The Group 1 July Cup is one of the feature sprint contests of the flat season, with some of the top class 6 furlong horses heading to post on the July course at Newmarket. We look to have another strong field this year, so see my race verdict, as well as a few statistics and trends on the race below.
Odds correct at time of posting – 5.21pm 13th July
Trends and Statistics on the race:
- 11 of the last 12 winners have been aged 3 or 4 (Slade Power was the exception in 2014, who was 5)
- 3 of the last 12 winners were favourite, 8 of the last 12 winners were top 3 in the betting
- 5 of the last 12 winners won on their last start before running in the July cup, 10 of the last 12 winners had their last run within 36 days
- 8 of the last 12 winners have had at least one previous run at Newmarket, with 6 of the last 12 winners having won at Newmarket previously
- 7 of the last 12 winners have had at least one Group 1 win previously
- 11 of the last 12 winners were rated 112 or higher
(Julie Camacho/Rossa Ryan)
Another one of the real success stories of the season, as Julie Camacho’s 3YO went from a Class 2 Handicap winner, to a Group 1 Royal Ascot successor, landing the competitive Commonwealth Cup in impressive fashion. Oisin Murphy rode him to victory that day, landing a first Group 1 for the yard. Oisin has an unfortunate ban for the meeting, therefore Rossa Ryan has been booked to ride. I think he’s an excellent replacement, as Rossa has been in excellent form this season himself.
Shaquille was sent off almost double figure odds in the Commonwealth Cup, after winning the Listed Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury in May. That performance was a career best at the time, raising him from a rating of 102 all the way up to 111, before going on to put in by far the career best to land one of the leading 3yo races of the season at the Royal meeting. He didn’t break well at all, sitting last pretty much throughout the race, and running very keen, before staying on well in the final 2 furlongs, pulling even further away towards the line. He’s clearly on an upward trajectory, so could improve even further again to land a contest of this nature, and statistics do fall in the favour of the younger horses in the past. It would be a fabulous story should the Camacho team land another Group 1 with their stable star.
(Michael Dods/Paul Mulrennan)
Another horse that has found themselves on an upward trajectory this season, who was contesting in Handicaps last season before going on to put in a career best to land a Listed contest at Newmarket. She proved that performance at the back end of last season was no fluke, as she has looked even better this season, winning another Listed contest at Newmarket before going on to land a Group 2 contest at York, finishing half a length ahead of Highfield Princess.
Four year olds have a decent record in this race, as 50% of the last 12 winners have been horses aged 4 years old, including the last three renewals (Alcohol Free, Starman and Oxted). So that really falls into her favour, plus the added bonus of not having run at Royal Ascot just three weeks ago, so she will arrive here fresh, although she has to give her younger main market rival 3lbs in the weights, when she is rated 3lbs below him. However, the Michael Dods horses have been going well this season, and previous statistics suggest Azure Blue should be running well in this contest, providing she handles stepping up into Group 1 company.
(Ralph Beckett/William Buick)
In what surely would have been the mount of Frankie Dettori (who misses out due to a riding ban) is now the ride of Champion Jockey William Buick. One of the older horses in the contest (statistics suggest it doesn’t suit a 6YO), he is the joint highest rated horse in the contest with arguably the best form to offer at the 6 furlong trip.
He was the Champion Sprint Stakes winner on Champions Day last October, where he beat Run To Freedom by just over 2 lengths. That was an excellent performance, and most definitely a career best. His seasonal re-appearance was in the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Stakes where he finished a 5 length 7th of 16 runners. That wasn’t a bad performance, and looking back at his previous form, he does sometimes need the run after a break, so the thinking is he would strip fitter for this. Although he does come up against younger rivals, he is joint top rated for a reason, and the booking of Buick can only be regarded as a huge positive for connections.
Little Big Bear
(A P O’Brien/Ryan Moore)
The racing world was unsure on whether the Aidan O’Brien 3YO was going to line up in this contest, after suffering a bruise to his foot at home last weekend. Aidan stated earlier on in the week that it all comes down to how he works in the days leading up to the weekends feature contest, and judging by the fact he has been declared, I would imagine he will be heading to Newmarket on Saturday.
He was a blow out in the 2000 Guineas on his first start as a 3yo but did have his excuses during the race, which did leave plenty of question marks from racing fans in the end, however he has put them to bed since, winning a Group 2 contest at Haydock before going on to run decent enough in the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting last month, where he finished a length and a quarter 2nd behind Shaquille. He’s been busy lately, and that foot bruise that has been reported by his trainer is a slight concern, as he can be a bit of a monkey pre race, so he would need to be almost firing at 110% to reverse the form with his Commonwealth Cup rival.
I like Little Big Bear over this trip, but that little issue could have disrupted his training for this, although Aidan O’Brien is one of the best in the game in making sure his horses are right, so it is difficult to rule him out.
(Charles Hills/Rob Hornby)
Could we have another big-priced upset from the Charlie Hills trained horse? (Albeit not the 80/1 he was sent off in the Queen Elizabeth Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last month) That was by far a career best performance, and came as a complete shock given he was the outsider of the field, but it was a decent performance from him, and the horse doesn’t know their price when running. He beat Sacred by a neck, always holding on heading to the line. It’s hard to gauge that form given a few in behind didn’t run their true races, and whether he will back that up is another story, but given he’s a 7yo and put in a career best last time out, he is clearly loving his racing and can’t be ruled out, but would need to step up even further again to beat some classy younger rivals.
In what is a classy contest this year, it’s a difficult one to pick the winner of, with a mixture of young pretenders along with some of the old guard who are currently in decent form. I think the fact Azure Blue missed Royal Ascot shows Michael Dods has targeted this contest for the majority of the season, and with her thriving at present and arriving here fresh, it wouldn’t surprise me to see her feature. However, I just can’t see past SHAQUILLE, who has been the story of the season for me, for ‘smaller’ connections. Looking back at his Commonwealth Cup performance, that really was no fluke, as everything that could have gone wrong in the race, went wrong and he still won going away heading to the line. I just can’t see how Little Big Bear can reverse the form, given his issues with the little injury. Rossa Ryan is a perfect substitute for Oisin Murphy, having shown he is more than capable when stepping in to take spare rides, having won on a big priced horse at Royal Ascot for his previous employers Amo Racing. I’m excited to see how Shaquille gets on in this contest, but he arrives in top form so I’m hoping he can go well.
SELECTION – SHAQUILLE (9/4 generally)
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