviously open to improvement, so are the first trio, and they've been tried at a slightly higher level already.
Hartnell is the winner in their midst, having bagged the Queen's Vase, a Group 3 over two miles, in game fashion. He was running on fumes at the end there, and the drop back in trip seems appropriate. If he's over his exertions there, he can double up, despite the generally poor record of last time out winners, though he could be susceptible to an improver.
Bunker and Odeon were both well beaten behind runaway King Edward VII Stakes winner, Eagle Top, and that race has proven a graveyard for this affair. Only the triple Arc runner up, Youmzain, was able to win this from the nine King Edward VII losers to take part since 2001, and neither of this pair look to have the stamina or the guts to vanquish Hartnell.
Windshear steps out of handicap company for the first time, but defeats in his last two starts to Group class horses suggest he may not be a forlorn hope. Indeed, he's the early favourite for the race; and that's my issue. He can obviously win, but he's terribly short on the basis of what he's achieved thus far.
The fact that Johnny G has won this for the last three years, including with a subsequent St Leger winner, means Forever Now has to be considered, despite an unnatural trends profile. He's only had three runs to date, and has only won a maiden - last time, albeit by eight lengths; but Gosden doesn't tilt at windmills too often and he'd have had plenty of other options for this race.
Forever Now has been heavily backed in the early exchanges, and I suspect he might be the one to lower Hartnell's colours.
Of the bigger prices, the filly Honor Bound is better than she showed last time when routed in the Oaks. She'd won her two previous starts, including the Listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield, and 20/1 underestimates her chance I suspect.
Bahrain Trophy Tips
Forever Now looks certain to run a big race for the race specialist, Johnny G, and I'd imagine he'll be closing down Hartnell in the last quarter mile. If all eight line up, then the one for each way purposes is probably Honor Bound. 20/1 is too big.
Selection: Forever Now 7/2 general
Each way if all eight run: Honor Bound 20/1 SkyBet
2.10 JULY STAKES (Group 2) 6f
A juvenile Group 2 for the boys, run over three-quarters of a mile, and it's a race that the 'old' Richard Hannon has won in three of the last four years (fourth on the other occasion).
July Stakes Trends
Fifteen of the last seventeen winners finished 1-2-3 last time out, with ten of them winning.
Only two of the 21 21 once-raced horses prevailed, with two start 'veterans' notching thirteen wins from 52 starts (25%), and a profit of 30.08 units. Those with more than two starts won just two from 64 runners.
15 of the 17 winners since 1997 came from the first four in the betting
July Stakes Form Preview
A pair of once-raced colts head the market for this, and both have seen early support. Belardo is a son of Lope de la Vega, trained by Roger Varian, and won a Yarmouth maiden over this trip on this ground on his sole start. He did it easily and is clearly well thought of, but this is a challenge in which many similarly profiled horses have come unstuck in the past.
The same caveat applies then to Ivawood, an expensive Zebedee colt who won a five furlong Sandown maiden by a couple of lengths. The second and fourth have both won since giving the form a more solid look than Belardo's, though it is early days for judging the merit of that one's debut effort.
Ivawood is 3/1 and, despite the likely leap of improvement, that's just not a price I like when he has to find probably ten pounds on the bare form of his debut. He is capable of that improvement, no question, but we should not be expecting those with more form in the book to stand still either, even if their incremental progression will likely be by steps rather than leaps. In short, he's no value at 3/1, even though trainer Richard Hannon (the younger) has thousands to choose from in pursuit of the five year family four-timer.
Jungle Cat might be interesting. He's three runs under his belt, the most recent of which was a very good third in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot. That's the pick of the form in the field, and he can come on a stride again to enhance the form of his two-time assailant, The Wow Signal. The form of Jungle Cat's previous Goodwood maiden win has been well advertised with three winners and another two placed horses from the ten subsequent starters. 6/1 looks reasonable as he's a pretty solid each way option.
Of the big prices, Mind Of Madness and Ustinov appeal mildly for differing reasons. The former was impressive on the Rowley course here when smashing up early season types on his debut. He's found life tougher since, but his silver medal in the Group 2 Norfolk over an inadequate looking five furlongs is a decent level of ability. 12/1 offers a smidge of win/place value.
Ustinov has had two runs for Brian Meehan, whose juveniles generally need their first start. He stepped up on a third of nine at Haydock to win at the same track last time out. Both races have thrown forth winners, and he's going to progress again, though he does need to.
July Stakes Tips
Jungle Cat is more exposed than the once-raced pair at the top of the market, but he's got a lot more form in the book and looks the type to improve again. At twice the price of the Hannon horse, Ivawood, he's a value alternative.
Selection: Jungle Cat 6/1 general
Each way alternative: Mind Of Madness 12/1 BetVictor, Coral
2.40 PRINCESS OF WALES´S BOYLESPORTS.COM STAKES (Group 2) 1m4f
A competitive mile and a half race for all ages, Sir Michael Stoute and Mark Johnston have shared an incredible ten victories since 1998, the score being 6-4 in the knight's favour.
Princess Of Wales's Stakes Trends
12 of the last 17 winners finished in the first four last time
Four year olds have won nine from 56 starters in that time, at a 16% clip. Six year olds have done well too, with four wins and two further places from eleven starters, though I'm at a loss to explain why five year olds have performed poorly as an age group (except, of course, to suggest that the figures above are happen-stance).
Princess Of Wales's Stakes Form Preview
The trends don't really help much here, and this has a very open feel to it on ratings, with just three pounds separating all bar one of the eight set to line up. Arab Spring is the one expected to break through the 115 resistance barrier, perhaps en route to better things.
He's a winner of his last four starts, including a Royal Ascot handicap in a field of 18 last time, and the trainer was very hopeful about this fellow when I met him last week. He'll have the assistance of Ryan Moore again - always a positive - and he is clearly upwardly mobile.
But at 6/4 we need to factor in possible negatives as well, and there are a couple that come to mind. Firstly, although it's early days, the three horses to run from that Ascot race have all been out of the frame next time. Moreover, the form of his previous York handicap has not worked out either. Specifically, of the eleven runners out of that race, only Arab Spring himself has won.
And secondly, Arab Spring likes to race on or close to the pace, something that at least three of his rivals also like to do. It's possible he's versatile as to pace, but it should not be taken for granted that he'll get his own way on that score.
Whilst I think Stoute's improver will probably win, I'm not excited by 6/4 against some strong opposition for the grade.
In the circumstances, I'd rather take an each way chance on another, and my tuppence will fall - penny win, penny place - on Pether's Moon. The Hannon hoss has had twelve starts, and been in the frame on ten of the last eleven occasions, including both times in Group 2 company. He loves fast ground, loves a mile and a half, and can go close at around 10/1.
Hillstar is the other Stoute horse, and twelve furlongs on quick ground could be ideal. He was third in the Group 1 King George last year, and this is easier than that. He was arguably a bit disappointing last time when seven lengths second to stablemate, Telescope, but he can do better than that, and may improve his trainer's record at the expense of the jolly, also from the same squad.
Dandino, like all horses in Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock ownership, is being aimed at an autumn campaign in Oz, so they can't be sure to be 'off' (if you saw the ride on Seismos at Sandown, you'll know what I mean). In the circumstances, they cannot be backed, not by me at any rate.
Cavalryman is surely past it at eight, and Gatewood makes minor appeal of the big prices. He's optimally suited by conditions and, while he has a bit to find with some of these on form, he's more likely to run to his level than a few of his rivals.
Princess Of Wales's Stakes Tips
Most likely winner: Arab Spring 11/8 general
Value each way alternative: Pether's Moon 10/1 general
3.15 Handicap (CLASS 2) 1m2f
A decent ten furlong handicap for three-year-olds, and one in which five of the last seven winners have carried more than nine stone to victory. During that time, Mark Johnston and Andrew Balding have each saddled two winners.
Whereas Balding is unrepresented this time, Johnston runs two: Torchlighter and Insaany. The former has a six pound penalty for a win eleven days ago at Windsor (Class 3), while the latter steps up from Class 4. Neither looks obviously well handicapped, though both are receptive to improvement.
What About Carlo has top weight, which he's earned by winning three of his last five starts, two of them in this grade. Although he's racing on good to firm for the first time since being well enough beaten on his debut, he ought to act fine on it.
This will be his second start at ten furlongs, and seemed to improve for the extra quarter mile when running away with an Epsom handicap in fine style. His trainer, Eve Johnson Houghton, says he'll not be inconvenienced by top weight, as he's a big horse, and he looks likely to be in the frame once more.
Mount Logan was found out last backend on the Rowley course here, when down the field in a Group 3, but he is a winner of handicaps either side of that, latterly in a Class 3 event at Goodwood at this range. That facile performance has earned him a ten pound hike, but the fact that he was pitched into Group company previously says much about the perceived level of his ability. He's got that man Atzeni doing the heavy lifting here, and is a player.
And Willie Haggas' Mange All is the least exposed in the field with just three starts so far. They culminated in a mile maiden win at Beverley, a far cry from this heat. Prior to that however, he was third in a big field to Connecticut in a Newbury maiden that has worked out extremely well. He'll love fast ground and should prove plenty better than his current mark in time. Getting a stone from What About Carlo and nine pounds from Mount Logan swings the pendulum of my punting affection in his favour.
Selection: Mange All 5/1 BetVictor
Alternative: What About Carlo 7/1 general
3.50 Maiden Fillies 6f
A large field of juvenile maiden fillies go to post in a race won by subsequent Group 1 scorer, Certify, two years ago.
Godolphin like to unleash a good'un here, and in that context, Umniyah is interesting. And that's about all the advice I have, except - obviously - to suggest you pay close attention to the market.
4.25 SIR HENRY CECIL STAKES (Listed Race) 1m
A new race last year, with a new name this year, there are no trends to go on. It's a Listed contest for three-year-olds over a mile and looks like an opportunity for those who aspired to challenge for Guineas honours.
The favourite however is a horse more progressive than regressive, the Johnny G-trained Pretzel. Although he's got up to eight pounds to find with the highest rated of these, those animals at the top of the ratings look a combination of exposed and 'not trained on' types. Top rated Anjaal, for instance, was a 10/1 shot in the Group 1 Dewhurst last autumn, where he finished fourth. This term he's been beaten a combined 22 lengths in a pair of Group 3's, and is a prayer mat job here.
Windfast, rated 108, is a less forlorn hope. He's had three runs this term, all respectable, and is stepping up to a mile for the first time. He's not a certainty to see it out on breeding, but has stayed on in his last two seven furlong efforts, including when fourth of 23 in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. That form gives him a squeak here, if getting home, and 11/2 looks about right.
Back to the Pretzel, whose three career starts have yielded two wins and a second place, to Muteela in a mile handicap here in May. That form has been well franked, with the winner going on to take the Listed Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot next time; and seventh placed Remember scooting home next time out as well.
Pretzel himself hacked up after that silver, winning a Class 2 handicap by almost five lengths up at Ayr. He should get a nice tow into this, and looks a solid favourite. I think he'll probably win.
Coulsty looks a big price at 20/1, if he can see out this eighth furlong. A winner here over seven earlier in the season, he ran respectably when seventh in the Jersey, albeit three and a half lengths behind Windfast. Still, with stamina on the dam side, and a fair chance to lead this field at his own meter, he could get a few of them out of their ground with a quarter or so to go.
The one that will stay without any doubt is Table Rock, winner of three of his last four, two at this trip and one over an additional two furlongs. It was a valuable handicap he bagged last time, comfortably, and on good to firm ground too. The only blemish in his winning sequence was a midfield effort in the Britannia Stakes, and that's eminently forgiveable. With doubts surrounding a number of his rivals, 11/2 is all right.
Zarwaan has been the subject of some support overnight, and the Dutch Art colt has been running well without winning. He was in front of Table Rock when fifth in the Britannia, and endured a brace of runners up spots prior to that on what may have been unsuitably soft ground. But, as a hold up horse in what might be a tactically run affair, he may not be optimally suited by the run of the race and, in any case, he's short enough to my eye.
It's a tricky old race, and not one I feel compelled to bet in. The value at the top of the market could be with Table Rock, and if he gets loose on the lead, Coulsty could hang tough at a price. Pretzel has an obvious chance to win.
Most likely winner: Pretzel 2/1 Betfred
Tentative selection: Table Rock 11/2 BetVictor, Coral
Each way at a price: Coulsty 18/1 BetVictor
5.30 Handicap (Class 3) 5f
A 15 runner five furlong sprint to close, and it might be better to save coins for Friday's fare. But where's the fun in that?!
It's one of those races where I could articulate the form for fourteen of them and leave the winner unmentioned, so I'll save us both the time and touch on a couple I think are interesting.
First up is the Chris Wall-trained Pearl Blue, ostensibly the stable second string. She's back to her last winning mark, and is an out and out five furlong speedster. The reservation is that she probably wants it softer but, if the rain should arrive, she might go close with the race looking set fair for a closing type (plenty of pace expected to be burned up front). 10/1 Ladbrokes will be shorter if the heavens spit forth.
Another with which it might be worth taking a punt is the golden wolf, Lupo d'Oro. Trained by John Best and ridden by Jamie Spencer, connections fit for a sprint handicap; and the lad has erstwhile talent to mix it with the jamstick protagonists. Now five pounds below his last winning mark, he was sent off favourite when missing the break and losing all chance last time. That was the first time Spencer had been booked to ride, and the fact he's on again suggests there's a money back mission in the offing. The trainer's recent form is a concern, though.
With the exception of Chris Wall's other runner, Oh So Sassy, who has top weight but is in form and could be the 'speed of the speed', I'm struggling to make a compelling case for anything else.
Each way: Pearl Blue 10/1 Ladbrokes