Horse Racing Tips: Soft ground key to Via Sistina’s Falmouth chance

Timeform survey the racing scene ahead of another busy weekend.

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Via Sistina can land another Group 1 in Falmouth Stakes – weather permitting

Via Sistina has been one of the unexpected success stories of the season. She’s been with her current trainer George Boughey for less than a year and left her previous form well behind at the age of five when returning with a spectacular nine-length victory in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket in May.

That looked Group 1-level form, and she proved the point when following up without needing to improve in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, albeit causing interference to some of those behind in the process.

Via Sistina has done most of her racing over longer trips but tends to travel well in her races so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by dropping back to a mile for the first time for Friday’s Falmouth Stakes. Her win at Newmarket earlier this year came on soft ground, and she’ll reportedly only take her chance if conditions soften at Newmarket, but there is rain in the forecast in the coming days which will hopefully allow her to take part.

Assuming she does, she faces tough opposition from the likes of last year’s surprise winner Prosperous Voyage who finished well behind Via Sistina on her reappearance but has since won the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom and finished third in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Her trainer Ralph Beckett is also represented by lightly-raced three-year-old Remarquee who ran her best race when a length second to Tahiyra in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. John & Thady Gosden are also double-handed, and they too have a progressive three-year-old here with Coppice taking a step up in class after winning the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.

Their other runner Nashwa is a more proven Group 1 performer but yet to find the same form this term that won her the Prix de Diane and Nassau Stakes last season.

Northern raiders huge players in July Cup bid

The last July Cup winner to be trained in the north was Mayson who caused a 20/1 surprise for Richard Fahey when winning the 2012 edition run on unseasonably heavy ground. But it will be far less of a surprise if the prize goes north again this year, particularly with the participation of Commonwealth Cup runner-up Little Big Bear in the balance after bruising a foot recently.

But even if he does get the go-ahead from Aidan O’Brien, he’d have to turn the tables on his Ascot conqueror Shaquille who has been another of the unheralded success stories of the season for his trainer Julie Camacho. Only beaten once in seven career starts, Shaquille missed the break badly when rearing as the stalls opened in the Commonwealth Cup, meaning he couldn’t adopt his usual prominent pitch, but he still came through late for a ready success by a length and a quarter from the odds-on Little Big Bear who looked beaten fair and square.

Shaquille is far from the north’s only hope, however, with four-year-old filly Azure Blue also coming into this in terrific form for Michael Dods. She finished fourth in a handicap at this meeting last year but has made tremendous progress in the last twelve months. Returning with a listed win against other fillies on Newmarket’s other course in May, Azure Blue took her form to another level again last time when taking the scalp of high-class sprinter Highfield Princess in the Duke of York Stakes, winning with a bit in hand.

The runner-up has been placed twice since at Royal Ascot, while the third, Azure Blue’s stablemate Commanche Falls, won a listed race in Ireland earlier this month. Shaquille is feared especially if getting away on terms this time, but Azure Blue will be hard to beat in her current form.

Streets of Gold can bash stats in Saturday’s Bunbury Cup

Three-year-old Streets of Gold brings a slightly different profile into The Banbury Cup and bids to be the first from his age group to win this race in this century, though a trio of three-year-olds won it in the 1990s. He won all five of his starts at two for Eve Johnson Houghton, one of them on this course, and while he’s yet to get his head in front so far this term, he’s got better with each run and was only beaten just over a length into third behind Age of Kings in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot last time.

So far this season, Simon & Ed Crisford’s lightly-raced four-year-old Awaal has come away with place money from contesting two of the season’s top mile handicaps. He ran a cracker to be beaten just over a length into second behind Migration in the Lincoln at Doncaster and got back on track after a disappointing run in a listed race in France when third home in a huge field behind Jimi Hendrix in the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot.

Those races were run under contrasting underfoot conditions, so Awaal is versatile in terms of ground and the way he goes through his races suggests a drop back to a stiffish seven furlongs could prove ideal. There are, of course, plenty of dangers in this sort of contest, including veteran Bless Him who won this last year and wasn’t far behind Awaal when fifth at Ascot last time, but is a couple of pounds higher in the handicap than twelve months ago.

Montassib was sent off joint-favourite when fourth in last year’s race, but he too is on a higher mark this time around having won at Newmarket earlier in the season, while Biggles was runner-up in the Victoria Cup at Ascot in May and Juan Les Pins is another to have been placed in a big handicap this term, third in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot last time.



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