Our racing expert gives his verdict on the four Newmarket races being shown live on ITV, including the feature July Cup.
2:50 1m (July) bet365 Mile Handicap (Class 2) (3yo 0-100)
Charlie Hills’ AFAAK looks to have as good a chance as any and he’s a very backable 4/1 with Coral. An impeccably bred sort, he built on the immense promise he showed on his Newmarket debut back in May by winning his next two starts and despite the soft ground at Doncaster in his handicap debut. He couldn’t land the hat-trick in the Britannia at Royal Ascot last time, but seventh of the 29 runners was far from shabby and he surely has another handicap in him off his current mark.
City Of Joy finished just behind him at the royal meeting and the Godolphin runner is feared most ahead of Mountain Angel.
3:25 7f (July) bet365 Bunbury Cup Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+)
A fiercely competitive renewal but one horse that looks sure to go well is the John Gosden-trained TASHWEEQ, who is a best-priced 11/2 with Hills. A smart juvenile who missed all of last season, he showed he had retained all his ability when finishing third in the Royal Hunt Cup over a mile. Given his last two wins came over this trip he should have no trouble dropping back a furlong and that he stays a bit further is no bad thing as this will be fastly run. He’s going to be returning to Pattern races before too long and has the ability to win one, but Gosden wouldn’t have taken any persuasion to run him in this as he’s 4lb well in compared to future handicaps. Jim Cowley rides and he can decide where to race, depending on any perceived bias, from a middle draw in stall nine.
Wokingham second Steady Pace is also well in and he’s respected, while strong market support for Flaming Spear would be significant as he looked highly progressive when winning on the sand at Newcastle in January and has been off since.
4:00 7f (July) bet365 Superlative Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (2yo)
Plenty of unexposed youngsters clash in this Group 2 and while Aqabah has arguably the best form in offer courtesy of his Coventry fifth, the suspicion is that one or two will improve past him. The most obvious candidate is Gustav Klimt given that he represents Ballydoyle and can be expected to step up again from his Curragh maiden win, like the rest of the stable juveniles. He has multiple Group 1 entries and could easily be good enough to land this, but he’s surely in the pocket of bookmakers with no bigger than 6/4 on offer.
One horse who rates a bit of value against him is Tom Dascombe’s FINNISTON FARM, with 7/1 up for grabs at bet365. Described as “seriously good” by his trainer after winning a Haydock maiden on his racecourse debut in May, he too is entered up at the highest level and on breeding he should relish the step up to 7f.
4:35 6f (July) Darley July Cup Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series & Global Sprint Challenge) (Class 1) (3yo+)
It’s hard to look past Caravaggio after he extended his unbeaten run to six in the Ground 1 Commonwealth Cup last time, showing a blistering turn of foot to catch long-time leader Harry Angel, who reopposes. The pair were separated by less than a length at the line, but the winner was value for more and providing that hard race just 22 days ago hasn’t left a mark I’d expect him to confirm the form.
But it’s not quite that simple as this race is open to older horses and the Diamond Jubilee 1-2-3 are in opposition, with the third and last year’s winner LIMATO getting the vote at bet365’s 9/2. He’s a top-class performer when he gets his favoured fast ground and his Ascot run can be marked up as he had been off the track for three months and was a little squeezed for room close home. That will have put him spot in for this defence bid and should the favourite find this race coming too soon he must have a serious chance with Harry Bentley, who has been on board for two of his Group 1 wins, back in the plate.