The July Festival sees the start of the Panama hat season, with Newmarket’s blooming July Course dotted with more linen than the Man from Del Monte’s bedroom floor after a night on the Cointreau.
But before Johnny Red Trousers and friends head down to Goodwood in their Austin Healeys, the Festival provides another chance to see some of the best fillies in training in Friday’s Falmouth Stakes, and some of the best sprinters in Saturday’s July Cup. In contrast to the fable of the tortoise and the hare, the speed needed to compete in a race like the July Cup is so sought after by breeders that victory can all but guarantee a horse’s place at stud.
Thursday, Bahrain Trophy, 1.50
The action all begins on Thursday, which is often a low-key day, however this year it sees a strong renewal of the Bahrain Trophy in which the progressive Atty Persse continues his impression of Wimbledon in the 1980s – the bigger leagues are calling.
The July Stakes sees Coventry winner Rajasinghe put his title on the line, whilst there may only be seven runners in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes but only 9 lb separates the lot on Timeform ratings. Frontiersman and Poet’s Word lead a cracking renewal.
Friday, Falmouth Stakes, 3.35
The chief supporting race this week is Friday’s Falmouth Stakes and, in the absence of Winter, Aidan O’Brien looks set to be represented by Roly Poly as he seeks back to back wins following that of Alice Springs 12 months ago.
We’ve all felt a little roly poly after a good winter, but there’s a good chance that O’Brien’s Coronation Stakes runner-up will be in better shape than me after a week of Quality Streets and three Christmas dinners. Her main threat is likely to be Wuheida, who has been off the track through injury since winning the Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly in October, but has been the subject of positive reports from Charlie Appleby in recent days.
Saturday, July Cup, 4.35
Caravaggio has more racing to do before his second career beckons, however, and left the impression when running down Harry Angel in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot that he has an even better effort in the locker if required. That could well be the case on Saturday, with the July Course expected to play more to the strengths of Harry Angel than Ascot did last time, and the rematch is eagerly anticipated.
Last year’s winner, Limato, cannot boast the same stallion potential as that pair, having been gelded as a two-year-old, though that should not detract from what an exciting sprinter he is when on a going day. He was most impressive when forging clear here 12 months ago and clearly cannot be discounted in his repeat bid, despite only finishing third in the Diamond Jubilee last time.
The Tin Man was the chief beneficiary that day and should give another good account, though he is not sure to uphold the form with Limato, or the runner-up Tasleet, who could still have more to offer as a sprinter.
Bunbury Cup & John Smith’s Cup at York, Saturday
Finally, the Bunbury Cup and the John Smith’s Cup at York, both on Saturday, are two of the most competitive handicaps of the entire year and provide opportunities for those looking to back one at a bigger price. Projection shaped better than the bare result at Royal Ascot, and features among the market-leaders for the Bunbury Cup, while Sixties Groove still looks on a good mark ahead of the feature on what is normally one of the busiest days of the season at York – as Peter Kay said: ‘Ave it!