The Cheka can spring July Cup shock with mudbath to neutralise opponents


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The Independent Online

While acknowledging the superior claims to sympathy of other communities, few are more thoroughly fed up with the weather than those who like a bet. High summer is when punters hope to make hay, with the form working out reliably on consistent going. Instead one of the busiest Saturdays of the whole calendar stretches before them like a no man's land of mud and foxholes.

Yesterday Golden Lilac started odds-on for a Group One race at Newmarket, and staggered home ninth of 10. Few, accordingly, will approach the climax of the meeting with any confidence – and should perhaps brace themselves for a shock result in the Darley July Cup.

A tentative interest is duly proposed in The Cheka (3.20). He was below form at Royal Ascot last time, for no reason that came to light, but can be considered one of the least exposed sprinters in the field even at the age of six. Only dropped to this trip for the first time in the spring, he has quickly surpassed even the form he had previously shown in multiple podium finishes in Group company. His trainer replaces the usual cheekpieces with a visor today, which might just sharpen him up, and he is one of few in the race proven in testing ground.

Bated Breath and Strong Suit are much more talented, but the trainers of both have deep misgivings about conditions. Society Rock does go in the ground, and ran very well in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes for the third year running. But he ran flat in this contest, a couple of seasons ago – whether because he is simply more effective at Ascot, or because he prefers a longer interval between races. Either way, respective odds of 33-1 and 4-1 take scant account of the fact that The Cheka finished a neck in front of Society Rock at York in May.

The juveniles who contest the other Group race on the card, the 32Red Superlative Stakes, have scarcely any experience of soft going between them. Moreover, they arrive largely on the upgrade, so it can only be of limited pertinence that Olympic Glory (2.10) brings the best form to date.

A sturdier case can be made for Belgian Bill (2.40) at 14-1 in the Bunbury Cup. He is definitely on a feasible mark and is excused a couple of inconspicuous runs at Ascot, entitled to need the first after a break and then given only a couple of days to recover. He handles soft ground and his form over longer distances means that he will see this out thoroughly.

Both Godolphin stables are in top order now and Alkimos (3.00) should be competitive for the most valuable prize on the John Smith's card at York, having returned to form at Ascot last time. He has few miles on the clock, and will be suited by a strong gallop at this shorter trip. High Jinx (2.25) meets several other improvers, but must not be abandoned until finding his own ceiling now.

The eclipse of Golden Lilac did not prevent the French making off with the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes. Giofra wore down Elusive Kate by half a length, while Siyouma also flew the tricolour in third. This was a remarkable comeback by the runner-up, who has not been seen since the Breeders' Cup and was thought unsuited by the mud. But the winning trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupré, reckons that Giofra will be better still at 10 furlongs, and may send her to the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood before thinking about a crack at the Arc.

The Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cherry Hinton Stakes showcased the next generation of fillies – and a special young talent in Andrew Oliver, who exported the prize to Ulster through Sendmylovetorose. He picked out this filly for just £5,000 as a yearling and she is unbeaten in three starts. She has earned the right to a crack at a Group One, albeit the fact remains that she was lucky to hold on by a neck from Maureen, who flew home after suffering dreadful luck in running.

Main Sequence, whose defeat by Camelot at Epsom was the first of his career, lines up for the Grand Prix de Paris this evening. Unfortunately, rain has reached Longchamp, as well, and trainer David Lanigan admits himself concerned by conditions. Imperial Monarch, the Ballydoyle raider, won in heavy ground at Sandown in the spring and, having finished well after circling the field in the Prix du Jockey-Club, is likely to relish the extra distance, too.

His stablemate, Treasure Beach, has travelled far and wide since his defeat in the Grand Prix de Paris last year and attempts to conquer another foreign field later tonight, in the Man O' War Stakes at Belmont, New York.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's Nap: Jocasta Dawn

(6.55 Salisbury)

Next Best: Belgian Bill

(2.40 Newmarket)