The July Stakes is the oldest event for two-year-olds in the British flat racing calendar. Established in 1786, it was originally open to both colts and fillies.
The race became restricted to colts and geldings in 1977, and was given Group 2 status in 2003. Run over six furlongs it is held on the opening day of the July Festival. The equivalent race for fillies is the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes.
The race has been dominated by Hannon’s senior and junior in recent years, with four wins from the last five renewals. Ivawood was the impressive victor last year when running away from Jungle Cat and one of this summer’s sensations Muhaarar.
The Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot was once a key pointer to the outcome of the July Stakes, but over the past decade or so has failed to produce a winner. On trends at least, that has to be a slight concern for Hannon’s Eltezam, who ran third in the Coventry behind Buratino. Prior to that run he had defeated Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Elronaq who re-opposes today. Described as a “lovely big colt and a great mover” by his trainer, he looks sure to finish prominent in what appears a very competitive renewal.
Hannon’s second entrant is Orvar ridden by Richard Hughes. He looked a little unfortunate in the Windsor Castle at Ascot, when drawn away from the pace before finishing to great effect. Speaking to John O’Hara in this week’s Weekender, Hannon appears confident of a strong performance, saying: “He is a progressive horse who is going the right way and a good run is expected.” It would be no surprise if he was to be the better of the two from the champion trainer.
The Windsor Castle form looks particularly strong. Though run over a furlong less, Areen, Steady Pace and Orvar, were all prominent behind the winner Washington DC and certainly not stopping at the finish. Steady Pace had strong form going into that race having finished just a length behind Buratino at Sandown and having thrashed Beaverbrook at Ascot in May.
Of the unexposed colts in today’s renewal Experto Crede and the aforementioned Elronaq have the potential of improving past the rest. The former, trained by Ed Walker, was impressive on debut at Newmarket, though the quality of those he defeated is questionable. Ryan Moore has been booked to ride today. Elronaq also impressed last time at Newmarket, when running away with a maiden. Again the form is hard to evaluate, but he certainly looks to be on the upgrade.
With a top price of 14’s in a nine runner field, finding the winner is certainly no easy task. It looks a suitably tasty renewal for a valuable and prestigious Group 2. Hannon usually holds the strongest cards, but which of his pair will prove to be the ‘Ace’ in the pack?