David Ord looks back on his favourite renewals of the Darley July Cup - starting with Chief Singer in 1984.
I've always loved the Darley July Cup.
Over the years trips to the meeting became a family tradition, enriched by various stable and stud visits.
We saw Sheikh Albadou relaxing at home on the morning of the 1992 renewal and shared at least a fraction of the disappointment the Alex Scott team felt as he went down in a three-way head-bob against Mr Brooks and Pursuit Of Love a few hours later.
That was a pulsating renewal of the race and below are six others that set the heart beating faster.
1984 – Chief Singer
The Classic crop of 1984 was very strong. El Gran Senor emerged as the cream of it but he had to quicken twice to stamp his authority on a 2000 Guineas of the ages, Chief Singer saw to that. In behind were subsequent Prix Jacques Le Marois winner Lear Fan and Rainbow Quest, who was to add an Arc and Coronation Cup to his CV.
Chief Singer was to burn brightest through the summer of the vanquished, winning the St James’s Palace Stakes by eight lengths before dropping in trip for the July Cup. It was a proper test of his sprinting credentials in against fully-fledged, proven speedsters Habibti, Committed and Never So Bold. They never had a prayer of beating him.
Settled in second-last by Ray Cochrane, the winner scythed through the field to hit the front approaching the final furlong and went on to score by a length-and-a-half. From the stalls to the line he oozed class.
1987 – Ajdal
The July Cup – and sprinting – were the rejuvenation of Ajdal – a colt who was on the verge of drifting away from the limelight after a stuttering start to his three-year-old career. He went into winter quarters as favourite for the 2000 Guineas following a juvenile campaign that culminated with an authoritative win in the Middle Park.
He reappeared with victory over Don’t Forget Me in the Craven but then the wheels came off. He was fifth home behind that rival in the Guineas itself and third to Richard Hannon’s charge when re-opposing in the Irish equivalent.
It was then onto the Derby where Walter Swinburn, who forgot to weigh in after the Curragh defeat to trigger a disqualification, jumped ship to stablemate Ascot Knight. Cochrane took over but having raced prominently to Tattenham Corner, the petrol tank emptied.
So it was if not the last – then a late – throw of the dice to head to Newmarket, halving in trip from Epsom, but it was one that led to glorious redemption. He was reunited with Swinburn, comfortable throughout the race as the pace blazed around him, and having gone to the front a furlong out, responded bravely to his rider’s urgings to fend off the persistent Gayane by a head.
Wins in the Nunthorpe and Haydock Sprint Cup followed but it was at Headquarters in July that Adjal sparked back into life. From a Derby also-ran to champion sprinter in six weeks. A remarkable transformation.
1990 – Royal Academy
Here's a colt best remembered for another victory – under Lester Piggott on an unforgettable night during the New York fall at Belmont Park. But before the Breeders’ Cup Mile triumph came in the July Cup.
A $3.5million son of Nijinsky, he was the last champion to go through the hands of the peerless Vincent O’Brien. Prior to Newmarket he had gone down by a neck to Tirol in the Irish 2000 Guineas and was another Classic aspirant successfully dropping down in trip. He did so thanks to a nerveless ride from John Reid.
It was a July Cup run at a frantic early pace, Nabeel Dancer saw to that, and Reid sat last. He switched to the outside of the field to get clear racing room at halfway and by the furlong marker was on the quarters of new leader Great Commotion and poised to pounce.
The official winning distance was only three-quarters of-a-length but he was in total control throughout the closing stages. He raced only twice more. Traffic problems meant he gave the great Dayjur too much rope in the Haydock Sprint Cup before that unforgettable stretch dash to glory in the Big Apple.
It’s for that he’ll always be remembered but at Newmarket he was a striking winner of the July Cup.
You’ll spot a theme here but connections had initially campaigned this colt as miler. He was sent off favourite for the Dewhurst as a juvenile and despite finishing third to Mujahid (connections blamed rain-softened ground for his defeat), went into the winter as 2000 Guineas favourite.
Classic aspirations had to be shelved when Tarfaa claimed his scalp at the Curragh in the March of the three-year-old campaign and from there it was to Royal Ascot where plenty of people questioned his attitude as he finished fourth in the Jersey.
Connections reached for two things – sprinting and a visor – and they were the making of him. He was sensational at Newmarket – treating 13 previous pattern winners with contempt as he smashed the track record. Travelling strongly throughout the contest, he bounded clear inside the distance to beat Bold Edge by four lengths. It was a stunning display.
He duly followed up in the Nunthorpe at York but was only seen once more, finishing sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Gulfstream Park when seemingly ill-at-ease on the dirt surface.
Stravinsky twice contested sprints on turf and was brilliant on both days. The impression he made in the July Cup will linger long in the memory.
2003 Oasis Dream
Another Middle Park winner at two, he headed straight to the King’s Stand Stakes as a three-year-old and ran as connections suggested he might, showing good speed before a lack of peak fitness told when third to Choisir and Acclamation.
All roads then led to Nemmarket and a rematch with his Australian conqueror. Revenge was sweet, John Gosden’s charge stalking Choisir through the race and taking his measure inside the distance for a length-and-a-half victory. Airwave finished well in third in a strong renewal.
The winner was another to follow up in the Coolmore Nunthorpe, producing a clock-busting display on the Knavesmire to draw comparisons with the magical Dayjur, before getting bogged down in the mud at Haydock.
He bowed out with a non-staying tenth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile but was a sprinter through and through and at Newmarket and York, one of the best I’ve seen.
Mayson wouldn't fall into that category – and might not feature too highly in many other people's list of memorable July Cup winners – but he mattered.
He mattered to Richard Fahey and Paul Hanagan, emerging forces at the time on the national stage after years of growing influence in the north.
He mattered to owners David and Emma Armstrong as they grew their breeding and bloodstock interests in Lancashire.
He was at his best on soft ground and the the weather gods delivered for him at Headquarters during the summer of 2012. It was officially heavy by the time the stalls flung open for the Group One showpiece and at no stage did Mayson look like being beaten.
He was in front after a furlong and gradually put more daylight between himself and the chasing pack. At the line he was five lengths clear of The Checka with Society Rock a further length away in third.
It was a first British Group One success for trainer and jockey and he very nearly provided them with a second in France on his only subsequent start.
He soon overcame an awkward start in the Prix de l’Abbaye and looked all over the winner only for Wizz Kid to cut him down in the dying strides.
Nothing could get within hailing distance of him at Newmarket.