big-race-preview-National-HuntThe opening card of the 2019 July Festival kicks off at 1.50pm on Thursday afternoon, with the £175,000 Group 3 Bahrain Trophy Stakes over 1m5f. The strongest piece of form coming into the contest is that of the Michael Bell trained Eagles By Day, who finished an excellent 3rd behind Japan at Royal Ascot last time out.

In running to an RPR of 111, backed up by a Topspeed rating of 95, Eagles By Day recorded a clear career best in the King Edward VII Stakes last time out. But he went off at 25/1 there and faces a much different test here.

The Aidan O'Brien trained BARBADOS is an improving colt, who ran well to be 2nd behind Dashing Willoughby - despite the soft ground - in the Group 2 Queen’s Vase last time out at Royal Ascot and this son of Galileo is taken to improve again at Newmarket, back on his preferred faster surface. A slight step back in distance will play to the strengths of Barbados in the heat of battle and he is taken to get the better of Eagles By Day.

Nayef Road and Spanish Mission boast sound each-way claims and are unlikely to be too far away at this finish, while Andrew Balding’s unexposed Ranch Hand is perhaps the most likely among those at double figure odds.

The Group 2 Tattersalls July Stakes at 2.25pm is a significant two-year-old contest over 6f which invariably produces plenty of classy horses. Indeed, the 2018 winner, Advertise, went on to land the 2019 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

This year, we have an intriguing match-up between once-raced Visinari and Archie Watson’s Guildsman, who has his third start here having won on debut and followed up with an excellent third place effort in the Coventry Stakes last time out.

The latter mentioned piece of form is the strongest on show and most certainly sets the standard for the race, but there was something special about the way VISINARI romped to victory here a month ago. Mark Johnston’s charge had the speed and sectional birdies singing from the trees after the run and the grey Dark Angel colt is taken to build on that by following up in this valuable contest.

At bigger prices, Platinum Star has a good mix of form and experience coming into this and will be a popular each-way pick, while at huge odds, Tim Easterby’s in-form Hurstwood may be worth a look in the “without favourite” markets.

We take a break from Group class action at 3.00pm, by way of the quality 6f, Class 2 Bet365 Handicap worth a cool £100,000 in prize-money. As expected, twenty runners head to post and it is a very open looking contest.

In terms of the level of form required to win, it is worth noting that in six of the past seven renewals, the winner produced a Racing Post Rating of 105-109. The only exception was 33/1 winner Deeds Not Words back in 2014. So it is a race which is beginning to lend itself toward quality and it will probably pay to side with horses capable of hitting that kind of level of ability.

There are just four horses in the field that have run up to RPRs of 100+ in one or more of their past four races, they are: Magical Wish, Dazzling Dan, Street Parade and Blown By Wind. Those four make for an interesting shortlist using this angle, in an otherwise very open and tricky affair.

The Princess of Wales’s Tattersalls Stakes at 3.35pm is an important race for 2018 Investec Derby winner Masar. Charlie Appleby’s charge stumbled after coming out of the stalls in the Hardwicke Stakes, and his effort petered out tamely late on behind Defoe. There was a legitimate excuse for that run, but it is worth noting that Czech raider and eventual runner-up Nagano Gold got a worse end of the bargain in being badly hampered by Masar during the same incident and it didn’t affect his effortl.

In short, there are some alarm bells around Masar now. He was being aimed at the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes but was side-tracked into the Hardwicke. After winning the Derby last year, he was immediately earmarked for the Coral Eclipse at Sandown before being sidelined through injury. This year, the Eclipse didn’t even enter calculations and he once again finds himself racing outside of Group 1 company.

So, is Masar still showing Group 1 levels of ability in his homework? It has to be considered a doubt now given how he is being campaigned. Of course, a good win here would quench that and would obviously provide a catalyst for Masar’s resurgence. However, he has to be rated as a vulnerable market leader here and there is enough depth to the field to take him on, so do not be afraid to have a go.



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