Newmarket is known as the headquarters of British racing, but, while the Rowley Mile stages both the 2000 and 1000 Guineas and all the major two-year-old races in the autumn, their July Course, where the three-day Summer Festival starts tomorrow, is so much more fun.
“Less pressure” is how the trainers sum up this prestigious fixture which more often than not is blessed by good weather, and the relaxed atmosphere, with racing fans, most in traditional Panama Hats, sipping Pimms on the lawns as they listen to the popular Caribbean steel band, make it a must for first-time racegoers.
Highlight is undoubtedly the Group 1 £500,000 July Cup on Saturday, and, while taking on the older horses for the first time gives CARAVAGGIO his biggest test yet, Aidan O’Brien’s assertion that this unbeaten colt “is the fastest we have ever trained” makes him hard to oppose.
Granted, Royal Ascot runner-up Harry Angel only has to find a length improvement to reverse Commonwealth Cup placings with Caravaggio, but Ryan Moore was happy to allow ‘Harry’ first run on him, knowing that the Coolmore speedball had a phenomenal finishing kick to pick him up in what was the strongest renewal yet of that race.
Three-year-olds have only beaten their elders once in the last five runnings of this race, but Caravaggio and Harry Angel – “how unlucky are we to be foaled in the same year as Aidan’s equine aeroplane?” asked trainer Clive Cox – look exceptional sprinters, and I predict a one-two for the junior division.
Don’t get me wrong. The Tin Man and last year’s July Cup winner Limato were first and third in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot and deserve the utmost respect, as does runner-up Tasleet, though he would need rain to be a contender.
But the fact that O’Brien rates Caravaggio “different class” to Stravinsky, Mozart and Starspangledbanner, his three previous winners of this race, and is also considering taking him to Australia for his racecourse farewell in The Everest in Sydney later in the year, is far more than the usual Coolmore hype, so it’s a case of “bring out the size 10s” and the betting boots are firmly on the favourite.
We can get the meeting off to a flyer by backing St Leger possible ATTY PERSSE in the opening Group 3 Bahrain Trophy tomorrow.
The fact that trainer Roger Charlton was at one time considering running Atty Persse in a Derby trial suggested that a handicap at Royal Ascot was going to be a stepping-stone to bigger things, and, despite having to race wide from his outside draw, Atty Persse had the class to hold his position and then power away from a big field for a convincing success.
The one for the Exacta could be Crowned Eagle, who is Frankie Dettori’s comeback ride following an injury which caused him to miss not only the entire Royal meeting but also the Irish Derby. Crowned Eagle is better than his finishing position (15th) in the Derby at Epsom suggests.
I am not sure we have yet seen a potential star in Europe from the two-year-old colts division, but RAJASINGHE, the Coventry winner, is up there with the best so far, and he can enhance his reputation still further by following up in the Group 2 July Stakes.
Rajasinghe had Aqabah and Nebo behind at Royal Ascot and I can’t see why he won’t confirm the form. If he was based with a more fashionable trainer than rookie Richard Spencer his odds would be much shorter.
Godolphin look to have the answer to the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes with FRONTIERSMAN, who has improved from being a decent middle-distance handicapper and produced a career-best performance to split the brilliant Highland Reel and last year’s Eclipse winner Hawkbill in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last month.
Frontiersman missed the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot because of a bad scope, but he worked well last week-end, and with the ground riding fast he has his ideal underfoot conditions.
The same blue colours will be carried by Wuheida in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes on Friday, but she has had a few hiccups since winning the Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly on Arc Day last year and will probably need this comeback race to blow away the cobwebs .In any event, Wuheida would have her work cut out to cope with Aidan O’Brien’s ROLY POLY, who chased home stablemate Winter in the Irish 1000 Guineas and looks the perfect stand-in for her dual classic winning neighbour, who now goes up in trip for the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
Coolmore’s recent Curragh winner Clemmie is a big whisper to emulate Roly Poly’s achievement here 12 months ago and win the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes, but she had been well beaten in the Albany at Royal Ascot and may not have the speed to cope with Mark Johnston’s flyer NYALETI.
This one showed electric early pace against O’Brien’s best filly September in the Chesham Stakes (1400m) at the Royal meeting, and dropping down in distance should get Nyaleti back in the winning groove.
O’Brien is hoping that Pretty Polly runner-up Rain Goddess will be hard to beat in Saturday’s Irish Oaks, but John Gosden’s ENABLE looked something special when pulverising a strong field at Epsom and over 2400m looks the best in Europe, colt or filly.
Last weekend’s Group 1 Coral- Eclipse resulted in a thrilling scrap up the Sandown hill between Ulysses and Barney Roy, with the older horse prevailing by a whisker to give Sir Michael Stoute his sixth success in the race, 24 years after Opera House set the ball rolling.
Both the first two are late developers with arguably the best in front of them, and they could be set for a rematch in the Juddmonte International at York next month, with Stoute also keen on taking one-time Derby hope Ulysses back up in trip for the Breeders Cup Turf at Del Mar in the autumn.
However, Barney Roy, who was in front a stride after the line, is an exciting recruit for Godolphin, who are enjoying an excellent summer, with Kentucky Derby flop Thunder Snow taking advantage of what looked a “penalty kick” in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly last Sunday.
Things did not work out for Cliffs Of Moher at Sandown, but we should not write off the Coolmore-owned favourite, who was the chief sufferer in some scrimmaging as the pace slowed after the first 400m. The Derby runner-up lost all momentum and Ryan Moore sensibly did not punish him unduly up the straight, Cliffs Of Moher eventually finishing fourth. Losses are only on loan.