David Ord has a horse-by-horse guide to Saturday's Darley July Cup and he's siding with a potential improver to shake-up the established sprinting stars.
BLUE POINT: All his best form is at Ascot and he finished strongly to overhaul Battaash and win the King’s Stand there last month. That was a career-best effort and form that sets the standard here but the race was set up for him and it will be interesting to see how he handles this very different test.
BRANDO: Won the Abernant on his reappearance and run well since, chasing home Harry Angel at York and finishing fourth behind Merchant Navy in the Greenlands at the Curragh. Tough and reliable.
DREAMFIELD: Fascinating contender who lost his unbeaten record in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot but still emerged with huge credit for one so inexperienced. He’s a work in progress for the John Gosden team and while he has nearly a stone to find with Blue Point on official ratings, he’ll have learned a great deal from his last race and we haven’t seen the best of him yet.
INTELLIGENCE CROSS: One of ten Aidan O’Brien entries, he was somewhere near his best when second in a Listed race at the Curragh last time. However, his limitations have been exposed in this company before including when last of 12 in the Diamond Jubilee.
LIMATO: Won this in 2016 and reverts to sprinting after making little impact in the Lockinge or Queen Anne. Didn’t show much spark on either occasion and while this is his trip, he has a little to prove right now.
REDKIRK WARRIOR: Teak-tough Australian sprinter who made little impact in the Diamond Jubilee and was beaten fully two furlongs out. His form was franked by Merchant Navy that day (who he beat in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington) and regular rider Regan Bayliss returns to the saddle. Dangerous to write off.
SIR DANCEALOT: Stayed on well to win the Criterion Stakes over seven furlongs here last time and fully effective at this trip. In the form of his life but needs a career best – and by some distance – to win this.
SPIRIT OF VALOR: Finished a length behind Merchant Navy in the Greenlands – and then eight-and-a-quarter adrift of him in the Diamond Jubilee. Hardly looked a Group One winner waiting to happen at Ascot for all he raced close to the strong early pace.
EQTIDAAR: Fulfilled his earlier promise by landing the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot – when he was in front earlier than ideal and wandered close home. Capable of better still he is one for the shortlist.
FLEET REVIEW: Showed great resolution to battle back and beat Intelligence Cross at the Curragh last time but only 15th in the Commonwealth Cup and has a mountain to climb.
INVINCIBLE ARMY: Beat Eqtidaar in the spring and touched off by Sands Of Mali in the Sandy Lane but well adrift of that pair at Royal Ascot last time. Clearly he’s better than that and no surprise to see him bounce back here.
SANDS OF MALI: Justified stable confidence with huge run in the Commonwealth Cup when drawn away from the bulk of the action. Travels strongly and capable of better still. Another three-year-old to consider.
SIOUX NATION: Group One winner at two but the wheels came off behind Eqtidaar and Sands Of Mali at Royal Ascot. Never travelled that day and better judged on previous form which would give him each-way claims.
U S NAVY FLAG: Tried over a mile in the French and Irish 2000 Guineas and then under a forceful ride in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Everything points to a return to six furlongs being very much in his favour and was a top class two-year-old. He could be transformed by a return to sprinting – but needs to be.
VERDICT: A fascinating renewal of the Darley July Cup. Blue Point sets the standard on form but everything fell right for him in the King’s Stand and he’s worth taking on. Eqtidaar and Sands Of Mali warrant plenty of respect, Redkirk Warrior remains a threat if anywhere near his Australian peak and U S Navy Flag has been crying out for this switch back in trip.
However I’m taking a chance with DREAMFIELD who may have been beaten in the Wokingham last time but emerged with plenty of credit that day. The experience will have done him the world of good and he looks a sprinter to follow.