July Festival Postscripts, Vol I: Muhaarar, Maria & Euro Charline

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July 11th, 2015

Muhaarar, who demolished a deep and talented cast of three-year-old sprinters in Royal Ascot's Commonwealth Cup (G1), doubled up against his elders in Saturday's July Cup (G1) -- despite not really handling Newmarket's dip.

True, he only just got up on the line to inflict heartbreak on 25-1 front runner Tropics, but pointing to the bare margin misses the point. If Sheikh Hamdan's homebred can succeed in the highlight of the July Festival, on a track he doesn't particularly care for, and arguably with tactics that might not have best suited, he's truly an outstanding speedster. What can he do in his optimal conditions?

We caught a glimpse of an answer at Royal Ascot, where Muhaarar was held up further off the pace before blowing them apart. In the July Cup, however, he chased the pace and had to be driven after Tropics. For at least 5 1/2 furlongs, he didn't travel like a winner. But in the final strides, he hit top gear on the rising ground and forced his nose in front.

As Racing Post Bloodstock tweeted, Muhaarar became the third successive generation to win the July Cup, emulating sire Oasis Dream and grandsire Green Desert. Interestingly, all three accomplished the feat as sophomores.

Trainer Charlie Hills mentioned that the Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) at Deauville and the Haydock Sprint Cup (G1) are now on the agenda. Muhaarar's eligible to be imperious there.

The July Cup was supposed to be a showdown between Muhaarar and another sprint headliner from Royal Ascot, Australian star Brazen Beau, who had just been denied in the Diamond Jubilee (G1). Muhaarar figured to have an edge, thanks to the six-pound weight concession. But the hoped-for clash fizzled when Brazen Beau didn't fire. Although he worked his way into contention, he never showed his customary gusto and faded to seventh. Thus continued the frustration for Australian-trained sprinters in the July Cup.

While the July Cup produced a sensible winner, the 1 1/2-mile Princess of Wales's (G2) on Thursday threw up an inscrutable result as the 25-1 longshot Big Orange -- who had been drubbed by double-digits in his first two starts of the season -- led virtually all the way and battled back to win.

How did the Michael Bell gelding successfully go down in trip, and up in class, to beat the likes of Second Step, Gospel Choir and Hillstar? The addition of cheekpieces and a fine Jamie Spencer ride are part of the answer. Perhaps the son of Duke of Marmalade needed time to come to hand. He was a decent three-year-old stayer last season, notably grinding out a narrow win over Marzocco and Mizzou in the Noel Murless. Now finding himself again, his long-range plan is the Melbourne Cup (G1).

Less surprising was the fact that 5-2 favorite Mahsoob suffered his first career defeat. The progressive handicapper was not only tackling a solid Group 2 field, but the John Gosden charge was also stretching out to this trip for the first time in his life. The combination of the two proved too much. Although advancing with Gospel Choir to challenge Big Orange, he couldn't sustain his move and faded to sixth.

As a four-year-old with only five starts under his belt, Mahsoob will earn his stripes in Group company before long. The well-bred son of Dansili may cut back in trip or face gentler competition next time. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if that's just a prelude to raising his sights again.

From a strictly U.S. perspective, the headline from Friday's Falmouth (G1) is that runner-up Euro Charline is back on song ahead of her title defense in the Beverly D. (G1).

The Team Valor International filly was racing for just the second time since last summer's Beverly D. Fourth to the high-flying Solow in the Dubai Turf (G1) in her comeback from injury, she refused to load in Royal Ascot's Duke of Cambridge (G2), and they went without her. Euro Charline had no gate trouble at Newmarket, though. Racing a bit freely while stalking the slow pace, she struck the front but couldn't contain Amazing Maria once they met the rising ground. The Marco Botti trainee, beaten just a length, stands to benefit a lot from this experience over the straight mile.

Amazing Maria, exiting a 25-1 upset of the Duke of Cambridge, continued her renaissance for new trainer David O'Meara in the Falmouth. Jockey James Doyle deserves an assist for his clever tactics. Sensing the sedate pace, he prompted Amazing Maria to improve her position from near the back, and therefore poised to strike at the right time. Conversely, deep-closing French invaders Avenir Certain and Bawina were caught at a disadvantage. Both did well in the circumstances to finish a close third and fourth.

The 2-1 favorite Lucida likewise ran much better than her bare sixth implies. Bottled up with nowhere to go at the crucial stage, the three-year-old filly wasn't beaten far in her first try versus elders. Lucida's had three tough beats this campaign, getting mugged late in the 1000 Guineas (G1) and flying from last for third in Royal Ascot's Coronation (G1), and you'd have to think that she'll snare something before the year's out.

Among the three-year-olds, Mr Singh's front-running coup in the 1 5/8-mile Bahrain Trophy (G3) put him into the St Leger (G1) picture. Before getting ahead of ourselves, it's worth pointing out that he capitalized on a favorable set-up in a small field, and posted a significantly slower time than Big Orange. Placegetters Future Empire and Tommy Docc are pretty well exposed, although they had likewise taken the minor awards (in reverse order) in the two-mile Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot. And Sir Michael Stoute's well-regarded Horseshoe Bay failed to shine in this stakes debut off a maiden romp.

It's very tempting to read the result as a compliment to Balios, who swept right past Mr Singh in the King Edward VII (G2) at Royal Ascot (and is now headed to Tuesday's Grand Prix de Paris [G1]). Yet Mr Singh is an upwardly mobile type for Gosden, and it's quite possible that the High Chaparral colt has progressed in the interim. At least Frankie Dettori says so.

Turning to the mile division, Tupi rolled to a 2 3/4-length decision in the Sir Henry Cecil. Most recently fourth in the seven-furlong Jersey (G3) at Royal Ascot, the Hannon colt was emphatically reversing the form with Jersey third Bossy Guest here. On paper, the result gives a timely boost to Jersey winner Dutch Connection ahead of his tilt at Sunday's Prix Jean Prat (G1). Then again, Tupi could be at his best at Newmarket. He previously set a seven-furlong record in the King Charles II on Newmarket's other course, the Rowley Mile.