Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to a stellar Saturday later this month with 40/1 and 20/1 antepost tips for the July Cup and John Smith's Cup.
- For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, click here
Every racing fan should have a big, red ring around July 14 in the diary this year as it’s that magical Saturday when feature meetings at York and Newmarket provide a genuine punting bonanza.
Topping the bill are the Darley July Cup Stakes at headquarters and the 59th John Smith’s Cup Handicap in Yorkshire, and both appeal as races in which there could be a spot of value with a couple of weeks to go.
Godolphin go for back-to-back victories in the July Cup, with King’s Stand winner Blue Point set to be joined by Wokingham second Dreamfield and possibly even last year’s victor Harry Angel, who is reported to be doing well after his unsettling incident in the stalls at the Royal meeting.
However, it's at York where the boys in blue could be celebrating as Saeed bin Suroor has got four potential runners lined up for the John Smith’s Cup, surely one of just a few heritage handicaps in the country that Godolphin have yet to win.
The lightly-raced Reach High, who beat Harry Angel as a juvenile and won his sole start in 2017, looks a fascinating contender when returned to the UK following his February outing in Dubai, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll make the cut for the valuable contest on the Knavesmire, and it should pay to look higher up the weights.
With bin Suroor essentially framing the handicap with current top weight Leshlaa rated 111, the two who stand out are MOUNTAIN HUNTER and Emirates Flyer, the latter of which is entered at Sandown this Friday and could really appreciate the return to turf after two pleasing comeback runs at Chelmsford earlier in the year.
Preference, however, is for the far more lightly-raced Mountain Hunter, who looks likely to go straight to York having had quite a busy spell out in Dubai.
He ran four times at Meydan during the first three months of the year and his win over Banksea, followed by a fine second to subsequent Group One winner Blair House, read extremely well in the context of this event.
He’d possibly had enough when fifth to Kidmenever when last seen but it wasn’t a bad effort in the circumstances and he remains totally unexposed over 10 furlongs.
There are races to be won with him in Britain this season and at 20/1 (General) it’s worth chancing he can hit the ground running.
The one who looks potentially over-priced in the July Cup is RAID, who trainer David Simcock reports will return to sprint trips when we next see him in public.
"All is good with Raid," he said. "We’re waiting for rain really and won’t be running anywhere until we get some.
"There was ease in the ground when he won last year and there was some ease in the Greenham.
"I wouldn’t be reading too much into the form of the Guineas but what he did between the two furlong marker and the one at Newmarket was good.
"It just wasn’t his conditions either. We’ll definitely be dropping him back to sprinting next time and he’s a class horse."
Simcock famously, and successfully, dropped Dream Ahead back from a mile to win this prize in 2011 following his fifth to Frankel in the St James's Palace on his seasonal reappearance and Raid will be looking to do something similar after a couple of promising efforts so far this term.
There was a bit of a buzz about this horse in the build-up to the 2000 Guineas, with Qatar Racing manager David Redvers suggesting he was significantly underestimated following his Greenham comeback run, and a look back at that Newbury event suggests he definitely had a point.
He only went down by a length and a half in fourth after being held up off the pace and having to challenge away from the main action towards the centre of the track.
The form is pretty strong as while winner James Garfield hasn’t quite gone on as expected, runner-up Expert Eye dotted up in the Jersey and third Hey Gaman was beaten a neck in the French Guineas. The last home, Connect, won the big 10-furlong handicap at Epsom on Derby day from a mark of 100 to add a little extra lustre.
The 2000 Guineas arguably showed Raid - who won his his sole start last year over six furlongs - wasn’t quite up to Classic level, but that was obviously a superb race and Simcock’s runner did finish a couple of places ahead of Expert Eye, ending up eighth.
The form boosts, also including Masar winning and Roaring Lion finishing third in the Derby, as well as the manner in which Raid weakened from a furlong out, should give the Simcock team hope that a drop back in distance can work the oracle and a stiff six furlongs on the July Course could prove to be ideal for the son of Havana Gold.
A little ease underfoot would clearly be preferable and there's no obvious sign of rain in the long-range forecast, but it only takes a very typical British summer storm to blow over and things can change quite swiftly.
At the general 40/1 currently available, it's tempting to take the plunge and hope the weather breaks just in time for the middle of the month for Simock to roll the dice.
Posted at 1630 BST on 03/07/18