Caravaggio’s clash with sprint establishment anchors Newmarket July

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July 11th, 2017

Coming not long after Royal Ascot, Newmarket’s July Festival doesn’t match its breadth of star power, but the three-day stint will end on a spectacular note Saturday as unbeaten Caravaggio tackles older sprinters in the July Cup (G1).

Aidan O’Brien’s brilliant colt extended his perfect mark to 6-0 in the Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot, defeating a cast of fellow sophomores. Now comes the more informative test of generations, but Caravaggio is still trading as the heavy favorite verging on even-money.

Caravaggio is expected to meet defending July Cup champion Limato, who was a close third to The Tin Man and Tasleet in the Diamond Jubilee (G1) on the Royal meeting’s final day. Considering that Limato was coming off a three-month layoff that day, after suffering pulled muscles in his Al Quoz Sprint (G1) disappointment, the multiple highweight in this division is eligible to put up a stern title defense. Commonwealth Cup runner-up Harry Angel rounds out the top five contenders from 15 remaining as of Monday’s entry stage.

Although it’s tough to see the winner coming from outside that quintet, others eligible to make their presence felt include Caravaggio’s stablemate Washington DC, who steps up to a sixth furlong after finishing up the course behind Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand (G1); the Kevin Ryan-trained Brando, winner of the Abernant (G3) two back; Growl, who lost his Diamond Jubilee chance when unseating the rider upon rearing out of the gate; and Glass Office, making his second start back from a two-year vacation for David Simcock.


The July Festival opens Thursday with the Bahrain Trophy (G3), a 1 5/8-mile event that yields candidates for the St Leger (G1). Atty Persse, a Frankel colt who scored a convincing win in the King George V at Royal Ascot, is the early favorite.

Headlining the second race on the card, the July (G2) for juveniles, is Coventry (G2) winner Rajasinghe. Several of his beaten foes from Royal Ascot may re-oppose, but of arguably greater interest is Invincible Army, a five-length winner over the July course and distance last out. In his debut, Invincible Army just missed to Masar, who came back to finish third to Ballydoyle’s budding star September in Royal Ascot’s Chesham.

The 1 1/2-mile Princess of Wales’s (G2) features Godolphin’s Frontiersman, most recently runner-up to Highland Reel in the Coronation Cup (G1). The son of Dubawi and Ouija Board was intended for the Hardwicke (G2) at Royal Ascot, only to miss his chance after an unsatisfactory scope. Wings of Desire, an inconvenienced fifth in his Hardwicke comeback, figures to be sharper second time out for John Gosden. Sir Michael Stoute’s Poet’s Word was last seen going down by a neck to Deauville in the Huxley (G3) at Chester.

Final declarations for Thursday’s card will be announced Tuesday.


Friday’s highlight, the Falmouth (G1) for fillies and mares over a mile, is loaded with three-year-olds and short on elders. O’Brien’s Roly Poly is favored in light of her runner-up efforts to Winter in the Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) and Coronation (G1), but she also earned her signature win here last summer in the Duchess of Cambridge (G2). (Her losses at Newmarket have come on the Rowley Mile, not the July Course.) Stablemate Rain Goddess, second in the Pretty Polly (G1) on a quick turnaround from her second in the Sandringham, may opt for Saturday’s Irish Oaks (G1) instead. Both previously finished behind Sea of Grace, the second in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) (G1), but they’ve moved forward since their foray to Deauville.

Unbeaten Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) victress Wuheida, whose springtime injury cost her an opportunity in the fillies’ classics, is now ready to resume for Charlie Appleby. Fellow Godolphin runner Arabian Hope, from the Saeed bin Suroor yard, eyes a class test off her listed score at York. Unforgetable Filly, sixth to Winter in Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1), exits a German 1000 Guineas (G2) win but still has something to prove at “Headquarters.” The same comment applies to German shipper Delectation, well beaten in the French Guineas and a belatedly closing fourth (as the favorite) to Unforgetable Filly at Dusseldorf.

With seven of nine early entries being sophomores, the only two older distaffers are Greta G and Opal Tiara. They need to improve markedly from Royal Ascot, where they finished ninth and 13th, respectively, behind Qemah in the Duke of Cambridge (G2). Argentine Group 1 vixen Greta G at least needed the race off her lengthy absence and has more of a case to move forward.

Two-year-old fillies are in the spotlight on the undercard in the Duchess of Cambridge, and Nyaleti is all the rage following her excellent Chesham second to September. Running all the boys off their feet that day, the Mark Johnston filly should make use of her early foot on the cutback to six furlongs. O’Brien’s Clemmie, seventh in the Albany (G3), came right back to break her maiden in the Grangecon (G3), and Churchill’s baby sister may wheel back again. Richard Hannon’s Out of the Flames appeared to require an extra panel when third in the Queen Mary (G2). Chica La Habana dropped out tamely in the Queen Mary, but she too had previously shaped as if more of a six-furlong type.

We’ll know more once final declarations are in Wednesday.


Similarly, further evaluation of Saturday’s action must await final declarations. Supporting the July Cup on day three of the Festival is the Superlative (G2), a seven-furlong affair for juveniles. Fifteen are still in the mix as of this writing. Decision time for connections comes Thursday, or a couple of days’ sooner in the case of those (like Invincible Army) cross-entered to the July!

Caravaggio photo courtesy of Coolmore via Twitter