Limato’s in a league of his own in July Cup

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

July 9th, 2016

Denied the chance to strut his stuff at a rain-sodden Royal Ascot, Limato proved worth the wait when bolting up in Saturday’s July Cup (G1) at Newmarket. As a measure of the competitiveness of this sprint field on paper, the Henry Candy trainee went off as the lukewarm favorite at 9-2, but made those odds look risible as he simply demolished them.

By Tagula, the same sire as star miler Canford Cliffs, Limato has shown star quality himself at times. Not only undefeated at two, he turned his juvenile campaign into a series of conquests, capped by listed stakes victories in Newbury’s Rose Bowl and Redcar’s Two-Year-Old Trophy. Limato landed the Pavilion (G3) in his sophomore bow at Ascot, but lost his perfect mark when second to Adaay in the Sandy Lane (G2) at Haydock, on ground that had residual moisture in it.

Back on good-to-firm in last summer’s Commonwealth Cup (G1) at Royal Ascot, Limato rebounded, only to bump into a machine by the name of Muhaarar. At least by finishing second, he had the satisfaction of slamming Adaay back in seventh. Limato was next seen stretching out to seven furlongs in Doncaster’s Park S. (G2), and he ripped apart a useful group of older horses by nearly four lengths.

That propelled him into favoritism for the Prix de la Foret (G1) on Arc Day, only to get away slowly on a course where it paid to be forwardly placed. Limato did very well to rally for second to Make Believe in course-record time for Longchamp’s 1400 meters (about seven furlongs), and with a sensible start, arguably would have won.

In light of his two outstanding efforts over seven, Candy wanted to try Limato over a mile this term. Unfortunately, his experiment in the May 14 Lockinge (G1) was inconclusive, partly due to the rain-affected course and the yard’s poor form early in the season. In the circumstances, his fourth – the only time he’s been out of the top two in his life – was respectable.

Candy rightly kept the faith ahead of Royal Ascot, planning to give him another shot at a mile in the Queen Anne (G1). But the weather didn’t cooperate, and there was no sense in putting him in against Tepin and Lockinge winner Belardo on soft ground. Although Limato had a strong back-up plan in the six-furlong Diamond Jubilee (G1) on the final day of the Royal meeting, his trainer feared that the ground just wasn’t coming right in time.

And in any case, Candy had another top prospect for the Diamond Jubilee in Twilight Son, who requires a bit of give in the ground. Twilight Son went on to win a perhaps less-than-stellar renewal, begging the question of how easily Limato might have dominated on better ground.

The answer came on Saturday. Traveling beautifully just off the pace for Harry Bentley, Limato was cantering all over them approaching the final quarter-mile, and shot clear as they met the rising ground. The idiosyncratic gelding then got a bit bored and took a scenic tour toward the stands’ side, or else his margin would have been larger than two lengths. He zipped about six furlongs in 1:09.97.

French-bred Suedois continued his fine form since joining turnaround artist David O’Meara, just edging Commonwealth Cup-winning filly Quiet Reflection for second. Several threw in absolute clunkers, including Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) hero Mongolian Saturday, who retreated to 11th and needs to come home where he can race around a turn, and Twilight Son, who failed to cope with the quick ground and ran 14th of 18. Candy freely took the blame for running Twilight Son on going that turned out to be too firm for him.

But the saddest performance of all came from last year’s champion juvenile Air Force Blue, a pale ghost of himself this year over a mile. This was the last chance saloon for the Aidan O’Brien trainee. If reverting to a sprint didn’t solve his problems, there would be little reason to press on with him. The vibes from Ballydoyle must have been very cool for him to go off at 8-1, and he never lifted a hoof in 12th. The Coolmore marketing team may be working on his stallion ads already.

Limato should be around for a long time to come, and connections are tantalizingly talking about a mile again in the July 27 Sussex (G1) at Glorious Goodwood. I really hope that the sun beats down on the Sussex Downs so we can get a fantastic intergenerational clash with Galileo Gold and The Gurkha. If the rain chases Limato away, he’d stick to sprinting in the August 7 Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1) at Deauville.

Earlier in the Superlative (G2) for juveniles, Godolphin’s Boynton responded to a good-looking challenge from O’Brien’s even-money favorite War Decree to prevail. While the battle was between global racing empires, the top two are both Kentucky-breds.

Boynton was a debut winner going six furlongs at Goodwood for Charlie Appleby, and thrived on the step up to seven here. The runner-up from that maiden, 6-4 favorite Mutawatheb, has since gone on to score at Newbury, and the Boynton formline is looking pretty good right now.

The Superlative winner is likely bound for the September 11 Vincent O’Brien National (G1) at the Curragh. A $750,000 Keeneland September yearling, Boynton is a More Than Ready half-brother to 2014 Florida Derby (G1) victor Constitution as well as Grade 3 scorer Jacaranda Jane. His dam, the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, is a stakes-placed full sister to Dubai Group 2 winner Surfer and a half to Grade 1 hero Emcee.

War Decree appeared to have Boynton dead to rights as he put his head in front late. For a couple of strides, the War Front colt hinted at pulling away, but didn’t. Whether it was simply a loss of focus that prompted him to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, or an exemplary effort from Boynton to fight back, War Decree was losing ground at the wire and yielded by three-quarters of a length. The grandson of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Ticker Tape gained valuable experience in this second career start. He could be more streetwise next time.

The rest were upwards of five lengths adrift. Frankel’s son Cunco was moving sweetly for some way, but couldn’t go on with the principals and checked in fourth.

Limato photo courtesy of Channel 4 Racing via Twitter.