Inisherin wins the Commonwealth Cup

Can Inisherin become the latest three-year-old winner of the July Cup?

Inisherin bids to become the 10th three-year-old winner of the July Cup since the turn of the century – Matt Brocklebank looks back at the previous nine before profiling this year's players.

MOZART (Trainer: Aidan O’Brien)

Previous run: WON G3 Jersey Stakes

The July Cup can be just about done and dusted with two furlongs to go, such is the nature of this particular Newmarket course, and Mozart’s display in 2001 was a prime example of that being the case.

Clearly berthed well on the day, with seven higher-drawn rivals basically looking to have no hope more towards the far side rail, the Irish 2,000 Guineas runner-up stamped his class to blow apart what had looked a competitive field going into it.

Stall two beat three, four and one; so was he a touch flattered to be given performance rating of 131 by Timeform?

Punters clearly didn’t think so as he was sent off 4/9 favourite for the Nunthorpe on his next start and duly bolted up at York too, before ending his three-year-old campaign - and career - on a low note at the Breeders’ Cup.

OASIS DREAM (John Gosden)

Previous run: 3rd in G2 King’s Stand Stakes

John Gosden’s one and only July Cup winner, Oasis Dream was a sensational talent – a star who shone brightly at two and three before being whisked off to stud, another ending his time on the track with a disappointing Breeders’ Cup trip.

The July Cup came after the 2002 Middle Park winner's delayed seasonal debut third in the then-King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he was sent off 6/1 favourite and found only the Australian ace Choisir and year-older Acclamation too good.

Choisir was preferred in the betting at Newmarket but Oasis Dream took his revenge under Richard Hughes, getting across onto his old rival’s coat-tails from a high draw, battling past in the final furlong and simply seeing it out best. It was Hughes’s first top-level victory on home soil.

Oasis Dream takes revenge of Choisir

SAKHEE’S SECRET (Hughie Morrison)

Previous run: WON Listed Cathedral Stakes

“I was pissing myself with worry,” trainer Hughie Morrison famously stated in the immediate aftermath of Sakhee’s Secret's 2007 win. He needn’t have been quite so concerned, the son of Sakhee completing his four-timer with that memorable turn of foot he had.

Sakhee's Secret could never really repeat the form he showed that spring/summer, failing to add another win to his tally from four subsequent appearances, but everyone connected to the chestnut enjoyed their day in the sun as he held off the late thrust of Dutch Art, who had brought Classic form to the table after his third in Cockney Rebel’s 2000 Guineas earlier in the year.

Oasis Dream and Sakhee’s Secret both achieved Timeform performances ratings of 128, just 3lb shy of Mozart's stellar effort.

DREAM AHEAD (David Simcock)

Previous run: 5th in G1 St James’s Palace Stakes

Winner of the Prix Morny and Middle Park at two, Dream Ahead seemed destined to be a sprinter and it was just a pity the Commonwealth Cup wasn’t created for another four years as he’d almost certainly have run in that en route to HQ, rather than take on runaway Guineas winner Frankel over a mile at Royal Ascot.

The obvious story of the race surrounded Hayley Turner, who didn’t ride the horse before or after yet stepped up to become only the second Group 1-winning female jockey in British racing history (the first to win a G1 outright), but Dream Ahead was a fabulous bull of a horse and, despite briefly looking in traffic trouble behind rivals, ultimately got there in plenty of time to win cosily.

He went on to prove himself further still by landing the Sprint Cup at Haydock and the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp on Arc weekend.

MUHAARAR (Charles Hills)

Previous run: WON G1 Commonwealth Cup

The creation of the Commonwealth Cup as a top-notch sprinting option at Royal Ascot for horses who hadn’t quite come up to scratch as Classic milers paid dividends in the very first year when Muhaarar dropped back in trip.

Winner of the Greenham on his three-year-old debut, he’d not seen out the trip in the French Guineas and relished the stiff six at Ascot to hammer Limato and co by the best part of four lengths.

His July Cup follow-up was less straightforward, the plucky Tropics trying to nick it by getting first run a furlong and a half out, but Muhaarar quickened smartly close home once Paul Hanagan put his stick down and – after the photo was required – had won by a nose.

He went on to win the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville and the British Champions Sprint Stakes back at Ascot on Champions Day to establish himself as a true sprint champion.

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Previous run: 2nd in G1 Commonwealth Cup

Harry Angel only raced twice at two, with more than four months between the first and second outings, and you could still see him maturing with every visit to the racecourse throughout his three-year-old campaign.

Defeat in the Pavilion Stakes was followed by an odds-on win in the Sandy Lane, after which he had to settle for second again when disputing from the off and ultimately splitting Caravaggio and Blue Point in a hot edition of the Commonwealth Cup.

Clive Cox could hardly have been more confident going into the July Cup and his son of Dark Angel showed all his qualities, leaving the 10/11 market leader Caravaggio a never-nearer fourth.

He was even more impressive in the Sprint Cup but, rather disappointingly, only won the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes when kept in training as a four-year-old.

U S NAVY FLAG (Aidan O’Brien)

Previous run: 9th in G1 St James’s Palace Stakes

For all that Aidan O’Brien speaks of City Of Troy being an “unusual” colt, it’s horses like U S Navy Flag who appear more suited by that description in my view, given he ran 11 times as a two-year-old and went from finishing down the field in the Coventry Stakes (as a thrice-raced maiden at the time) to winning the Middle Park and the Dewhurst at Newmarket.

He’d bombed out on his final run as a juvenile and didn’t appear to have trained on to any real degree when well held on his first four starts at three, but the drop back to six furlongs triggered a major resurgence in the summer of 2018.

His reputation was hanging by a thread in certain quarters but the market suggested he wasn’t unfancied (backed into 8/1 from much bigger prices) and Ryan Moore booted him into the lead on the far side. Sweating freely, U S Navy Flag didn’t see another rival and came home strongly to win by a length and three-quarters from the six-year-old stalwart Brando.

Ryan Moore and U S Navy Flag pose for a photograph


Previous run: 4th in G1 Commonwealth Cup

Another top-notch juvenile revived by the time of the July Cup, Ten Sovereigns was unbeaten in his two-year-old season but had come up short when sent off favourite for both the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot.

He was only fourth behind Advertise at the Royal meeting but he was well punted on the July Course and it was Martyn Meade’s horse who was made to play second-fiddle as Ten Sovereigns came roaring back to form under another prominent ride from Ryan Moore towards the far side of the track (though he did drift to the centre late on).

Sixth of 11 behind Battaash when sent off 13/8 fav in the Nunthorpe at York on his next start, he ended his career with a fruitless trip to Australia for the hugely valuable Everest, in which he was last of the dozen runners to go to post.

SHAQUILLE (Julie Camacho)

Previous run: WON G1 Commonwealth Cup

All bar Harry Angel of the eight names above had run over at least seven furlongs earlier in their career and Shaquille actually started out with two outings over that trip prior to finding his niche on his final couple of runs as a two-year-old.

An all-the-way winner of a York novice event in October 2022, he was ridden a shade more conservatively when defying the penalty at Wolverhampton in early-December, although what made him such a fascinating horse was his propensity to miss a length or two at the start.

He continued to do things ‘the wrong way’, all the way through from winning a Newmarket handicap on his May comeback to a stunning July Cup display just over two months later, and – as Sod’s Law dictates – when he finally consented to behave himself in the stalls and jump off with the others in the Betfair Sprint Cup, his winning run came to a shuddering halt when last of 16 at Haydock.

After Muhaarar eight seasons before him, Shaquille was the first Commonwealth Cup hero to double up at Newmarket the following month, and Inisherin’s supporters will be hoping it won’t be another eight years before the next.

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So who is the next youngster to dazzle in the Cup?

Inisherin is 2/1 favourite at the time of writing and it was hard not to be impressed by his Ascot win, when jockey Tom Eaves was clearly under instruction to keep things as simple as possible.

Boy, did he and the colt deliver, but Jasour - from the same yard as Harry Angel - definitely deserves a mention. He was beaten two and a half lengths in third but ran a very promising race and it's worth underlining the fact he improved the best part of 20lb from winning a Nottingham maiden last June to winning the principal two-year-old race at the July Festival doing handsprings. He's a best-priced 12/1 this weekend.

With Bucanero Fuerte still on the back-burner and Rosallion headed for the Sussex, the other obvious one is Simon and Ed Crisford's Vandeek.

He won the same two juvenile Group 1s as Dream Ahead but bombed out on his belated comeback in the Sandy Lane at Haydock and had to miss Ascot due to a setback. Not the ideal preparation, clearly, but the yard has had three winners, a neck second and a close third from just eight runners in the past 10 days so there's a hint they've turned a corner.

Vandeek very much has the potential to win more races at the highest level.

And what to make of River Tiber? Like the O'Brien-trained three-year-old colts called out above, one could argue he's not exactly being missed in the betting around the 10/1 mark and yet you can see why the layers might be taking the conservative approach.

He twice finished third to Vandeek last year and appeared to show improved form when third to Rosallion in the Irish Guineas first time back in May. He couldn't emulate Mozart as the Jersey Stakes plan went west (13/8 fav) but Ryan Moore referred to him as "different class" after winning last year's Coventry and they are the sort of quotes which tend to stick in your head.

Perhaps that 10/1 isn't such a bad price at all.

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