Horse Racing: July Cup Preview

Clive CoxThe July Cup is the highlight of Newmarket’s July Festival (4.35pm Saturday, Channel 4). This is likely to be a closely fought battle run at a furious rate over six furlongs.

Magical Memory (6/1) is understandably fancied. He is at his best on quick ground and may get it for the first time at the top level. This four-year-old has been a model of consistency this season. He won here on his debut in a Group 3 in April and followed up by taking a Group 2 at York, beating David O’Meara’s Suedois (20/1) half a length. His trainer Charlie Hills has campaigned him exclusively over this distance for nearly two years.

Most recently we saw Magical Memory beaten only half a length by Twilight Son in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot on unsuitably testing going. His only defeats in his past eight runs were on the three occasions he encountered good to soft. This grey son of Zebedee has proved a fantastic investment for Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds. He cost only 35,000 Euros as a yearling and has won over £400K for them already. Frankie Dettori has won four of his five starts on Magical Memory. After his victory at York Dettori said that he had the speed for five furlongs and was capable of winning a Group 1. A flying dismount could well be on the cards.

Another four-year-old beneficiary of fast ground will be Limato (6/1). He was unbeaten in his four runs over this distance as a juvenile and succeeded in Group 3 company as a three-year-old but was the runner-up twice at higher levels. We have only seen him once this term, getting beaten two lengths by Belardo in the Lockinge in May. It was his first attempt at a mile and he did not get the clearest of runs under Harry Bentley.

As a son of Tagula out of a Singspiel mare you cannot blame Henry Candy for trying Limato over more of a distance. His last victory was in a Group 2 over seven furlongs at Doncaster in September. He was slowly away and got stopped mid run but still won impressively by over three lengths. His jockey Andrea Atzeni said that he had the gears to get him out of trouble, comparing him to a Ferrari.

A month later Limato contested the Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp over the same distance under Ryan Moore. He started as the evens favourite but was slowly away again and was runner-up to Andre Fabre’s Make Believe, beaten just over a length. Limato is rated 119, 1lb above the field but that mark was gained over seven furlongs. His tendency to start slowly is another concern over this trip.

Whilst Limato is dropping back in trip, Profitable (8/1) is trying a furlong further than usual for only the second time. Trained by Clive Cox (pictured), this four-year-old son of Invincible Spirit is unbeaten in his three runs (over five furlongs) this time. Profitable has grown significantly in stature and strength since last season.  He won first time out here at the end of April in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes on good to soft. He was sent off at 20/1 under Adam Kirby but beat the more fancied Jungle Cat and Waady half a length and a neck respectively.

The Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock was next. He started at 8/1 and beat the favourite, Michael Dods’ Mecca’s Angel, a neck in similar conditions. Cox said afterwards that Profitable would power away from her on better ground. He did not get it at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 King’s Stand but Profitable lived up to his name, beating Cotai Glory a neck, Mecca’s Angel ran no race at all. Kirby said Profitable was the best five furlong horse he has ever sat on, with an exceptionally high cruising speed. Now rated 117 if he is a better horse on decent ground and copes with the extra furlong, Cox’s decision to supplement him for this race will seem like a very good one.

Another runner with an upwardly mobile profile is Karl Burke’s filly, Quiet Reflection (7/1). This three-year-old daughter of Showcasing has only been beaten once in her seven starts and that was when she was thrown in at the deep end in Group 2 company on her second outing as a juvenile. Since then she has fulfilled her trainer’s expectations without fail.

Quiet Reflection was at her most visually impressive when accelerating away from the field in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock in May, beating Richard Fahey’s Donjuan Triumphant nearly four lengths on good ground. We last saw her winning in less spectacular fashion in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Royal Ascot, beating Ralph Beckett’s Kachy by a length.

Burke has always said that she does not want fast ground and will be hoping that some rain will hit Newmarket. Quiet Reflection is rated 117 and benefits from a 6lb age allowance and 3lb gender allowance. On paper she has extremely strong claims but this is the first time she has taken on older horses and conditions may not be favour. If she were in the hands of a big name trainer she would probably not be available at her current price.

The other two three-year-olds in the line-up are saddled by one of the biggest names of the lot, Aidan O’Brien. Air Force Blue (8/1) was phenomenal as a juvenile and scored three times at the highest level, including in the Dewhurst, earning a rating of 124. His two efforts since have resulted in his mark dropping to 118.

This son of War Front made his debut this time in the 2,000 Guineas. He started as the odds-on favourite but was a dire disappointment on the good to soft surface, beaten 15 lengths. It was a similar story in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, he was beaten nearly 20 lengths on the yielding ground. Has Air Force Blue failed to train on or does he need decent ground to show his best now?  War Front’s progeny thrive on firm and two of them scored on Friday. It was presumably Ryan Moore’s decision to partner him rather than his stablemate Washington DC who is also owned by ‘the lads’ at Ballydoyle.

Washington DC (33/1) was beaten a length and a half by Quiet Reflection in the Coronation Cup into third. In his previous start he was fancied to win a Group 3 affair at Naas in late May but was beaten nearly three lengths.  That was not the first time he has disappointed. He was the evens favourite in the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot in April but finished last, beaten seven lengths by Gifted Master.

Two of Washington DC’s four wins have been on good to firm in listed races. Rated 111 he has a bit to find here but may run better than his price suggests. Wayne Lordan rides him for the first time.

An interesting horse at a big price is Charlie Hills’ Cotai Glory (25/1). He has scored at listed and Group 3 level over five furlongs and was last seen finishing just behind Profitable at Royal Ascot on ground he did not like. He may benefit from this increased distance and ought to enjoy conditions. He looks interesting each-way.

In contrast Henry Candy is sure that Twilight Son (6/1) is at his best with give in the ground and his win in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot backs up the theory. This four-year-old also scored in a Group 1 on good to soft at Haydock last September but was beaten over four lengths by Magical Memory on his debut in a Group 2 at York in May. The ground was good but that might not have been the problem. Candy’s yard was not in form at the time – he still has a strike rate of only 4% on turf this season but his horses are now running well.

Richard Fahey’s Don’t Touch (16/1) is also worth a look. This four-year-old has only been beaten once in his eight starts. Last season he won his maiden and was successfully campaigned in handicaps over this distance, finishing off with a valuable win in a 25 runner Heritage handicap at Ayr.

This time Don’t Touch won on his debut and most recently in a listed race at Salisbury in mid June. The blip in his record occurred in a Group 2 at the Curragh on sticky ground in May, he was fancied to win but was beaten over a length by Mobsta into fifth. This gelding holds a number of entries, all at Group level. Fahey does not tilt at windmills and said last season that Don’t Touch was a big rangy type who will improve with age, rated 114 he has a bit to find but it is not inconceivable.

Quiet Reflection has obvious claims but her trainer’s concerns about conditions may well be justified. Charlie Hills has no such worries with Magical Memory but is he good enough to win giving weight to the three-year-olds? Our preference is for the three-year-old AIR FORCE BLUE to bounce back to form and put another winner on the board for his sire, War Front, and the Ballydoyle team.

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