Rain to cause Sprint Cup Shuffle

Haydock hold the prestigious Sprint Cup on Saturday, and though a classy field is assembled, the weather is set to impact on the eventual line-up.

It’s a race that has been won by sprinting goliaths since its inception in 1966. Green Desert took this in 1986, along with the July Cup. He then became one of the most influential sprint stallions of the modern era, with offspring including Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream.

Danehill was another terrific sprinter to capture the Haydock showpiece, before becoming an exceptional stallion. The list of high-class thoroughbreds sired by Danehill is endless, but includes; Danehill Dancer, Dylan Thomas, Duke of Marmalade, George Washington and Rock of Gibraltar.

A year after Danehill’s success, Haydock was treated to the devastating talent of Dayjur. The year was 1990, and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s diminutive colt was simply irresistible. He won every sprint worth winning, including the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp. Dayjur is viewed by many as the greatest sprinter of them all.

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Dream Ahead was arguably one of the most outstanding recent winners of the Sprint Cup. Trained by David Simcock, the son of Diktat had a liking for testing conditions, and when he got his ground he was incredibly tough to beat. He defeated Bated Breath to win the July Cup at Newmarket, and defeated the same adversary in a thriller at Haydock. He then put in arguably his best performance to take the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, defeating the mighty Goldikova in the process.

This year’s Sprint Cup market is headed by the July Cup victor Harry Angel. Clive Cox appears adamant that rain will not dent the chances of his classy three-year-old. Speaking at a media gathering earlier this week, the trainer said: “He won on good to soft ground when he won the Mill Reef at Newbury last year. I wouldn't say there is doubt in him running as he has performed on a softer surface, I just obviously realised how potent he was on a drier surface.”

Cox added: “I think being by Dark Angel and with any sprinter, maturity means the potential is there for more improvement. He has grown up and even watching him this morning, he is enjoying the attention. I believe there is still more to come from the horse. It won't be up to me if he races next year, but I am just really enjoying this year. I think potentially he could get stronger.”

Rain may not deter Cox and Team Godolphin, but there’s no doubting that July Cup runner-up Limato would dodge a rematch if the rains come. “In an ideal world, he’d run on Saturday and then go on to the Foret,” said his trainer Henry Candy. He went on: “It would need to be genuine top of the ground for him to run.”

The Tin Man disappointed at Newmarket, but had previously run an absolute cracker to win the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. James Fanshawe sounded hopeful rather than confident of a decent performance when saying: “At Newmarket he didn’t run so well, but he’s had a nice break since. He was second in this last year on very soft ground and we’re looking forward to taking him back.”

Money has come for Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Tasleet, who put in arguably a season’s best performance on soft ground at York, when winning the Group Two Duke Of York back in May. He appears to struggle on Newmarket’s undulations, and should be more suited to Haydock. A strong gallop would also aid his chances.

Brando was an impressive winner at Deauville last time, and Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old is second best in the betting behind Harry Angel. He has form on soft ground, though burst a blood vessel when disappointing at York behind Tasleet in May. Nevertheless, Ryan’s assistant and son Adam, sounded bullish earlier in the week when saying: “It sounds a bit daft but even though he's a five-year-old he's still improving. He hasn't had that many runs and he's quite a raw horse, and still on the upgrade. He's come out of the French race great and we couldn't be happier with him.”

He added: “It's a Group One and it's far from a two-horse race. But if Brando puts up the same sort of performance as he did in France he should be there or thereabouts.”

Ballydoyle’s Caravaggio was all the rage earlier in the campaign, but has disappointed since his stunning success in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Though he holds an entry at Haydock, O’Brien has confirmed that he is more than likely heading to the Curragh the following day.

Limato to be crowned King Of Speed

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.

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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.

Sprint Sensations set to collide in the July Cup

I usually go somewhat off-piste with my Wednesday piece, but I wanted to play my part in fuelling the fervour for Saturday’s thrilling Darley July Cup at Newmarket.

I’m a sucker for a sprint, and this could be as good as any we’ve seen in a long time. As in last week’s Eclipse, we have the intrigue of a clash of generations, but the added spectacle of Royal Ascot champions in opposition.
Caravaggio captured the Commonwealth Cup in stunning fashion, and is said to be the fastest Aidan O’Brien has trained. Yet to taste defeat in five career starts, he’s currently a short-priced favourite to uphold that unbeaten record. A powerhouse of a horse, the uphill finish at Newmarket looks tailor-made.

The Tin Man captured the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, and is a leading contender for older brigade. A hold-up horse with a potent turn of foot, he too should be suited by the course.

Speaking of his sprinting star, trainer James Fanshawe said: “The Tin Man is very well in himself. He did a piece of work on Saturday and, although he has never been a flashy work horse, he seems to have been nice and bright since then. It’s by accident that he’s never run at Newmarket before, it’s just the way that things have turned out, but he handles the Limekilns gallop here in Newmarket and that has a dip in it. The Darley July Cup is a great race. It will be interesting to see the three-year-olds taking on the older horses for the first time.”

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Tom Queally rides The Tin Man, and said: “I am really looking forward to the Darley July Cup. There are so many different factors at play going into the race and so many fancied horses, I think it’s going to be some spectacle. It’s a fascinating renewal and will potentially go down as one of the top July Cups. Having the different generations meeting for the first time turns it into a real conundrum with everyone trying to work out how good the three-year-olds are.

“The Tin Man is a fun horse to ride, he likes to take aim at the opposition and has a devastating turn of foot. His attitude and overall demeanour are a testament to James and his staff. I was very impressed with him at Royal Ascot. He quickened well and then edged ever so slightly left which told me that he was doing it easier than he was letting on.”

He got the better of Limato that day, though Henry Candy’s stable-star is likely to improve a fair amount having missed work through injury. The five-year-old was an impressive winner of this race 12 months ago, and should the ground stay on the quick side, he’ll be as tough as any to beat.

Harry Bentley is back on board, and can hardly wait. Speaking last week, he said: “Obviously I am delighted to get back on him as I have ridden him six times before. He gave me a fantastic day at Newmarket last year and another great one at Chantilly in the Prix de la Foret. He is the best horse I have ridden. I knew Ryan Moore was going to ride Caravaggio if he runs, and in the back of your mind you are hoping you might get that phone call. I thought he ran a great race at Ascot and you could not fault him. He is one of the main contenders and I think he has a massive chance.”

Tasleet split The Tin Man and Limato at Ascot, finishing with a fair old rattle. He had an interrupted campaign as a three-year-old, but looks a classy sprinter at four. He has form at seven furlongs, and as such, should relish the stiff finish on Saturday. He goes on any ground, as he proved in May, when romping to victory in testing conditions in the Duke Of York. Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, connections will be hoping he can replicate the performance of Muhaarar, who took this race in 2015. He looks to be another major player.

Though beaten fair and square in the Commonwealth Cup, it would be unwise to dismiss the chances of Godolphin’s Harry Angel. He’s another hugely gifted three-year-old, and is likely to be heading the field into the dip. A fearsome pack will be in hot-pursuit, and the finish could prove an absolute thriller.

More than just a clash of the generations, this July Cup sees potential sprinting goliaths collide. I for one cannot wait for the sparks to fly. We’re set for a cracker.

Heaven Knows it’s time for a break

For those that need a short sabbatical from National Hunt Festivals, the annual Dubai World Cup meeting from Meydan is just the ticket. Taking place tomorrow, the event is one of the World’s most valuable, with US$30m up for grabs.

It’s no surprise that some of the best Flat performers from around the globe have arrived, with connections hoping to land a vast fortune in prize money. The star of the show is the latest American sensation Arrogate. The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, and recently successful in the World’s richest race; the Pegasus World Cup, he’ll be looking to add the Dubai World Cup and take his winning streak to a magnificent seven.

Trained by Bob Baffert, the four-year-old is a short-priced favourite to land the $10m showpiece for Prince Khalid Abdullah. “It’s pretty amazing the Prince has had a superhorse like Frankel and now he’s got a superhorse like this horse,” said the American handler. “Turf versus dirt, it’s so different. Frankel was an incredible horse, I remember every time he ran I made sure I got up real early to watch his races in England and he was spectacular.

“I think this horse is like the dirt version, in the States, of Frankel, so it’s pretty amazing he would own two of the best horses that we’ve seen. I trained American Pharoah, and I thought when he retired it was going to be really tough to fill those shoes, and then here comes Arrogate. He got into those shoes and just kept on.”

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There’s plenty of British and Irish interest during the meeting, especially in the Dubai Sheema Classic, where Roger Varian, Aidan O’Brien, John Gosden and Saeed bin Suroor all clash. Postponed was an impressive winner of this race 12 months ago, and is the favourite to repeat that success. He warmed up with a narrow defeat to bin Suroor’s Prize Money, over course and distance. The Godolphin horse had a fitness advantage, and the places are expected to be reversed this time.

Highland Reel and Seventh Heaven represent Ballydoyle, with the former looking to add to his impressive International CV. A winner of the Hong Kong Vase in 2015, the five-year-old won the Breeders’ Cup Turf last November, before a narrow defeat back in Hong Kong in December. Ryan Moore will look to dictate from the front, and he’ll take some passing if getting the fractions right.

Seventh Heaven could prove the value bet in the race. Much will depend on how she’s progressed over the winter, but at times during her three-year-old campaign, she looked top-class. She has the physique to blossom as she gets older, and it would come as no surprise if she were to improve past these. Conditions should prove ideal, and she’s the one I’ll be backing.

Jack Hobbs will look to build on his encouraging run in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot back in October. Gosden will be praying for an uninterrupted spell with the five-year-old in the hope of him meeting his full potential. Undoubtedly classy when right, he’s a tough one to trust after such a troublesome 2016 campaign.

There’s also plenty of European interest in the nine-furlong Dubai Turf, with the Richard Fahey trained Ribchester taking on Alain de Royer Dupre’s Zarak. The latter was impressive at the track in February, when winning the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes. Twice a close second to Almanzor in France last term, he is a high-class colt, who could well make giant strides this season.

Ribchester did nothing but improve throughout his three-year-old campaign, becoming one of the leading milers. Just beaten by Minding in the QEII at Ascot, Fahey is adamant that his stable star will see-out this extended trip. He certainly looked as though a step-up in trip would suit, and this should prove an intriguing clash.

Finally, the Sprint over six furlongs sees Limato return to action, after his failed attempt at a mile in the Breeders’ Cup back in November. He was one of the stars of last Summer, and Henry Candy will be hoping that a return to sprinting will see him at his dazzling best.

Ertijaal looks to be one of his main dangers. The Meydan regular is owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, and was runner-up in this last year. The son of Oasis Dream hammered Jungle Cat last time, and will be a tough nut to crack. Aidan O’Brien’s Washington DC may prove each-way value at 14s. He had some tasty form last year, especially on quick ground, and there’s every chance of marked improvement from three to four.

This looks an exciting taster, as the Flat season draws ever near.

Limato can become King for Candy

She’s become America’s Queen of the Mile and he’s arguably the European King of the Sprints.

Tepin is trained in Canada by Mark Casse, and has proved dominant in the US since her success in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland. She also conquered England mid-summer, with victory in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. The mare has won 11 of her last 14 outings, though somewhat fluffed her lines last time, when failing to reel-in Photo Call in the Fair Lady Stakes; a race she had won comfortably a year earlier.

Limato is the apple of Henry Candy’s eye, and was at his most impressive over six furlongs in the Darley July Cup, when showing a stunning burst of acceleration to scoot clear of a strong looking field. He then ran a cracker behind Mecca’s Angel in the Nunthorpe over an inadequate trip. His only attempt at a mile came in the Lockinge Stakes back in May. It was his seasonal debut, and he ran respectably to finish fourth behind Belardo. Fast ground Is key to Henry Candy’s stable star. At Chantilly in October conditions were ideal, and he pulverised a decent field in the Prix de la Foret; a race Goldikova contested prior to her victories in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

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Thrilled with his final piece of work, Candy spoke of Limato yesterday, saying: “Apart from half-thinking about bringing Time Charter here, it's never crossed my mind to have a runner in the US, but Limato is probably the best horse I've ever trained and that's what you need out here. I'm very happy with the way he is. This is as big an occasion as it gets and we're all very excited. It's completely different to European racing, but he has got a huge amount of speed and is very intelligent.”

Limato and Tepin are vying for favouritism in this mouth-watering renewal, with Ballydoyle’s Alice Springs next best in the market. She’s done nothing but improve throughout the summer, and has captured a trio of Group 1s. She was runner-up in the Juvenile Fillies’ a year ago, suggesting she’ll cope well with the trip across the Atlantic. In her victories at Newmarket and in her third-place finish at Royal Ascot, she finished her race powerfully.There’s no doubting that Alice stays the mile trip strongly, and will be doing her best work late-on. My concern is to whether she has the tactical speed, at a track like Santa Anita, to be in striking distance when it matters.

Ironicus is another that is likely to arrive late on the scene. Runner-up to Miss Temple City in a Grade1 at Keeneland last time, the imposing grey was flying at the finish. He arguably needs a little further than the mile to be at his absolute best, but is a real danger if near enough in the home straight. The five-year-old chased home Flintshire back in June, over a 10-furlong trip. He was unlucky in running that day, and is undoubtedly a classy sort.

The Mile is a race captured by horses across the age spectrum. Tepin won as a four-year-old, but a pair aged six have been successful in the past five renewals. We’ve had three long-priced winners in the past decade, with four favourites prevailing in that period. Several horses have returned for a repeat success over the years. Miesque, Lure, Goldikova and Wise Dan all won back-to-back, with Goldikova taking three-in-a-row from 2008 to 2010.

This looks a stronger renewal than 12 months ago. Nevertheless, there’s no doubting that Tepin is a wonderful mare, with a career record that speaks for itself. I envisage her being ridden prominently, and striking for home early in the straight. She’ll have several horses charging late and fast, including Limato, Alice Springs and Ironicus. Will they be able to get to her?

Limato must prove that he can stay the trip. If he settles well enough, the Santa Anita track coupled with lightning quick ground, should give him every chance of success. I think he’ll win, but I can see this being an absolute thriller.

Limato Can Prove Mile’s Better

Preparation for the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita is gathering pace, with the meeting billed as the ‘World Championships’ little more than a week away.

In recent days Henry Candy has confirmed that his outstanding sprinter Limato, is set to take on the mighty American mare Tepin in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The four-year-old may well have headed for the sprint, but after weighing up the options, the Wantage handler decided the longer trip would suit. Speaking to At The Races earlier in the week Candy confirmed: “I had reservations about the sprint track. If he had one of his rather lazy moments in the stalls, it would have been game over.”

Limato’s strong performance over seven furlongs at Chantilly last time, gives hope that he will cope with the mile at Santa Anita. Goldikova completed the Prix de la Foret-Breeders’ Cup Mile double back in 2010, and should the ground remain quick at the Los Angeles track, Candy’s stable star will surely have a huge chance of repeating the feat.

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Tepin ran away with the race at Keeneland 12 months ago, and had looked formidable throughout this campaign until a shock defeat to Photo Call back at the Kentucky track a couple of weeks ago. The winner is certainly no mug, and led from the off, managing to slip the field before bravely holding on for a two-length victory. Tepin will look to bounce back on November 5, with connections unfazed by the blip.

Dutch Connection and Alice Springs will also look to land a major challenge for the spoils. The former will be Charlie Hills’ only runner at the meeting, with the quicker ground sure to suit. Like Limato, Dutch Connection is probably at his best over slightly shorter, but Hills appears hopeful, and was successful at Santa Anita in 2013 when winning the Juvenile Fillies Turf with Chriselliam.

Alice Springs will be part of a battalion sent across the Atlantic by Aidan O’Brien. Her improvement throughout the campaign has been startling, and her trainer knows she will cope with the trip, having finished runner-up in the Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland last year. She’ll be looking to emulate Miesque, Ridgewood Pearl, Six Perfections and Goldikova, in winning the event as a three-year-old filly. Her trainer is confident that the track and ground conditions will suit. If he’s right, she’s sure to go close.

Ballydoyle will have Highland Reel in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, won last year by Found. The gutsy colt was runner-up in the Arc, and tasted success in America last year, when winning the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington. He again showed his liking for a trip abroad, when taking the Hong Kong Vase last December, and with O’Brien stating that ‘all has gone well since Chantilly’, he looks to have a great chance of following up on Found’s victory.

As for the Arc heroine, O’Brien surprised many by announcing that she would likely head for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the dirt. Yet to run on the surface, she has proven wonderfully consistent at the highest level, and it would come as no surprise to see her go close again. She has California Chrome to contend with, but her current odds of 16/1 look incredibly generous to me.

The build-up is well underway, and Geegeez followers can rest assured that all angles will be covered as the glamorous meeting draws near.

The Filly To Profit From No Show Limato

Sadly, it’s no go Limato on Saturday, as Henry Candy decided to take no risks with regards to the ground.

Instead, his high class sprinter will head to America for the Breeders’ Cup, leaving Quiet Reflection at the head of the betting for the Qipco British Champions Sprint. Karl Burke’s outstanding filly will take all the beating on the evidence of what we’ve seen this summer. She won the Commonwealth Cup in June over course and distance, and proved too good for The Tin Man at Haydock last time.

She’s now won seven of her nine career starts, and her trainer appears full of confidence leading into the race, saying: “I don't think anybody has really given the filly the credit she deserves. There's always been sideway glances and references to the ground - winning because it's soft and not because she's a very good filly. Good ground on Saturday would be perfect.”

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So who can stop the filly completing the Commonwealth Cup-Champions Sprint double, as done by Muhaarar a year ago?

I’ve already mentioned The Tin Man’s defeat at Haydock in the Sprint Cup, and maybe hinted that I gave him little chance of reversing the placings with Quiet Reflection. I have to admit that should rain miss the Berkshire track, and the ground ride good or quicker, then James Fanshawe’s gelding could run a huge race. He has a devastating turn-of-foot, which would be all the more potent on a sounder surface. Should the ground be on the soft side of good, I cannot see him beating the filly.

Shalaa is very much the joker in the pack. His return to action was delayed due to a pelvic injury, but he proved at Ascot two weeks ago that he remains a force to be reckoned with. He was an outstanding juvenile, and his return to action was eagerly anticipated. He certainly looked in rude health, and the run would have blown away any cobwebs. The worry for me would be the short recovery time, having spent such a long period off the track. Nevertheless, Gosden was thrilled to get a prep run into the colt, who now boasts five wins from six career starts. He is without doubt a serious threat to the filly.

Henry Candy decided against risking Limato, but has a decent replacement in Twilight Son. The winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, he is at his best with a little juice in the ground. He was unable to live with the pace on fast ground in the July Cup, but the dual Group 1 winner should not be overlooked. He goes well fresh, and was a fast finishing runner-up to Muhaarar in this race last October. I’m not sure he has the gears that Quiet Reflection possesses, but I’d still anticipate a strong performance. He also has the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle.

The other contender I like, and possibly the each-way value in the race, is the French challenger, Signs Of Blessing. Francois Rohaut’s five-year-old continues to improve, and ran out an impressive winner of the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. He was a little too keen at Royal Ascot when just failing to hold off Twilight Son, but looked stronger at the finish last time. He’s a consistent performer, and I fancy he’ll go close.

The one I can’t fancy is Mecca’s Angel, who is stepped-up in trip for her final start. She’s been a superstar, and her run at York in the Nunthorpe was arguably one of the most devastating performances for many a year. Nevertheless, this is a furlong further, on a stiffish track, and I just can’t see her getting home.

I have to say that the betting has it about right. I think Quiet Reflection will win, and I’ll be on Signs Of Blessing each-way for a place. Despite the Limato no show, the race looks sure to be a cracker.

Burke reflects on his ‘Queen of Speed’

Rain at Haydock swept away any chance of Limato making the start for the Sprint Cup. And in the absence of arguably the ‘King of speed’, another Queen put her best hoof forward, slicing her way through both the testing ground and the inferior opposition.

Quiet Reflection had already proved herself a high-class sprinter earlier in the campaign, with victory in the Commonwealth Cup and a third place finish in the July Cup at Newmarket. The latter came on rattling quick ground, when she found herself ‘out-kicked’ by the lightning quick Limato. When Henry Candy gave way to the worsening conditions and pulled out his star sprinter, Karl Burke’s filly took over at the head of the betting. And that market faith was fully justified, with the result never looking in doubt.

Travelling like a dream throughout, she coasted to the front just beyond the furlong pole. Dougie Costello shook the reins at her and the race was over. The Tin Man came from the pack to chase her home, and ran with great credit, though he never looked like catching the filly.

After the stunning success, Costello told Channel 4 Racing: “She's won as she liked, she's the real deal. I've never ridden anything like it and probably never will again. She's push-button go. She was fresh today and between the five and the three I was running away. I got there a little bit sooner than I'd liked.”

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Karl Burke has never doubted her talent, and added: “She'll go to Ascot next for the Champions Sprint and I'm praying she stays well and sound so she can stay in training next year. I knew she'd improved and strengthened. She's such a straightforward filly. The whole team have done a great job. I know we wanted a bit of rain, but I was a bit worried when it got this soft as I thought it might play into the hands of the older horses. She's just got speed to burn. She travels well and is so relaxed.”

David O’Meara’s Suedois ran another cracker back in third, and is surely a Group 1 winner in waiting. The five-year-old has now finished second, third and fourth in his last three at the highest level. Out of a Singspiel mare, he would have found this ground plenty testing enough.

Of the remainder, only Mr Lupton caught the eye, staying on well to finish fifth, having been given a rather circumspect ride from Jamie Spencer. Richard Fahey’s three-year-old has a major win in him.

Regardless of the also-rans, there can be no doubting that we have another sensational sprinting filly on our hands. And she comes along just at the right time, with Mecca’s Angel set for retirement after the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly. There’s an outside chance that the Michael Dods trained Nunthorpe winner could run at Ascot if she recovers quickly from her French excursions. Though a victory in France would surely be a fitting finale for the exceptionally talented mare.

As this Flat season enters its final chapter, I’m of the opinion that four sprinters stand out from the pack.
Over the minimum trip it’s Mecca’s Angel and Profitable that have set themselves apart from the rest. The mare was sensational at York, but the Clive Cox trained four-year-old had previously won the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, before being stepped-up to six furlongs for the July Cup. I’m not sure that outing would have helped him, when he was then asked to drop back again to five for the frighteningly quick Nunthorpe. I’d expect a huge run from the pair of them in France.

At six furlongs Limato and Quiet Reflection have proved a class apart. Both travel powerfully through a race, and have a devastating change of gear. Candy’s ace looks unbeatable at the trip on quick ground, whilst rain tips the balance in favour of the flashy filly.

This season’s sprints have proved a pure delight. The Abbaye at Chantilly and then the Champions Sprint at Ascot will bring the curtain down on an epic series of contests.

If ‘Sprint King’ Candy Can’t – Maybe Kachy Can Can

He came off second best at York, thanks to a stunning performance from the magnificent mare Mecca’s Angel. Yet there’s no denying that the sprint King of 2016 has to be Oxfordshire trainer Henry Candy.

Having one ace in the pack has to be thrilling for the ‘glass half empty’ trainer. But to be blessed with two top level sprinters must leave someone as circumspect as Candy brimming with confidence. If he is, he certainly keeps it well hidden when interviewed, and though he will no longer be double-handed for the Haydock Sprint Cup, he remains in pole position thanks to arguably the best six-furlong runner in Europe.

Limato is at his best on a fast surface, possessing a stunning change of gear when asked. Yet should the ground remain on the sound side, and Haydock avoid the worst of the showery forecast, then Candy’s ace will surely take all the beating on Saturday.

Candy has twice captured this event in the past six years, and is having another cracking campaign with his sprinters. He lifted the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot with Twilight Son, and then saw Limato trounce a high-class field in the Darley July Cup. The same horse came close to winning the Nunthorpe, only losing out to the aforementioned magnificent mare.

So can the ‘Candy Man’ grab the spoils once again, further enhancing his dominance over the division?
As ever, much will depend on the weather. Forecasts vary, with Haydock’s three-day meeting opening yesterday on good ground. Times appeared to bear out the going description. If the North-West avoid a deluge, then it looks certain that the July Cup winner will take his spot on the start line.

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As with all these showpiece sprints, the roll of honour is stacked with the great and even greater. If I had a pound for every time I’ve said Dayjur this year. Green Desert, Danehill and Invincible Spirit, always have their names on the list. In recent times, Dream Ahead and Gordon Lord Byron struck Gold. It’s fair to say that Limato would not be out of place among such an illustrious group.

However, he’s no ‘shoe-in’, especially if rain arrives and tips the balance toward the soft side of good. So just who can lower Candy’s colours?

The bookies would have us believe that a pair of three-year-old fillies are Limato’s toughest opponents. Quiet Reflection certainly has proven high-class form, often a prerequisite if a horse is to capture this particular sprint. Karl Burke’s Commonwealth Cup winner, came home third behind Candy’s star at Newmarket last time, when seemingly unable to cope with the acceleration at the winner’s disposal. Her Royal Ascot win came on softer ground, and there’s every chance she’ll be closer to Limato should conditions ease. As good as she is, and she’s very good, I just can’t see her beating Candy’s charge, and her odds of 5/1, though fair enough, make her impossible to back each-way.

Andrew Balding’s Dancing Star on the other hand, is totally unproven at this level. She’s followed a similar course through the handicaps as last year’s third Magical Memory, who also won the Stewards’ Cup en route to this. She was beaten by Mr Lupton in June, and that form looks light of what is required to win this. She was impressive when winning at Goodwood, but this is a huge step up the ladder, and her odds of 8/1 are pretty stingy. She’s undoubtedly a progressive and classy sort, but I’d be surprised if she wins. Actually I’d be stunned.

Paul Kealy ‘tips-up’ Suedois in this week’s Weekender. It looks a solid shout, for a horse that has proven himself at the highest level. He was second to Limato at Newmarket, and faded late on to fourth in the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. This trip and track should prove perfect, and he has to be in with a great chance. With 14s still available, he is a serious each-way proposition. David O’Meara took this race in 2014 with G Force.

The aforementioned Magical Memory is another that ought to be thereabouts at the business end. He’s a consistent performer, who possibly lacks that touch of class required to win. I’d expect him to be ‘toughing it out’ late on, and possibly making the frame. Odds of 10/1 are probably fair, though I fancy he’ll find a few of these just a little too quick for him.

As a huge ‘Wizard of Oz’ fan, my heart is understandably drawn to The Tin Man. He was very impressive last time at Newbury, having flopped in top company at Royal Ascot. This track will likely suit him more than Ascot, but he has to prove he has ‘the heart’ for a battle at the highest level. He’ll be delivered as late as possible, but he’s not for me. He could prove me wrong, and I wouldn’t be gutted if he did.

Of the horses at bigger odds I really fancy Kachy. He’d been busy prior to a slightly disappointing run in the King George Stakes at Goodwood, and was duly given August off. His trainer Tom Dascombe, has campaigned him over five furlongs for much of the season, though he pushed Quiet Reflection all the way in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot over six, despite hanging badly. He got the trip that day, on softish ground. Haydock should not be a problem. He’s a big framed colt, and I’m hopeful that he’ll strip fresher and stronger after his mini-break. His odds of 25/1 are simply too tempting.

It’s difficult to look past Limato should the ground stay sound. But I’ll have a little each-way on Kachy in the hope that he can shake-up the favourite.

Candy on Weather-Watch

Henry Candy will be on weather watch today, hoping and praying that the rain stays clear of Yorkshire until the evening.

Showers are forecast to hit the Knavesmire from midday, with some expected to be heavy. Any change in ground conditions will impair the chances of his outstanding sprinter Limato, as he seeks to win the Group 1 Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes. The Darley July Cup hero has to have quick ground to be seen at his best, as he showed at Newmarket, when scooting clear of a top-class field. He travelled powerfully that day, hitting the front just inside the two-furlong pole, suggesting the drop back to the minimum trip will not inconvenience him.

Candy remains less certain regarding the trip. Speaking to At The Races earlier in the week he said: “He seems to be in good form. Mr Jacobs (owner) has parted with a huge amount of money to supplement him, so we hope for the best. I'm in favour of giving it a try, but I'm not at all confident. I think a very fast, very flat five (furlongs) might just find him out, but it's worth a try. He'll run well.”

Another who’ll need the rain to stay away is the Robert Cowell trained Goldream. The seven-year-old tuned up for this with a more than satisfactory third place finish at Goodwood in the King George Stakes. That was his first run since March, and he’s sure to strip fitter this time around. With ground in his favour, he won last year’s King’s Stand Stakes and the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp. He’s a serious contender in this, if the ground remains quick.

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One that will be hoping for rain, and plenty of it, is Michael Dods; trainer of last year’s winner Mecca’s Angel. The talented mare could just about get-away with good to soft, but good or quicker would certainly compromise her chances. The trainer will have two talented fillies in the race, with three-year-old Easton Angel also in the mix. She has a preference for quicker ground, so one of the two looks sure to be inconvenienced.

Dods is quoted on the RacingUK website, saying: “She (Mecca's Angel) is in great form. Paul sat on her last week and he's delighted with her. It's going to be her last season, so as long as it's not too quick we'll probably let her take her chance.” On Easton Angel he said: “If we get good ground, we'll be happy. It's a good track and there are showers forecast. She went to Goodwood and was a bit unlucky. She's a good filly and at this stage she's probably better than Mecca's Angel was. We're delighted they're both running and we're looking forward to it.”

Easton Angel was just behind Goldream, Washington DC and Take Cover at Goodwood, in a blanket finish. All four re-oppose, and there’s little to choose between them. All four probably need the ground to stay on the quick side, with possibly Washington DC the one least likely to be inconvenienced by rain.

Arguably the season’s best sprinter in the field is the Clive Cox trained four-year-old Profitable. He took the King’s Stand Stakes on soft ground, having won the Temple Stakes at Haydock when there was also ‘give’ in the ground. He was stepped-up to six furlongs for the July Cup last time, and ran with great credit, though would not have beaten Limato at any stage of the race. In my opinion, the rain has to come if he is to reverse placings with Candy’s star.

The last juvenile winner of the Nunthorpe was Kingsgate Native back in 2007. The Mark Johnston trained Yalta is as short as 9/1 to take today’s race, having looked mightily impressive in the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood. That win came on fast ground, and it’s likely that rain will prove an issue. This is a huge ask for such an inexperienced racehorse, and he’s unlikely to get an uncontested lead with Take Cover in the field. Two-year-olds receive plenty of weight from their elders, but this appears a strong renewal, and I’d be surprised if he can handle such a race at this stage of his career.

Two at bigger odds that could run into a place are Pearl Secret and Goken. Both need plenty of luck in running, and will be doing their best work late on. The forecast rain would be in their favour. Goken finished with a flurry behind Profitable in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot.

The weather will play a key role in the outcome of the Nunthorpe, and as such I’ll be waiting as long as possible before parting with my hard earned pennies. It’s Limato from Goldream for me, should the rain stay away. But should the heavy showers arrive, and the ground change, I’ll be with Profitable and Washington DC.

York Talk

With York’s Ebor Festival now less than a week away, trainers are finalising plans, and a few surprises are on the cards.

The four-day event is one of the highlights of the summer, taking place on a racecourse widely viewed as one of the best in the country. A feature race on each day helps to attract top class thoroughbreds, as does the record prize money of more than £4 million.

The Group 1 Juddmonte International becomes the richest race ever run at York, with £900,000 going to the winner. The race has attracted one of the highest rated racehorses in Postponed, and he is likely to be a short-priced favourite for the prestigious event.

One that doesn’t make the start for the Juddmonte is the Roger Charlton trained Time Test. The trainer explained the decision on his website yesterday, saying: “Time Test will not be running in the Juddmonte International at York next week. We weren't totally happy with his work this morning. He is likely to be given a short break before any future plans are made.”

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Later in the day, Charlton spoke to Racing UK, saying: “He (Time Test) worked with Countermeasure, his normal lead horse, this morning and certainly every time that he's worked this year he moves up on the bridle and then quickens four or five lengths clear and has an impressive turn of foot as he's shown in his races. He moved up as though he was going to go winging past him and in the end didn't. The Juddmonte next week is naturally a proper Group One race with some very good horses in it and there's no point running in a race like that if your gut feeling tells you your horse isn't 100% so we decided to scratch.”

The trainer had better news of his outstanding juvenile filly Fair Eva, when adding: “She worked well this morning and heads for the Lowther at York. George Baker rode her and was very happy. She won well at Ascot in a good time, and the Lowther sits well in the calendar.”

Any disappointment at Time Test’s omission was quickly set aside with the news that Limato may well be supplemented for the Nunthorpe Stakes. It would be an incredible turnaround for Henry Candy’s four-year-old, who started this campaign as a miler, running a promising fourth in the Lockinge Stakes. He was then, somewhat surprisingly, dropped in trip to contest the Darley July Cup. The decision proved a masterstroke, when he romped to success in the six-furlong contest.

It remains something of a surprise that connections should now look to the Nunthorpe over the minimum trip; a race for the ultimate speedsters. He will need to work well this Friday before a decision is made, and will then need his favoured quick ground to make the line-up.

Candy explained when speaking to Racing UK: “Mr Jacobs (owner) is going to see him work on Friday morning and if he works OK and the weather forecast's right, then he will supplement him for £30,000 for the Nunthorpe. That's a fairly bold thing to do because the difference between a six-furlong race at Newmarket and five-furlong race at York is pretty amazing. If he didn't go to York, he would go to Goodwood for the Celebration Mile. Even though he's four years old, we're still learning a lot about him and we've got plenty of options.”

Limato’s inclusion would certainly be a huge boost for the race, and likely set up a clash with this season’s leading five-furlong exponent, the Clive Cox trained Profitable.

A sprint wouldn’t be the same without a Robert Cowell contingent, and he looks set to have several in the Nunthorpe line-up. He spoke of his contenders with At The Races, saying: “Goldream will be a runner if the ground is fast and I was absolutely delighted with how he ran at Goodwood. Having a race under his belt now, I think he's got a live chance wherever he shows up.”

The trainer also spoke of a juvenile sprinter that could take on his elders at the Knavesmire. Cowell’s Norfolk Stakes victor Prince Of Lir, disappointed in France recently, but is very much in the picture for York’s Nunthorpe: “He could well show up. I had a chat with the owner a couple of days ago about him and we're keen to go all the way through to declaration stage and see what the ground is like,” said Cowell. “He won't show up if it's good to firm ground, but he could show up if it's good or softer. I'd put a line through his Papin form. It wasn't him and he scoped a little bit dirty when we brought him back. You'll see a different horse next time up.”

One that is set to side-step the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in favour of York, is the classy filly Nemoralia. Runner-up in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, Jeremy Noseda has decided to wait for the Ebor Meeting, and a return to the track that saw her impressive seasonal debut back in May. The Newmarket handler feels that the Group 3 City of York Stakes, would be a more sensible option over the stronger looking Hungerford.

Sweet Success for Candy’s Limato

He got his ground, and proved unstoppable.

Henry Candy never doubted his ability, and on Saturday Limato scorched to victory in the Darley July Cup. Travelling powerfully just behind the leaders for much of the race, Harry Bentley sent his mount to the front inside the two-furlong pole, and in the blink of an eye the race was over. It was a devastating performance, which left a high-class field in his wake and scrapping for place money. David O’Meara’s Suedois came off best of the rest, with Quiet Reflection a close third.

Despite being proved absolutely right in dropping his horse back in trip, a delighted, yet as ever understated Candy remained circumspect when speaking of future plans for the outstanding gelding, saying: “He's exciting isn't he? That was amazing. The first thing Harry said when he got back was 'I can't wait to ride him again'. I would think he'd stick at this trip. It would be rather fun if he ran in the Sussex (Goodwood). I wouldn't rule it out totally - it's a thought. I thought he ran a cracking race in the Lockinge and I thought he settled very well. My horses weren't right at the time and I thought he got the mile that day.”

Yet just a day later, the prospect of a tilt at the Sussex Stakes looked to be off the agenda, with Candy saying: “Limato, as is his wont, was still very excitable when he returned to the yard and was very chuffed with himself. He was throwing his head around and slightly banged the top of his head and also had a scrape near his eye. In view of all that, I’d say he probably took more out of himself than I originally thought and I think the Sussex will come too soon now.”

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The Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville now looks a more realistic target, a route taken by several recent winners of the July Cup, including Muhaarar and Lethal Force. Should the ground in France come up softer than ideal, Candy has a ready-made replacement in Twilight Son.

Though Saturday’s ground proved ideal for Limato, it appeared not to suit Candy’s Diamond Jubilee hero, who trailed home in 14th place. Candy said after the race: “He was on the outside. Both were easy to spot, so I was able to watch them both. Martin Harley (Twilight Son's jockey) said he was never comfortable. It was a bad decision by me. I thought it would be just OK, but Martin said he was never comfortable.”

Yesterday the trainer added: “You could tell he'd had a race on ground firmer than he likes. He was a bit stiff and sore but he's cheerful enough.”

Of Saturday’s also-rans, David O’Meara was also leaning towards a trip to France with his French gelding Suedois, when saying: “He is a horse who appears to be getting better. He was probably over-priced really, because he was only beaten three-quarters of a length at Ascot and only beaten a length in the Duke Of York. He has confirmed he is right up there. The Prix Maurice de Gheest might be a race for him, but I am delighted with today’s run.”

Karl Burke was also delighted with his flying filly, the three-year-old Quiet Reflection. She looks less likely to be sent abroad, with Burke saying: “We are absolutely over the moon. This proves she is a very high class filly. Roll on the autumn and the Haydock Sprint Cup. We will be frightened of nobody on genuine good ground. She will strengthen again and will have at least two weeks without a saddle on now – just have a little rest and catch her breath before preparing her for an autumn campaign.”

The trainer added: “I don’t think we’ll go abroad with her this year. There is every chance if she is sound, she will stay in training next year. There has been a lot of people chasing her, but now her paddock value is there whenever we want it.”

Clive Cox was equally pleased with his King’s Stand hero Profitable, who came home a creditable fourth on Saturday, saying: “Full marks to Limato. That was impressive. To finish fourth, he has clearly finished his race off. I still think he is better over five in all honesty, but to say he didn’t get the trip would be nonsense. The Nunthorpe at York is the plan now. He is very adaptable and he has coped with softer ground that I thought possible.”

The Candy Man Can

As renewals go, Saturday’s Darley July Cup looks one of the strongest in living memory.

It’s some years since we’ve seen so many fast improving sorts take each other on, in such a prestigious event. The first five from Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes all re-oppose. Three of the first five from the Diamond Jubilee are here. And two of the first three from the Commonwealth Cup are also in attendance. Add to these, a Commonwealth Cup runner-up from 12 months ago; the third, fourth and fifth from this event in 2015; a sprinter who arrives with seven career victories from eight starts, and a colt that was odds on to take the 2000 Guineas just over two months back. That truly is a ‘Peach’ of a line-up. A Stonker of a renewal.

What also sets this race apart from so many others over the years, is the average age of the contestants. The event is dominated by three, four and five-year-olds, with just two of the 18 starters from the senior ranks. This is a field of top-class sprinters on the upgrade.

Muhaarar took the event 12 months ago, and he was undoubtedly an outstanding talent. But he was chased home by a seven-year-old, with an eight-year-old back in fourth. The 2014 renewal also had a young contingent, though only 13 went to post. A huge field of 18 may well turn out tomorrow. When Lethal Force took the race in 2013, he faced a quality field, though there were only 10 other rivals to contend with. This is a Darley July Cup with an unrivalled depth of quality.

The make-up of Saturday’s field also negates many of the trends. Four-year-olds have the best recent record, followed by three and then five-year-olds. So that narrows it down to 16 possible winners! Royal Ascot form has often proved key, with winners of the Diamond Jubilee following up twice in the last three years. Muhaarar also took last year’s race having won the Commonwealth at Ascot. However, so many of these performed exceptionally well at Royal Ascot, that few could be filed in the ‘little or no chance’ pile.

Fancied horses have a good record in the race, with four favourites obliging from the last 10 renewals. In that time only two won at odds bigger than 10s. Richard Fahey was responsible for one of those, when Mayson took the race in 2012 at odds of 20/1. The trainer looks for a repeat success tomorrow, and arrives double-handed, with arguably his best chance resting with the prolific Don’t Touch. The four-year-old has seven wins from eight career starts, and though this is by far his toughest test to date, he’s a fast improving gelding.

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Richard Fahey sounded pretty confident when speaking earlier in the week, saying: “I have been very pleased with Don’t Touch since his Salisbury win and we are going up another gear with him on Saturday. I think that the big field, fast ground and uphill finish will be tailor-made for him. Getting beat in the Greenlands Stakes threw a spanner in the works but his official rating is within seven pounds of the top rated horse in the race so he must have a chance.”

Fahey also spoke of Eastern Impact; third in the race last year, saying: “We have intentionally kept him fresh for this race as he likes Newmarket and seems to be seven pounds better there than anywhere else. He may not have run for a couple of months but he has not had any issues and he certainly won’t blow up. The Darley July Cup is a race that everybody wants to win and it would be great to win it again.”

Charlie Hills also sends two into battle, with Magical Memory towards the head of the market. He was given plenty to do in the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot, and could only finish fourth. Hills captured this event 12 months ago, and in his Weekender column said: “I actually think I’m slightly more confident than I was with Muhaarar. I think he’s (Magical Memory) got a big chance, as much as any horse in the field.”

Cotai Glory is his number two, and looks to have a fair bit to find on all known form. Having said that, he did run his best race last time at Royal Ascot, when only just failing to overhaul Profitable in the King’s Stand. He’s only tried the trip once before, and that has to be a slight concern.

The same can be said for his Royal Ascot nemesis, Profitable. Clive Cox has decided to have a crack with this year’s top five-furlong sprinter. His only previous run over this trip came last year at Royal Ascot when he finished fifth to Muhaarar in the Commonwealth Cup. He looked a non-stayer that day, having travelled powerfully through the race. He’s sure to be a stronger horse this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll see out the trip.

Cox said earlier in the week: “Winning the Darley July Cup three years ago with Lethal Force was a very memorable occasion and it fills me with excitement to be going back there on Saturday with a horse in tip-top order like Profitable. He is a really wonderful horse to deal with as he has the most amazing temperament. There are no two ways about it, the sixth furlong is an unknown and is something that we are a little uncertain about.”

Limato was ahead of Profitable at Ascot 12 months ago, and having finished fourth to Belardo in the Lockinge, quickly reverts back to sprinting. The ground looks set to be perfect for him, and he’ll undoubtedly be flying at the finish. His trainer Henry Candy has arguably the most powerful hand going into Saturday, as he also runs race favourite Twilight Son. The Diamond Jubilee hero is a dual Group 1 winner, and looks sure to go close. The trip looks ideal, and a fast run race coupled with the stiff Newmarket finish, should play to his strengths.

Fleeting Spirit was the last filly to win the July Cup. Karl Burke’s Quiet Reflection will hope to follow suit, and has looked a class act so far this season. She took the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, on ground that would have been plenty soft enough. Burke did send out a cautious note last week, that if the ground was too firm at Newmarket, he would not run the filly. If she does take her chance, she looks sure to run a huge race.

Two at bigger odds that look capable of going close are Suedois and Danzeno. Both were behind Magical Memory at York in May, though ahead of Twilight Son. The latter reversed form with Suedois at Ascot, whilst Danzeno chased home Don’t Touch at Salisbury last time. He was charging home that day, and Michael Appleby’s fella finished fifth in this last year. He could go close again.

The outsider of the field is the Peter Chapple-Hyam trained Arod. He may well run at Ascot in the Summer Mile, but if he does turn up here, don’t be surprised to see him run a cracker. This fella came close to beating Solow last July with Night Of Thunder and Belardo half a dozen lengths further back. Fast ground is ideal, and he’s by no means slow. He’s currently a 50/1 shot, but if a confirmed runner I’d be surprised if he doesn’t go off a fair bit shorter.

Finally, a mention for two colts representing mighty connections. Jungle Cat runs for Godolphin, and though his form looks shy of what is needed to win this, he has run well in defeat behind Profitable on his last two outings. He’s not without a chance, though that could be said of virtually every horse in the race.

Air Force Blue is without doubt the joker in the pack. Failed milers stepping back in trip have a decent record in the race. As a juvenile he defeated Washington DC by two lengths in a six-furlong contest at the Curragh. That horse finished a length and a half behind Quiet Reflection last time out. Nevertheless, his two runs as a three-year-old have been truly awful. He’s had a break since the Irish Guineas, and his trainer is adamant that better ground will suit. He’s on a huge recovery mission, but it would come as no surprise if he was to run a cracker.

After all is said and done, I’ll be siding with Twilight Son. Candy’s Diamond Jubilee winner ‘toughed it out’ at Royal Ascot, and could well do the same again. Arod is interesting, and if he turns up here, and the rain stays away, I’ll be having a few quid on him. If he heads to Ascot, the ultra-consistent Danzeno becomes my each-way punt.

Reflecting on the Darley July Cup entrants

Numerous exciting young sprinters are among the 36 horses entered for the Group 1 Darley July Cup.

Run over six furlongs on Newmarket’s July Course, the £500,000 event takes place on Saturday July 9, and is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series. It’s the first opportunity for three-year-old sprinters to take on their more experienced elders.

Last year’s renewal went to Commonwealth Cup winner Muhaarar, flying the flag for the three-year-olds and defeating seven-year-old Tropics in a fabulous finish.

Quiet Reflection took last week’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, with Aidan O’Brien’s Washington DC back in third, and they are two eye-catching entrants for the younger brigade. There is every chance that Ballydoyle will also send Air Force Blue into battle, as he looks to rebuild that lofty reputation.

Karl Burke spoke with great enthusiasm at the prospect of running his outstanding filly, saying: “We would like to run Quiet Reflection in the Darley July Cup as it is one of the world’s top Group 1 sprints. It’s hard to know how strong the Commonwealth Cup form will prove but it’s encouraging that last year’s winner turned out to be a superstar. The fact that only half a length separated the first five home in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes is a positive in terms of wanting to take them on.”

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The trainer added: “We do have to be mindful that Quiet Reflection has been on the go for a long time and she would need to be 110 per cent to run. But there is nothing else for her, over six furlongs at least, for eight weeks after the Darley July Cup, so that gives us scope to give her a bit of a break after Newmarket. Every time she’s run, there has been some give in the ground, so her ability to handle anything quicker is an unknown. If it came up fast at Newmarket that would come into consideration.”

It’s hard to imagine that the filly with such a beautiful action would have any problems coping with a faster surface. Indeed, quick ground could well play to her strengths as she possesses such a destructive change of gear.

Four of the first five home in the Diamond Jubilee are entered for the Newmarket showpiece. Henry Candy’s Twilight Son looks to build on the Royal Ascot win, though Candy will also be on weather watch, and should the ground turn fast, he may well rely on Limato, who is set to drop back in trip following his fourth place finish in the Lockinge Stakes back in May.

Charlie Hills remains positive in his piece for the Weekender, with regards to his classy grey sprinter Magical Memory. Missing the break and tracking the wrong horse were cited as reasons for a fourth place finish at Ascot. Hills also said: “Frankie came in and blamed the ground. He’s run a great race in defeat, and I think he’s got a huge chance in the July Cup.”

Hills could head for Newmarket with two bullets to fire. Cotai Glory ran a cracker in defeat behind Profitable in the King’s Stand last week. He finished powerfully that day, and the trainer again sounded bullish when saying: “I’d love to see what he can do on fast ground. He has such a daisy-cutting action that he’ll relish it quick.” His Hong Kong owners made the trip over for the royal meeting. They would certainly add an international flavour to proceedings.

Mongolian Saturday and Bobby’s Kitten may well give the race that international injection. One is trained in America by Mongolian national, Enebish Ganbat. I’ll let you guess which. Whilst the other has moved from America to be trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld.

The pair finished first and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint back in October, with Mongolian Saturday coming out on top. He wasn’t at his best in the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot, but better ground at Newmarket and the fact he’ll strip much fitter should see him in a better light.

Any horse trained by Dermot Weld has to be accorded the utmost respect. Bobby’s Kitten won his first outing for the Irish handler at Cork in March. He’s no mug, having won the BC Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in 2014. He’s by the outstanding American Stallion Kitten’s Joy. He’d be an intriguing addition to the Darley July Cup field.

It’s always a terrific race, won by sprinting giants, and I can’t wait to see it. Let’s hope the weather is kind, and all the leading contenders take their place at the start.

A Winner For The Queen – As Dartmouth Digs Deep

Royal Ascot ended with a hugely popular success for the Queen, as the Sir Michael Stoute trained Dartmouth took the Hardwicke Stakes in a nail-biting finish.

Cruising into contention on the heels of the leaders, Olivier Peslier made his move inside the two-furlong pole, challenging alongside the Aidan O’Brien trained Highland Reel. The two slugged it out throughout the final furlong with Peslier a head to the good at the post. Seamie Heffernan had dropped his whip at the two pole, forcing him into a hands and heels drive to the line on the runner-up. Such misfortune probably had a bearing on the finish.

Nevertheless, the result proved popular with the crowd, and of course with Her Royal Highness watching from the Royal Box. Connections had to endure a stewards’ inquiry after Dartmouth leaned into his opponent during the final furlong. However, an amendment of the result would probably have seen officials heading to ‘The Tower’, and it came as no surprise when the result remained unchanged.

The victory brought up winner number 75 for Sir Michael Stoute at Royal Ascot, equalling the record of another Knight of the Realm, the late and great Sir Henry Cecil. It also brought up an incredible 10 Hardwicke victories, five of those in the last seven years.

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After the win, a rather jovial looking Sir Michael said: “It's a great mark to reach [75 winners] but I hope it doesn't stop there! He's a lovely, quality horse and everybody in the yard is very fond of him.”

The Queen's bloodstock advisor, John Warren, was also thrilled with the success, saying: “It's been a long wait with a few little ups and downs but he's a very smart horse. Michael is such a master at training horses just to their peak and it means a lot to the Queen. Michael had it firmly in mind that this would be the objective and he's such a genuine horse. The Queen got such a thrill watching him stick his neck out.”

Exosphere had been sent off a short-priced favourite, and travelled strongly for much of the race, but failed to pick-up when necessary and may have found the ground too tacky, finally trailing home in eighth place. He’s certainly worth another chance on better ground having looked so impressive on seasonal debut at Newmarket.

Royal Ascot’s final Group 1 went to Henry Candy, with his Twilight Son getting the better of a desperate finish to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Ryan Moore had the colt in a prominent position throughout, and the four-year-old responded well to his urgings inside the final furlong. The Hong Kong trained Gold-Fun ran a cracker, running on well to finish just a neck shy of the winner, with the French-trained Signs Of Blessing back in third.

Magical Memory had been sent off favourite, and was held up at the rear by Frankie Dettori. As the field kicked for home at the furlong pole, Dettori made his move, and the favourite looked to have every chance, but his run flattened out nearing the line, and he had to settle for fourth.

Candy was enjoying his first Royal Ascot winner since 1979, and said: “We've been close a few times and it's marvellous to get the job done finally. I was looking at Frankie steaming up on the stands side and thinking he [Twilight Son] was probably going to be third, but our horse really dug deep and the jockey on top dug deep. He [Ryan Moore] is a top man.”

Ryan Moore, who clinched the top jockey award added: “I always felt that when I was going to ask him he was going to win. He travelled very strongly and the pace wasn't strong enough for him. It would have been better if they'd gone quicker. He's a very good colt and is getting more confident.”

Twilight Son is likely to head for the Darley July Cup, though his trainer has warned that fast ground could scupper such plans. Speaking to At The Races on Sunday he said: “He's a horse with a huge amount of ability and Ryan was of the opinion he will improve again for that and I think that's absolutely right. He suffers from cracked heels very easily and my head lad did a fantastic job getting him there. He doesn't want firm ground and we'll go for the July Cup all being well.”

Though the weather did its best to dampen spirits during the Royal Meeting, few could have been left disappointed after such a terrific week of top class action.