It appears that summer is finally here and with it the start of one of the highlights of the flat season begins tomorrow. The July Festival at Newmarket promises three days of top flat racing, with Group races a plenty and competitive handicaps a given. The ground should be on the quick side, which will be a relief to many stables and owners. The July Cup on Saturday – with a sublime list of entries – is the main event, but there is plenty to look forward to beforehand starting on Thursday with four intriguing races shown on Channel 4 and it is those we will have a closer look at.
2 10 The Bahrain Trophy, Group 3
1M5F, 3YO Group 3, Good to Firm (As it Stands)
The opening race of the festival is a competitive looking Group 3 with all the major stables looking to get their July Festival off to the perfect start. Godolphin’s PRIZE MONEY heads the market at around 2/1 and this is justified with Saeed bin Suroor’s colt comfortably having the best form in the book. He was just over a length behind the Eclipse winner HAWKBILL at Ascot, and only ½ length behind the well-regarded ALGOMETER the run before. Godolphin has a pacemaker in the field and will not be happy with anything other than victory in the opener. However, it is a new trip and has not got his head over the line in first this year, a worrying habit that many horses can fall into. SHABEEB is perhaps the most unexposed and interesting runner, making him a hard one to judge with confidence from either angle. PLATITUDE and HOUSESOFPARLIAMENT represent Sir Michael Stoute and Aiden O’Brien respectively and both have chances, even if they can be inconsistent at higher levels. The horse I like with some value is the Laura Mongan trained HARBOUR LAW at 9/1. The trip is not an issue and he ran a striking second to SWORD FIGHTER at Ascot, who has won since and only further franked this run. He has won on Good to Firm and I am certain if the 3YO represented a bigger stable he would be a lot shorter in the market.
Selection – Harbour Law 9/1
2 40 Arqana July Stakes, Group 2
6F, 2YO Group 2, Good to Firm (As it Stands)
The July Stakes is the 2YO race of the festival and many Ascot runners are taking their chance at the top level again. ARDAD and MEHMAS are vying for favouritism, with MEHMAS the pick for me. The Coventry at Ascot has to be considered the stronger race and MEHMAS has been consistently improving every run and I am surprised he is not slightly shorter in the market. As proper as ARDAD was at Ascot, he was certainly in a weaker race and six furlongs has yet to be tried. SILVER LINE has a live chance for Godolphin, after running on well at Ascot whilst crying out for an extra furlong. Any 2YO Kevin Ryan sends out is always in worthy shape and the race at York BROKEN STONES won has proven to be a more than useful one. It is certainly an awkward race to go in at with all guns blazing and something could improve leaps and bounds on anything they have previously shown. However, I believe MEHMAS is the one to beat, and using his experience and proven ability, he should see off this field at a generous enough price of 5/2 with some bookmakers.
Selection – Mehmas 5/2
3 15 Princess of Wales’s Stakes, Group 2
1M4F, Group 2, Good to Firm (As it Stands)
This looks to be not the strongest of Group Two’s, but that does not make it any easier to predict. EXOSPHERE is the favourite, despite flopping at Royal Ascot, but if he can reproduce the run here at Newmarket early in the season, he will be hard to stop. THE GREY GATSBY is the best horse in the race in my eyes and gets 3lbs on EXOSPHERE. He has run in some of the top races around Britain and Ireland and has been beaten into second by GOLDEN HORN, FREE EAGLE and SOLOW, amongst others. The big question is the trip, but I believe the trainer knows what his horse is capable of, and an older and stronger horse than last year may even be suited by the extra two furlongs. Last years winner BIG ORANGE re-opposes and is a classy horse, although Jamie Spencer has chosen THE GREY GATSBY to ride instead. ELITE ARMY is a consistent type but never at this level and I am not sure how much improvement is left in him. It is certainly an interesting race, with more questions surrounding it than certainties. Many of the horses have lots to prove, whether answering if they can step up to the plate or proving they are too good for this grade.
Selection – The Grey Gatsby 7/2
3 45 Betfred Mobile Heritage Handicap
6F, C2 3YO, Good to Firm (As it Stands)
Finishing off the Channel4 coverage is the most competitive race of the afternoon. There are unexposed horses, sprinters, top 2YOs, big yards and small yards all aiming for the prize money. TANEEN will go into the race as favourite after bolting up at Leicester towards the end of May. He enjoys a quick surface and will be in the hunt at the business end of the race. DANCING STAR has come on hugely as a 3YO, moving from 75 rated to 96 in under two months, although the ground may be of some concern. SHOW STEALER is the pick for me, available at 8/1. The faster the ground, the better and when winning at Newmarket in May, SHOW STEALER beat MARSHA into second who has gone on to win well at a Listed level. The filly has proven form in big fields and should go close at a nice price. At bigger prices, VENTUROUS for the got Charlie Appleby could get in the mix with a return to his 2YO form and A MOMENTOFMADNESS has improved hugely over the last two outings, with more to come it would seem.
Selection – Show Stealer 8/1