Newmarket’s Historic July Festival

The three-day July Festival at Newmarket begins this afternoon. The event always attracts high-class thoroughbreds, with Saturday’s Darley July Cup the dazzling showpiece.

The meeting has been in existence since 1765, and takes place on the July Course. With a longer downhill portion than the Rowley Mile, the track is a haven for speedsters, though does still have the testing uphill furlong to the finish.

The Group Two July Stakes is one of the opening day highlights. It is the oldest surviving British event for juveniles, and is run over six furlongs. Open to colts or geldings, the race has been won by some ‘nifty’ sorts over the years. Green Desert took the 1985 renewal, and a year later captured the July Cup. He went on to become a prodigious stallion, producing outstanding sprinters.

One such speedster was Invincible Spirit, and he became the sire of the 2015 July Stakes winner Shalaa. Trained by John Gosden, the dynamic youngster became the top-rated British juvenile, capturing the Richmond Stakes, the Prix Morny and the Middle Park Stakes, during a stunning campaign. Beset by injury as a three-year-old, he never reached his full potential on the racecourse.

Coventry Stakes winner Rajasinghe, is one of the potential stars of today’s meeting, and will be looking to make it three from three in the July Stakes.

Always a star-attraction on the Flat circuit is Frankie Dettori. And he will be relishing his return to action, having spent a month on the sidelines due to an arm injury. He has a pair of exciting mounts in the day’s most prestigious renewals. Speaking of his return, he said: “I am very excited to be coming back in time for the Moët and Chandon July Festival. It’s been a long time, I’ve been out for a whole month. Newmarket is my home town and the meeting is one of the highlights of my year.”

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Of the two horses, Dettori went on: “I could have had five or six rides on Thursday but I thought it was sensible to ease myself back into things with just a couple. My first ride is on Denaar. I was aboard when he won his first two races, then I think he let the Royal Ascot atmosphere get to him in the Coventry Stakes. The other one is Wings Of Desire (Princess Of Wales’s Stakes), who I finished fourth on in last year’s Epsom Derby. He’s so laid back that we have decided to try him in cheekpieces, as they might just help him concentrate.”

Denaar is trained by Richard Hannon, who along with his father accounts for five victories in the last seven renewals of the two-year-old showpiece. The horse is owned by Al Shaqab Racing, as was 2015 winner Shalaa.

Tomorrow’s highlight is the Group One Falmouth Stakes, a race that usually attracts some of the best fillies and mares at a mile. This year’s renewal has the added attraction of an entrant from leading German trainer Andreas Wohler. He has brought Delectation over for the prestigious event, and appears confident of a decent performance.

He said of the three-year-old: “Delectation is really well and I think that she is still on an upward curve. She will have to be if she is going to go close in the Falmouth Stakes, as it looks a really tough race. The faster the ground the better for her, as at Deauville [the French 1000 Guineas] she was beaten after a couple of furlongs because of the soft going. She is a lot better than her fourth placing in the German 1000 Guineas shows. She needs to be ridden from behind, and Dusseldorf is a tricky course to pull that off. I have had a winner at the July Course, but that was a long time ago, and this will be my first runner at the July Festival.”

Another filly likely to court plenty of admirers, is Ballydoyle’s exciting juvenile Clemmie. She is set to take part in the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes, and looked mightily impressive last time when winning a Group three at the Curragh. The stable took the race last year with Roly Poly, who looks likely to go off favourite for the Falmouth.

Saturday’s highlight is undoubtedly a thrilling renewal of the Darley July Cup. Unbeaten Caravaggio takes on several classy older sprinters, including last year’s stunning winner Limato. Harry Angel will ensure a rapid pace throughout the six-furlongs, and it’s set to be an absolute cracker.

Three thrilling days of high-class racing is guaranteed. And Newmarket certainly know how to put-on a show.

A Dubai Fillies’ Mile full of Promise

Promising Run - Full of Potential

Promising Run - Full of Potential

Established in 1973, the Fillies’ Mile has become one of the season’s most prestigious juvenile events.

Originally run at Ascot, the race now takes place at Newmarket over the Rowley Mile. Upgraded to Group 1 status in 1990, the event now forms part of the eagerly anticipated Future Champions Festival.

When looking at recent winners it comes as no surprise to see that Godolphin and Coolmore have dominated. Six of the last nine renewals have been shared between the two powerhouses, with Aidan O’Brien taking the race last year thanks to the Galileo filly Together Forever. She appeared to cope best with the testing conditions that day, and failed to build on her Group 1 success. Lucida was arguably the most talented filly in the race, but failed to pick up in the holding ground.

Godolphin’s run of success has been severely tainted by the fall from grace of trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni. Certify and Lyric of Light were winners for the disgraced handler, but the Godolphin operation powers on, and both Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby have continued to churn out top-class racehorses capable of winning major prizes.

The former is responsible for one of tomorrow’s most fancied runners. Promising Run was impressive last time when winning the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes. Staying on strongly on that occasion, this step up in trip looks sure to suit. She’s a lovely big filly, powerful looking with a long stride. A winner already on good to soft, her action suggests that any rain that has fallen in recent days should not inconvenience her.

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Aidan O’Brien may well arrive double-handed with both Coolmore and Minding set to line up. The latter defeated the Prix Marcel Boussac winner Ballydoyle last time out at the Curragh. She appeared to improve for the slight ease in ground conditions, and won somewhat cosily. Alice Springs was back in third that day, giving the form an even more impressive look.

Coolmore carries the family name and has been gradually warming to the task with experience. The most recent run was her best, though she took every yard of the seven furlongs to get going. A full sister to Gleneagles, she’s certainly bred to be top-class, but still looks a work in progress, and if her brother is anything to go by, the word soft in the ground description may not be ideal.

One that certainly won’t be inconvenienced should there be a little give in the Rowley Mile turf is John Gosden’s filly Nathra. The daughter of Ifraaj out of a Danehill mare was visually stunning last time at Newbury. The form doesn’t amount to much, and this is a huge step up in class, but with trainer sweeping all before him it’s no real surprise to see her near the head of the betting. She sits there more on promise than substance.

Of the remainder, Hawksmoor will be more suited by both trip and any give in the ground. Hugo Palmer’s filly needs to bounce back from a thumping last time at the hooves of Promising Run. Ground does look crucial to her chances, the softer the better for this daughter of Azamour.

Marenko is another capable of a decent run at a big price. It would be a huge turn-up if she was to win, but her last run at Doncaster when second to Turret Rocks in a Group 2 was a solid performance. Out of a Pivotal mare, expect her to improve for any give in the ground.

It looks a suitably high class renewal with such a valuable prize on offer. The juvenile events have thrived over the summer with names such as Shalaa, Emotionless, Lumiere and Ballydoyle instantly springing to mind.

The action at Newmarket over the next few days looks sure to add an appropriate gloss to a thoroughly enjoyable season, with the Fillies’ Mile a potential highlight.

Shalaa the Star as Gosden’s Dominance Continues

Exciting Speedster Shalaa

Exciting Speedster Shalaa

John Gosden’s dominant campaign continued on Saturday and the signs are that next season could prove just as fruitful.

Foundation opened the show when running out an impressive winner of the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes. The Highclere-owned juvenile is another classy son of Zoffany, a stallion that continues to have an outstanding season with his first crop of two-year-olds. A big strapping colt, he saw off Aidan O’Brien’s Deauville to maintain his unbeaten record. Sent for home by Dettori at the furlong marker, he stayed on well and looks a decent Derby prospect.

A horse with a huge stride, he does however look lean and gangly at present, and is sure to flourish once strengthening into his frame. Back in the winners’ enclosure Gosden said: “He's a grand horse and he's still learning. He handled it well as he's quite a big, gangly horse and he was still doing quite a bit of looking about when he hit the front with a furlong to go.”

Gosden hinted that he could head for the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster as a season finale; a renowned pointer for the following year’s Derby.

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It proved to be quite a day for Gosden and Dettori, when Shalaa confirmed himself as the summer’s leading juvenile. He took the Middle Park Stakes with the minimum of fuss. Leading from the off, the result never looked in doubt with only Buratino from Mark Johnston’s yard getting within sniffing distance.

The winner looks sure to become a high-class sprinter, and is likely to be aimed at the Commonwealth Cup next summer. His sire, Invincible Spirit, was also a classy sprinter, winning the Haydock Sprint Cup as a five-year-old. An outstanding stallion, his most successful offspring include Fleeting Spirit, Kingman and Moonlight Cloud.

The F-word appeared prominently in Gosden’s post-race assessment, when he said: “He's gone very, very fast and Ryan Moore (on board fifth-placed Rouleau) said he had never been so fast over four furlongs up the Rowley Mile. I said this would be the last race of the year for him and he's not put a foot wrong. He's very, very fast - the fastest two-year-old I've trained. He's incredibly fast and we are lucky to have him.”

The trainer then likened his colt to one of his previous sprinting sensations, when saying: “He has so much speed and has that sprinters build, so he reminds us all of Oasis Dream who probably broke the juvenile record here and was not only champion two-year-old but also champion sprinter at three. He's of that mould. He looks like a pure fast two-year-old and is not crying out for a mile.”

Mark Johnston may have just missed out in the Middle Park with the classy Buratino, but his stunning filly Lumiere proved unstoppable in a thrilling Cheveley Park Stakes. The imposing grey held off Hannon’s Illuminate and the Haggas trained Besharah to take the prestigious Group 1. After the win Johnston said: “We always thought there was no shortage of stamina but we also know she's very fast and has a tremendous cruising speed. I'm very, very hopeful she can stay a mile.”

The trainer fought hard to supress his excitement but clearly sees her as a major Classic hope. The bookies were taking no chances with Paddy Power and William Hill making her an 8-1 shot for next year’s 1,000 Guineas.