Alex Hammond looks ahead to a mouthwatering week of action at Newmarket - and has a fancy for the John Smith's Cup at York too.
A dramatic renewal of the Coral-Eclipse - what did you make of the race and where now for Saxon Warrior?
What a race! That is what horse racing is all about, a superb finish with two warriors giving their all, necks stretched and neither capitulating. I know there was a stewards enquiry after interference between the winner Roaring Lion and second Saxon Warrior inside the final furlong, but it never really looked like the placings would be reversed.
For those of you that didn’t see it (click here for full and free replay), Roaring Lion threw down his challenge up the outside and then drifted to his right inside the final furlong. In doing so, he caused a degree of interference to Saxon Warrior, but Donnacha O’Brien never stopped riding on the second and it didn’t prevent Aidan O’Brien’s 2000 Guineas winner from coming home in front if had he been good enough. In my mind, Saxon Warrior lost nothing in defeat, he ran really well just a week after a great effort in the Irish Derby. He may not be the superstar that we hoped he would be in the spring amid talk of the Triple Crown, but he ain’t half bad! Where next for him then?
Well, it’s safe to say that a mile-and-a-half isn’t his trip, so the Juddmonte International at York next month looks the most obvious route to take. Unfortunately, anything running over ten furlongs this summer/autumn in top class races is likely to come up against Enable if all goes well with John Gosden’s superstar filly, but that’s life and you can’t avoid one horse, however good they are.
The upside of Saxon Warrior being beaten in the Investec Derby and Irish Derby, is that connections have little to lose by campaigning him more bravely going forward. It’s exciting to see racehorses racing and not being wrapped in cotton wool, saved for a handful of select races. Maybe he could even drop back to the Guineas trip and run in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, it would be fun to see if he can reproduce his best back over his Classic-winning trip. He’s now 5/1 with Sky Bet for that Group One contest.
We’re heading into a Super Saturday so let’s start with an easy one – what wins the July Cup?
Well, this race is possibly more interesting, rather than less so, for the absence of Harry Angel and Merchant Navy. The former hasn’t made it back from the cut he sustained at Royal Ascot in time and the latter has been retired to stud in Australia after his win in the Diamond Jubilee (job done). That leaves Blue Point as the short priced market leader;11/4 with Sky Bet.
He deserves to be short after his impressive win in the King’s Stand Stakes, but he’s short enough for me when you take into account that his victory last month was over five furlongs and you have to wonder if he will be as impressive back over six. He is a multiple winner over the trip, but not at this level, and for that reason I’m happy to take him on.
With what though? Eqtidaar is a 5/1 shot for Sir Michael Stoute, a trainer firing in loads of winners. The Commonwealth Cup winner and runner up, Sands Of Mali, reoppose here. The latter was possibly a bit unlucky at Ascot as he raced with the minority up the stands' side, which didn’t help his cause. I’m concerned though that his owner said after Ascot that the ground may have beaten him and he does seem to act well with some ease underfoot. There could be more to come from Eqtidaar though and I’d like him on side.
At a bigger price (8/1), John Gosden’s Dreamfield also catches my eye. He was unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile and then missed his entire three-year-old season through injury. Connections persevered with him though and they were rewarded with an easy win in a competitive Ascot handicap on his reappearance in May. He was only beaten a neck in the Wokingham off a mark of 103 last time out and whilst this is a huge step up, he has plenty of potential as a sprinter and Gosden doesn’t tilt at windmills. He has a chunk to find with the favourite, but he may well improve further.
Now things get more difficult…what are your thoughts on the John Smith’s Cup?
Zaaki is another horse that could take some prize money back to Sir Michael Stoute’s Freemason Lodge Stables this weekend. He’s a 10/1 shot to win this red hot handicap on the Knavesmire. He joined the master trainer after four starts as a two year-old. He didn’t win as a juvenile, but ran well in some decent races and got his first win on the board on his first start for the new yard in April.
That win came in a novice stakes over a mile at Thirsk, landing the odds in the hands of Pat Dobbs. He has since run well in two starts over this extra couple of furlongs and certainly wasn’t disgraced when third to Hunting Horn in the Group Three Hampton Court at Royal Ascot, giving the firm impression there that much more was to come.
He really got motoring in the last couple of furlongs at the Berkshire track and you have to think we may see even more improvement over further than Saturday’s distance. He’s effective over it though and I’m keen on his chances. Let’s hope he gets a run, whic isn't guaranteed at this stage, and isn't drawn out too wide as that won’t be helpful. Just a postscript, he’s also entered for a ten furlong handicap at Newmarket on Friday, so keep a close eye on final declarations.
Do you have a fancy for the Bunbury Cup at this stage?
I can’t desert Gilgamesh now having followed him the last twice. It looked like the six furlongs in the Wokingham was inadequate last month, so the step back up to the trip he won over on his penultimate start at York should be ideal. He remains on the same handicap mark he ran off at Royal Ascot and he should be competitive again. The only negative is the fact he’s Sky Bet’s 6/1 favourite in a race as competitive as this, but we know what sometimes happens when you try and make a case for something that looks better value! If that really doesn’t float your boat though, then the booking of Ryan Moore for Roger Charlton’s Makzeem catches the eye.
He was the last jockey to win on the horse, at Newmarket last September, in fact, he has been in the saddle for two of his three victories. He was second in the consolation race for this last year, albeit off a 9lb lower mark, but this is the sort of contest that suits him well and I hope he can run a big race for his in form trainer and world class jockey. He’s 16/1 with Sky Bet, so offers some each way value.
What else catches your eye at Newmarket this week?
I have had some fantastic day’s racing on the July course at Newmarket and love this mid-summer festival. It gets underway on Thursday where I like the look of Mirage Dancer in the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes. Things didn’t go well for Sir Michael Stoute’s horse in the Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot, he met trouble in running and stayed on all too late. I think compensation awaits here.
On Friday, there is a competitive mile-and-a-quarter handicap, in fact it’s the race that my John Smith’s Cup fancy, Zaaki, is also entered in. I really hope Zaaki runs at York, because Wissahickon is a horse I’ve followed this season and I don’t think his winning run has ended yet. John Gosden’s colt landed a minor contest at Lingfield on the all-weather before stepping up to win a valuable York handicap last time out on his turf debut. He should eventually make the step into Group company without too much trouble.
Not a betting proposition, but I can’t wait to see Alpha Centauri strut her stuff in the Falmouth Stakes on Friday. She looks the best miler of her generation this season after wins in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes and think she can put her elders in their place in this Group One.