Three fancies for this week's July meeting at Newmarket

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The Independent Online
Tuesday: Shantou - 'Reformed Character'

Two English Classic winners are scheduled to meet as four-year- olds for only the fourth time in the past 20 years when Shantou, winner of last year's St Leger, and Lady Carla, heroine of the Oaks, step out for the Princess of Wales' Stakes on the first day of Newmarket's July meeting. The Group 2 race will be the first sighting of Shantou on home soil since his Doncaster triumph, and will give Sheikh Mohammed's little John Gosden-trained colt an opportunity not only to stake his claim to be regarded as one of the top rank in the mile-and- a-half division rather than merely a stayer, but also to establish himself in racegoers' affections. Since clinching the St Leger, Shantou has won two Italian Group 1s (most recently when he trounced Luso a month ago) and finishing fourth to no less than Pilsudski, Singspiel and Swain in the Breeders Cup Turf. He is a horse with a definite character, and not always a likeable one. He regularly dumps his riders on the gallops, and a couple of times last year his response when asked to win his races seemed to be "You cannot be serious". But Frankie Dettori, who has been released for this occasion, brings out the best in the tiny tough, and the pair can carry on their winning partnership in what, with the three other Group 1 winners (Swain and Celeric as well as Lady Carla) will be a proper test.

Wednesday: Rebecca Sharp - 'Cinderella'

If we must imbue horses with human personalities, then Rebecca Sharp has none of the scheming amorality of Thackeray's heroine. She bears Becky's name only because her sire is Machiavellian, and a better analogy would be as Cinders, the generous girl who finally came good on the big occasion. Rebecca Sharp fulfilled the promise of her teenage days when she sluiced home in her maiden at Newmarket. She was wearing a thick winter coat that day and still had on a layer of homespun when she disappointed her connections - trainer Geoff Wragg and owner-breeder Anthony Oppenheimer - by finishing only 13th in the 1,000 Guineas. But at Royal Ascot she turned up wearing her summer ball gown and performed accordingly. A rather leggy, white-baced bay, she may not be as pretty as some, but ask her to dance and she would see Ginger Rogers off the floor. She is simply a most beautiful mover with the lightest of actions; she would surely canter on eggs without breaking one. In last month's Coronation Stakes she left two Guineas winners, Sleepytime and Classic Park, behind her as she quickened to lead in the final furlong. Ocean Ridge, who chased her home, renews rivalry in the Falmouth Stakes this week, but Rebecca Sharp can take the Group 2 race to confirm that her Ascot display was indeed that of a princess and not a kitchen-maid.

Thursday: Royal Applause - 'Mr Comeback'

They say they never come back, but this one did. Royal Applause looked every inch a champion sprinter as a two-year-old, unbeaten in four runs, and the notion was not disabused on his first run in his second season, when he blazed out of the stalls in the 2,000 Guineas and took the field along for six of the eight furlongs. But then things went wrong. Dropped back to sprint distances his only win in three runs came in an egg-and-spoon race, and a not unreasonable assumption was that he had followed a family precedent set by his half- sister Lyric Fantasy, who had also been a flying machine at two but proved more susceptible to gravity at three. But skilled, sympathetic management by trainer Barry Hills and staff at Dalham Hall Stud, where Maktoum Al Maktoum's colt spent a period of health farm-style rest, recuperation and rehabilitation, Royal Applause has bounced back. His all-the-way win in the Cork & Orrery Stakes at Ascot was his third from as many starts this year, and victory in Thursday's July Cup, the first Group 1 sprint of the season, would give him the title-elect. His front-running style takes no prisoners. Fast off the blocks, he does most of the damage in the middle part of his races and can pull out more at the end if neccessary.

If Coastal Bluff or Blue Goblin can get past him, they'll know they have been in a race.

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