Saturday's Darley July Cup is one of Europe's biggest sprints and is the feature race on the last day of the excellent Newmarket July Festival.
Australian sprint star Redkirk Warrior is still on British soil after his Royal Ascot disappointment and is reunited with his regular rider, Regan Bayliss.
The home defence will be led by Blue Point who won the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, plus Eqtidaar who landed the Commonwealth Cup at the same meeting and the race is all set to be a thriller.
Fourteen runners go to post and here is a runner-by-runner guide to their chances:
The winner of a Group Three event here last autumn he was narrowly beaten by Ertijaal over five furlongs at Meydan in February prior to a poor showing in Hong Kong over six furlongs a couple of months later.
The four-year-olds return to Europe went exactly to plan as he landed the valuable King’s Stand Stakes over 5f at Royal Ascot last time out.
Brando was third in last year’s renewal and boasts a good record at Newmarket. His victory over Sir Dancealot on seasonal debut was no fluke and his second to Harry Angel in the Duke Of York Stakes on the Knavesmire certainly reads well.
His run at the Curragh behind Merchant Navy wasn’t the best but he is good when fresh and comes here off the back of a 50 day break.
Trained by John Gosden for Godolphin, Dreamfield has had just four starts with his latest effort being an agonising neck defeat in Royal Ascot’s valuable Wokingham Handicap.
It’s worth pointing out that Godolphin’s breeding operation Darley sponsor this £500,000 contest.
He was third last year at 100/1 getting weight from his elders but this year he looks totally outclassed.
One Group Three victory from twelve Group starts tells you all you need to know.
Limato totally bossed this race two seasons ago and he was a good second to Harry Angel in last year’s renewal.
He made little impact in the Lockinge or the Queen Anne and reverts back to sprinting on Saturday. He has plenty to prove but his record at the track is good and sprinting is his game.
Winner of the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington over six furlongs in March. The seven-year-old failed to show his form at Royal Ascot and a better performance can be expected on this occasion.
Regan Bayliss, who partnered Redkirk Warrior to all three of his Australian Group One sprints, takes over from Frankie Dettori.
He stayed on well to win the Criterion Stakes over seven furlongs here last time out and is clearly in great heart.
He chased home Above The Rest in last season’s Bunbury Cup and he always puts his best foot forward on the July course.
Spirit Of Valor
He was second to subsequent Diamond Jubilee winner Merchant Navy in Ireland but at Royal Ascot he was slammed eight-and-a-half lengths by the same horse.
One of a quintet of runners from the Aidan O'Brien stable.
Eqtidaar, who lifted the Commonwealth Cup for Sir Michael Stoute, takes on his elders for the first time at Newmarket. The colt had been beaten on each of his three starts since making a successful racecourse debut at Nottingham last summer before his victory on the greatest stage of them all.
Sir Michael Stoute has won the July Cup three times but not since Ajdal in 1987.
Battled back and beat Intelligence Cross at the Curragh last time out but finished well down the field in the Commonwealth Cup and looks to have a mountain to climb.
The three-year-old holds claims if you forgive his poor showing in the Commonwealth Cup.
His form ties in with both Sands Of Mali, who beat him a nose at Haydock and with Eqtidaar whom he beat at Ascot in May, admittedly on soft ground.
Sands Of Mali
Commonwealth Cup runner-up Sands Of Mali takes on the best of the sprinters in the business on Saturday.
Eqtidaar held a half-length advantage over Sands Of Mali at Ascot but his trainer, Richard Fahey, is confident they can reverse the placings in this rematch.
Prior to his Royal Ascot escapades, the three-year-old took a heavy ground victory in France in April and then followed up with a good ground victory in the Group Two Sandy Lane at Haydock.
Well fancied at Royal Ascot, Aidan O’Brien’s Sioux Nation has plenty of questions to answer if you are to back him with any confidence in this sprint.
The son of Scat Daddy is a Group One winner however and it is very plausible that some of O’Brien’s runners were behind in their work going into Royal Ascot, so he could be worth taking another chance on at a tidy each-way price.
U S Navy Flag
Last season's European champion two-year-old drops back from a mile for his first start over six furlongs since he was victorious in the Middle Park Stakes.
Aidan O’Brien’s now three-year-old became the first horse in 35 years to complete the Middle Park-Dewhurst double last season but has failed to trouble the judge so far this term.
Given that the Coolmore operation has potential plans to send him to Australia after Newmarket they will probably have him at his absolute peak if he is to realise his full breeding potential.
With five Aidan O’Brien runners in the field it is very difficult to assess just which one they like the most on Saturday but U S Navy Flag and Sioux Nation look the most likely candidates to figure prominently.
Throw Kevin Ryan’s Brando into the mix and you have the makings of an interesting exotic bet.
- U S Navy Flag (nap)
- Brando (nb)
- Sioux Nation (lively outsider)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*