A magnificent day’s racing with the Newmarket July Cup being staged on a Saturday for the first time and a cracking card from York with the John Smith’s Cup one of my favourite betting races of the year.
Let’s start with York and Roger Varian has made a wonderful start to his training career and his Pekan Star (4/1 with , 3.15) has been laid out for the John Smith’s Cup since winning over today’s C&D back in May. This will be only his 4th career start and when you consider he made his racecourse debut in August 2009 it would be fair to say he has had his fair share of training problems.
That said he remains open to considerable improvement and connections believe he might still be ahead of the handicapper despite a 10lb rise for his previous success. His odds are skinny for a competitive 22-runner handicap for one so inexperienced, but he is considered a group horse in a handicap and should be followed until beaten.
Most things that could go wrong for Green Destiny did so for at Royal Ascot when a very well-backed favourite and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bounce back on the Knavesmire; he represents a big danger although stall 17 is a negative in what is a terrific renewal of this most prestigious handicap.
The Silver Cup is, if anything, even more competitive with last month’s Northumberland Plate winner Tominator bidding to defy a 7lb rise which looks fair. Theology was pulled out of a race last weekend to wait for York and must go close, but I was quite taken with the reappearance of Vulcanite (2.40) at Pontefract and the yard look as if they are hitting a rich vein of form.
The City Walls Stakes has been run at Chester for what seems like donkey’s years but has been transferred to York for the first time this afternoon and wonderful old campaigner Borderlescott (2.05) gets the nod. Now a 9-y-o he showed he was no back number when beaten less than 2l in the Temple Stakes at Haydock in May, and the old warrior will no doubt be back on the Knavesmire next month for another crack at the Gp 1 Nunthorpe Stakes a race he won back in 2009.
The Group 1 action of the weekend is at Newmarket and the July Cup, one of the big European sprints of the season, takes centre stage. The ground is key to the race with soft ground a big plus for locally trained three-year-old Dream Ahead (3.35) and the ground on Thursday was perfect for David Simcock’s stable star. Further showers are forecast on Friday and the grey who receives 6lbs from his elders can become the first 3-y-o since Sakhee’s Secret in 2007 to lift this famous race.
Underfoot conditions went against both Elzaam and Bated Breath at Royal Ascot and, unless the ground dries out significantly since Thursday, they may find conditions too tacky in this exalted company. Connections of both horses appeared bullish earlier in the week but that was before Thursday’s rain.
The 32Red Bunbury Cup looks an impossible puzzle to solve but, with a gun to the head, I would give the filly Shamandar (2.55) another chance, having missed the whole of 2010 through injury. Winner of a valuable sales race as a juvenile the William Haggas’ trained 4-y-o may not have got home over a mile last time, having shown enough on her reappearance to suggest she can be competitive dropping back a furlong.
Fort Bastion (2.20) remains a maiden in two starts but he ran a cracker in the Chesham Stakes at the Royal meeting and he is taken to make it third time lucky in the Superlative Stakes which opens the card. Trainer Richard Hannon has saddled the winner of the race three times in the last 10 years including with King Torus last year and he can improve on that excellent record in the opener.
The third top class meeting of the day is at Ascot with their feature the Summer Mile. Dick Turpin made an impressive reappearance at Sandown before fading tamely in the Lockinge on his penultimate start. Three quick runs may have taken their toll as he finished last behind Goldikova when last seen at Longchamp back in May.
The progressive Side Glance goes from strength to strength, but Cityscape (3.45) would be a confident selection if the forecast rain arrives at Ascot given his effort behind Canford Cliffs and Goldikova at the Royal meeting was a personal best. He gets a 3lb pull with Dick Turpin on Sandown form and gets the nod but a word of caution; he would not want the ground faster than good.
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