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Stirred up Starman still much the best
Ed Walker was frustrated to miss Royal Ascot with Starman on account of the soft going, but his patient approach was vindicated in no uncertain terms in a red-hot renewal of the July Cup on Saturday. Unlike at Ascot, Starman had his ideal conditions this time and the biggest concern was his coltish behaviour in the preliminaries as he sweated up and threatened to boil over.
Those antics clearly didn’t compromise his chance in the race itself though, and he was ultimately well on top at the finish after being outpaced briefly at around halfway, asserting in the final 100 yards to land the spoils by a length-and-a-quarter from Dragon Symbol. Beaten just once in six starts, Starman is now up to a Timeform rating of 127 and has proved himself the top performer in this division.
He will continue to take all the beating when getting his favoured conditions and is a fine advert for the skills of his trainer Ed Walker, who is enjoying a terrific season. Not only was this Walker’s first Group 1 winner, but he can also boast a run-to-form percentage of 68.25% in turf races in Britain in 2021, a figure which has been surpassed by only Hughie Morrison (70.59%) amongst trainers with 50 or more runners.
Motakhayyel puts up a monster performance
Richard Hannon’s season also took a turn for the better at the July Festival as he saddled four winners, including Lusail in the July Stakes on Thursday and Snow Lantern in the Falmouth Stakes on Friday. Perhaps even more impressive than that pair was the performance of Motakhayyel in the Bunbury Cup on Saturday, a fiercely competitive handicap which he was winning for the second year in-a-row.
Motakhayyel defied a BHA mark of 105 when successful 12 months ago and this victory from 4lbs higher in the weights represented another significant step up the ladder. After all, he was conceding at least 7lbs to each of his 17 rivals, so to win as easily as he did (by 3-and-a-half lengths with plenty in hand) required an effort from right out of the top drawer.
In fact, no horse has produced a better handicap performance since the turn of the century and Motakhayyel is now one of our highest-rated older horses in Europe with a Timeform rating of 127.
Admittedly, it remains to be seen whether he can reproduce this form back in small-field group races but, in the meantime, he would look the pick of the weights under just a 3lbs penalty if lining up in the International Stakes at Ascot later this month.
Baaeed looks a beast with easy success
Motakhayyel wasn’t the only horse at Newmarket to put up an eye-catching display in the colours of the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum. Rewind the clock to Thursday and, shortly after Al Aasy was turned over at odds of 1/2 in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, Baaeed gave his connections a much-needed morale boost with a hugely impressive success in the Sir Henry Cecil Stakes – showing all the hallmarks of a top-class miler in the making.
He made smooth headway on the bridle entering the final two furlongs and quickly forged clear on the uphill climb to the line, ultimately winning by 4 lengths from Maximal – who had finished a good fourth in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on his previous start.
Now unbeaten in three starts, all of them coming in the space of a month, Baaeed remains open to more improvement and looks sure to make his presence felt at the top level before the end of the season. He’ll add further intrigue to a miling division, which already promises to set pulses racing with a clash between Palace Pier and Poetic Flare in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
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