Ben Linfoot picks out 10 things to look out for at the July Festival at Newmarket including an exciting once-raced Godolphin juvenile and a Royal Ascot eye-catcher.
1. Wells Farhh Go in the Bahrain Trophy
The Bahrain Trophy. Not the best of the Leger trials, it has to be said. Only Masked Marvel has won both races, but, to be fair, it was only awarded Group 3 status in 2009 and the Double M came along just two years after that.
There’s hope that this can be a stepping stone for Classic glory at Doncaster, then, and the one that could really make his mark in the Leger market this week is Tim Easterby’s Wells Farhh Go.
Things haven’t gone his way so far this season, but he was a good two-year-old, beating good horses like James Garfield and Dee Ex Bee in the Acomb at York, a race in which his stamina really came to the fore.
Back at the same track he was out-speeded by subsequent Coral-Eclipse hero Roaring Lion in the Dante – no shame in that – and then, on his second run this year, he got going all too late in the King Edward VII Stakes over 1m4f at Royal Ascot.
He’s all about stamina, though. He’s related to three winning hurdlers. The step up to 1m5f in the Bahrain Trophy looks sure to unlock further improvement.
It’s 16 years since his trainer won the Leger with Bollin Eric, a horse that also ran in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot (he ran in the Dante, too, finishing second). Wells Farhh Go might just be treading a familiar path and his 33/1 Leger quotes could begin to look very big this week.
2. Legends Of War in the July Stakes
Just when Advertise thought ‘no Calyx, no problem’ along comes another John Gosden-trained juvenile oozing potential with a hefty reputation and price tag to boot.
The £900,000 Scat Daddy sales topper from Tattersalls at Newmarket in April could hardly have been more impressive on debut at Yarmouth on May 23, quickening clear for a four-length success in fine style.
Okay, the form hasn’t worked out very well, but this horse has done nothing wrong and it should be remembered he was second-favourite for the Coventry Stakes before Calyx had even set hoof upon a racetrack.
Advertise sets the standard in the Arqana July Stakes on the back of his Coventry Stakes second to Calyx, of that there is no doubt.
But Legends Of War, who missed Royal Ascot due to a minor infection, is a really exciting prospect and he could enhance his already sky-high reputation with a Group 2 success on the July Course on Thursday.
3. Barsanti v Mirage Dancer II
These two served up a real treat at Listed level in the Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes at Ascot earlier in the season with Barsanti holding on from Mirage Dancer by a neck.
It’s hardly the rematch we’ve all been waiting for, granted, but both look well placed to bounce back to form following defeats at Royal Ascot, with nothing of Crystal Ocean’s class to brush aside Barsanti here while Mirage Dancer steps back up in trip from 10 furlongs.
With Duretto perhaps needing further and Best Solution having his first run since the Meydan Carnival, it could be down to Barsanti and Mirage Dancer to fight things out again.
On that Ascot run in May, there looks to be very little between them. We could be in for another cracker.
4. Aidan O’Brien goes for Duchess of Cambridge hat-trick
Aidan O’Brien has won the last two renewals of the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes with Roly Poly and Clemmie, but if he’s to make it three on the spin you fancy Fairyland will have to reverse Albany Stakes form with her conquerors.
Main Edition and La Pelosa were separated by a neck in the Albany at Royal Ascot with Fairyland a further half-length behind the pair in third, but she was first of nine home in the far-side group and it wouldn’t be a major surprise if the daughter of Kodiac were to turn that form around.
O’Brien has five in at the five-day stage, though, with Gossamer Wings possibly best of the rest following her fast-finishing second to Signora Cabello in the Queen Mary Stakes over five furlongs.
5. Mark Johnston and his bet365 Handicap obsession
Mark Johnston won the bet365 Handicap every year from 2013-2016 with 8/1, 13/2, 12/1 and 25/1 shots so his declarations will be given close inspection no matter their forecast odds.
The master of Middleham has four entries at the five-day stage and all of the quartet are big prices in the ante-post market as they trade between 20/1 and 33s.
Communique is among the most interesting as he won the ultra competitive London Gold Cup at Newbury, a race so hot he was sent off 9/2 favourite for the King George V Stakes Handicap at Royal Ascot next time out.
He did too much too soon that day, though, finishing 14th, and he didn’t really improve on that form at York subsequently when fifth of sixth after again trying to make all.
At Newbury he didn’t lead, so perhaps riding him with a bit more restraint might be the answer, although Resonant, the 12/1 chance in that list of previous Johnston winners, never saw another rival when he was unleashed in this race three years ago.
6. Elgin making his handicap debut on the Flat
Alan King’s Champion Hurdle fifth Elgin might make his handicap debut on the Flat in the Gordon’s Handicap over 1m6f on Friday.
The six-year-old only made his debut on the level in a Wolverhampton maiden in April when beaten by Ghostwatch, but he’s improved since then, winning at Chelmsford by nearly five lengths before winning by a cosy three-quarters of a length from Saroog at Catterick.
Saroog got 7lb from Elgin that day but is now rated 90 after two subsequent victories, including a handicap by three lengths at Sandown last time where he beat the consistent Zeelander.
That’s solid form and it suggests Elgin might be able to do some damage off 98, especially when you consider he’s stepping up to 1m6f for his handicap debut.
7. Impressive maiden winner Quorto in the Superlative
You might’ve missed the debut of Quorto as he only saw a racetrack for the first time at Newmarket on the Friday evening of Royal Ascot week, but his debut success is well worth catching up on.
By Dubawi and out of the mare Volume who was third in both the English and Irish Oaks, Quorto is bred for middle distances next year but that just makes his debut success all the more impressive (the speedy Invincible Army won the same race last year).
He cruised through the Fly London Southend Airport To Lyon Novice Stakes and quickened well to win by almost three lengths, despite being eased down, from Handmaiden and an experienced colt in Alnasherat, shaping as though he’ll improve for the experience and another furlong.
In the Superlative he gets the extra furlong and, though it represents a steep rise in grade, he looks ready for the task in hand.
8. Horse for course Makzeem in the Bunbury Cup
Makzeem, the three-parts brother to four-time Group One winner Al Kazeem, has been average in two runs this season, but better can be expected now he returns to Newmarket for the Bunbury Cup.
Roger Charlton’s son of Makfi simply loves Newmarket, both courses, as four of the top five efforts of his career have come on either the Rowley Mile or the July Course, including when second a year ago in the Silver Bunbury.
It’s no surprise he’s been targeted at the Bunbury itself this year, then, and though you couldn’t back him off a lofty rating of 103 on this year’s efforts, there’s little doubt he has a good chance if back to his best.
His best came last autumn, so maybe there is a question mark about the suitability of fast ground, but he hosed up off 97 in a handicap on the Rowley Mile last September and then finished fourth off 103 in the Challenge Cup Handicap at Ascot a month later.
In front of him that day were Accidental Agent, Lord Glitters and Raising Sand, so that form didn’t work out too bad, and he overcame two rusty efforts last season before coming alive once he stepped upon the July Course.
If Ryan Moore is on him even better. He’s only ridden him four times, but two of those were victories (from just three in his career) and one of the other occasions was that second in the Silver Bunbury.
9. U S Navy Flag dropping in trip for the July Cup
You can’t beat a three-year-old Coolmore Classic hopeful dropping back in trip in the July Cup.
Aidan O’Brien orchestrated such a manoeuvre twice with success either side of the year 2000, with ante-post 2000 Guineas favourite Stravinsky dropping back from seven furlongs emphatically in 1999 before Mozart bounced back from his Irish 2000 Guineas defeat by romping home with the 2001 July Cup via a successful detour in the Jersey Stakes.
There have been less successful reinventions from O’Brien in this race; Reply, Gale Force Ten and Air Force Blue spring to mind, but it’s good to see the emergence of the Commonwealth Cup hasn’t seen the end of O’Brien attempting to fashion a sprinter out of his Classic crop in this race.
This year’s sprinting wannabe is U S Navy Flag, a horse that ran over a mile in the French 2000 Guineas, Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes without success, his best result a runner-up finish at the Curragh behind Romanised.
He stumbled in France, literally, while he went off too quick at Royal Ascot, a performance that did at least suggest he’s worth a go over a quarter of a mile shorter.
His Group One double in the Middle Park and Dewhurst in the space of a fortnight as a juvenile mark him out as a talented horse, so it’s fascinating to see how he’ll get on here under what looks sure to be a forceful ride.
10. Britannia eye-catcher Curiosity in bet365 Mile
And finally… I thought going up 3lb for beating 28 rivals in the Britannia when the runaway winner, Ostilio, was given a fine ride from Silvestre de Sousa, was a very fair bit of handicapping when it comes to Curiosity.
Hugo Palmer’s High Chaparral gelding came from off the pace and beat the rest by at least a length, so the performance marked him out as a highly progressive three-year-old miler.
It’s no surprise he’s been saved for a decent local pot since and he deservedly heads the ante-post lists for the bet365 Mile on Saturday.
- When? - 3.20 Newmarket Saturday - click here for full racecard
- Watch - Curiosity's Britannia second - click here for free video replay