Euro Charline, Mongolian Saturday in action at Newmarket July Festival
Photo of Mongolian Saturday courtesy of Newmarket Racecourse via Twitter
Following Royal Ascot on the British summer tour of top-quality racing is Newmarket’s July Festival, a three-day stand running Thursday through Saturday.
The weather has given good-ground lovers something to cheer, for it’s a lot better going here than it was at the Royal meeting. In fact, as of Tuesday, the course is listed as good to firm, good in places. Hence horses coming out of subpar runs at Royal Ascot are eligible to bounce back.
“At the moment the track is in seriously good shape and I could not be happier with it before the first day,” Clerk of the Course Michael Prosser reported.
Here’s an overview of each day’s highlights (all times EDT):
9:10 a.m. (EDT) - The Bahrain Trophy (G3), a 1 5/8-mile test for 3-year-olds, can identify potential candidates for the St Leger (G1). Contenders last seen at Royal Ascot include Prize Money, who steps back up in trip off a second to next-out Eclipse (G1) winner Hawkbill in the 10-furlong Tercentenary (G3); Housesofparliament, fourth in the King Edward VII (G2) for Aidan O’Brien; Harbour Law, who shortens up after his second to O’Brien’s Sword Fighter in the 2-mile Queen’s Vase; and Platitude, runner-up in a handicap (the King George V) under top weight of 133 pounds. Well-bred Shabeeb is an exciting new shooter. A recent maiden romper for Roger Varian, Shabeeb could be any kind.
9:40 a.m. – The July S. (G2) showcases juvenile males over 6 furlongs. Mehmas, runner-up in Royal Ascot’s Coventry (G2), aims to confirm the form with eighth-placer Yalta, who may be happier on this surface. Windsor Castle hero Ardad and Norfolk third Silver Line go up from five to six panels. O’Brien’s smart maiden winner Intelligence Cross, Broken Stones (scratched from the Coventry), and 2-for-2 Love Dreams are among the stakes debutants.
10:15 a.m. – The Princess of Wales’s (G2) has attracted several older horses looking to regain the winning thread, including The Grey Gatsby (who tries 1 1/2 miles for the first time in two years); Exosphere, magnificent in the Jockey Club (G2) before flopping in Royal Ascot’s Hardwicke (G2); and defending champion Big Orange along with last year’s runner-up, Second Step. Interestingly, promising sophomore Muntazah, fourth in the Dante (G2), opts to take on his elders in this spot.
10:45 a.m. – 6-furlong heritage handicap for 3-year-olds rated up to 105
11:20 a.m. – 6-furlong juvenile fillies’ maiden (first division). Wesley Ward's lone July Festival entrant, Oh So Terrible, is set to make her debut with blinkers and Frankie Dettori.
11:55 a.m. – 6-furlong juvenile fillies’ maiden (second division)
12:30 p.m. – Sir Henry Cecil S. for sophomores held over a mile. Lumiere, who set the July Festival alight last year with a sensational debut win, returns to the scene in hopes of recovering her reputation. Capping 2015 with a plucky front-running success in the Cheveley Park (G1), Lumiere was widely expected to be a force in Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas (G1), only to bomb in last. Trainer Mark Johnston originally talked of cutting back in trip, so it’s noteworthy that he gives her another shot at the mile. John Gosden’s Crazy Horse, sixth in the French 2000 Guineas (G1) in his only outing of the season, could be very interesting in here.
1:05 p.m. – 5-furlong handicap for 3-and-up with a maximum rating of 90
FRIDAY (fields to be finalized Wednesday)
9:05 a.m. (EDT) – 7-furlong juvenile maiden
9:40 a.m. – mile handicap for 3-and-up with a maximum rating of 90
10:10 a.m. – 7-furlong handicap for sophomore fillies rated up to 100
10:45 a.m. – The Duchess of Cambridge (G2), formerly known as the Cherry Hinton, is the 2-year-old fillies’ companion to the July Stakes. Bletchley, who nearly upset the Albany (G3) over this 6-furlong trip at Royal Ascot, bids for compensation. Kilmah and Sea of Snow, respectively sixth and ninth in the Albany, hope for better on the change of venue. The O’Brien-trained Roly Poly may wheel back after nipping Seafront in the Grangecon Stud (G3) at the Curragh, and Godolphin’s smashing debut maiden winner Nasimi looks ready to tackle this higher grade.
11:15 a.m. – The Falmouth (G1) marks the latest target for Godolphin’s peaking Usherette, who continued her ascent in the Duke of Cambridge (G2) at Royal Ascot. She’ll face the one-two from the 2015 Falmouth, Amazing Maria and Euro Charline, and possibly Godolphin comrades Always Smile and Very Special. The 3-year-old challenge is headed by Nemoralia and Alice Springs, last seen taking the minors behind Qemah in the Coronation (G1). (Turret Rocks was also entered early, but is expected in Saturday's Belmont Oaks [G1] at last report from NYRA.)
11:45 a.m. – 10-furlong handicap for sophomores rated up to 105
12:20 p.m. – 7-furlong handicap for 3-and-up who didn’t make the cut for Saturday’s Bunbury Cup
SATURDAY (fields to be finalized Thursday)
9:15 a.m. (EDT) – 7-furlong maiden for 2-year-old fillies
9:50 a.m. – 7-furlong nursery (i.e., a juvenile handicap)
10:25 a.m. – handicap for 3-year-old milers rated up to 100
11:00 a.m. – The Superlative (G2) for juveniles over 7 furlongs could feature highly-regarded Chesham winner Churchill and third-placer Cunco (Frankel’s first winner). But O’Brien has other possibles at this stage besides Churchill, such as Railway (G2) runner-up Peace Envoy and debut winner War Decree. A clutch of debut winners figures among the early entries, including Godolphin’s Bin Battuta (a Dubawi half-brother to Dream Ahead) and Boynton (a More Than Ready half-brother to Constitution), and the Andrew Balding-trained South Seas.
11:35 a.m. – The July Cup (G1) is shaping up to be the most compelling sprint so far this European season. Last year’s champion juvenile Air Force Blue tries to resurrect his career by reverting to 6 furlongs, in the midst of a clash of formlines from Royal Ascot’s premier sprints: Diamond Jubilee (G1) hero Twilight Son versus King’s Stand (G1) winner Profitable and 3-year-filly Quiet Reflection, who beat the boys in the Commonwealth Cup (G1). Add in a host of beaten rivals from all three races – e.g., Magical Memory from the Diamond Jubilee; Cotai Glory, Jungle Cat, and Mongolian Saturday from the King’s Stand; and Washington DC from the Commonwealth Cup. And I haven’t even mentioned the horse I so wanted to see at Royal Ascot, the lovable Limato, who missed out due to the soggy going but will be in his element here. Don’t forget once-beaten class climber Don’t Touch either. Then there’s the curveball posed by Arod, who’s classy over further but could try his hand at the sprinting game.
12:10 p.m. – The Bunbury Cup, a 7-furlong heritage handicap for 3-and-up
12:45 p.m. – 12-furlong handicap for 3-and-up with a maximum rating of 90
As always, watch this space for news and analysis as the July Festival proceeds.