On the most crowded Saturday of the year, one race still stands out above the rest. The Darley July Cup suits every taste, a hotly contested Group One race to satisfy purists and punters alike, featuring top-class British sprinters familiar to all, along with challengers from Ireland, Spain and the United States.
The moving of individual races and whole fixtures has brought several hitherto separately celebrated midsummer highlights together this afternoon and that is too much of a good thing, according to many, including the bookmakers, who know there is only so much juice to be squeezed from a lemon.
Jockey Ryan Moore told his Betfair column readers that he does not see any sense in it, either, and in particular is quite unable to see the point in following up a bonanza of Saturday Flat racing with a blank Sunday.
Surely, though, no amount of gorging at Newmarket, Ascot and York will leave anybody too sick to enjoy the main course, the last of 10 televised races, in which Slade Power, Due Diligence and Aljamaaheer, first, second and third in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, are among several worthy of serious consideration.
The rain that settled over East Anglia on Thursday has been largely unwelcome, but soft ground has, if anything, made this race more interesting still.
The going will suit some much more than others and among the beneficiaries are Kevin Ryan’s two three-year-olds, Hot Streak and Astaire, other outsiders such as Gregorian and Jack Dexter, and even 50-1 shot Tropics, who looked so good on easy ground in a Group Three contest at Ascot last autumn.
The King’s Stand Stakes winner Sole Power likes to hear his feet rattle so might well be withdrawn by his trainer, Eddie Lynam, leaving Slade Power to fly his Co Meath stable flag.
And what of Noozhoh Canarias, the Spanish trailblazer who led the 2,000 Guineas field for so long until running out of steam? He has won on soft going at home country, but at a lower level, and, according to his rider, Christophe Soumillon, “the faster the ground, the better.”
All surfaces seem to come alike to Slade Power (3.50 Newmarket) and, though each-way cases can now be made for so many others, the eye keeps returning to the favourite.
On this year’s form –and there is no obvious reason why he should not reproduce it here – he is the best horse in the race.
Absolutely So (3.15 Newmarket) was one of the gambles of the week at Royal Ascot, but trailed home with the also-rans.
On the face of it, bouncing back to win the equally competitive Bunbury Cup might be asking a bit much, but he was previously impressive at Goodwood under similar conditions to today’s and is worth another chance.
In the day’s other major handicap, the John Smith’s Cup, the German import Tahira (2.55 York) has caught the eye on both outings for John Quinn this summer and now this is her big day.
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