Fran Berry: Blue a Cup cracker at York for John Smith's Cup

Thundering Blue wins well at York
Thundering Blue wins well at York

Top jockey Fran Berry is back with his latest blog featuring a top ride in the John Smith's Cup, his July Cup thoughts, view on the Vibrant Chords controversy and more.

Thunder can strike in John Smith's Cup

It’s great to pick up a fantastic ride in the John Smith’s Cup aboard David Menuisier’s Thundering Blue at York on Saturday and I think I have a great chance of winning one of the most prestigious handicaps of the whole season.

You can just put a line through his Royal Ascot run last time. The ground was too firm, he was drawn wide and I’m not sure he stayed the mile and a half either.

Back at York – where he put in a career-best performance when winning a £20,000 pot at the Dante meeting – and back over 10 furlongs, I’ve no doubt that he can resume his upward progression.

He loves these big-field handicaps and who can forget his last-to-first effort at Sandown last season when he beat Monarch’s Glen? He’s a tremendous advertisement for connections and I hope I can unleash him with a winning run down the Knavesmire on Saturday.

I’ve never ridden him in a race before but I went to sit on him in a piece of work 10 days ago and was very happy. He felt great, it was just a routine piece of work but he seems in really good shape for the task in hand.

7
5
59-4OR: 100CD
6/1

His draw in five is good, too. I’m not saying you can’t win from out wide but you’re on the turn for three or four furlongs in this race and if you’re trapped out wide you’re probably using more of your horse than you’d like.

There are dangers everywhere in such a competitive race, but the Royal Hunt Cup form came to the fore last year and it could do so again with Afaak and What’s The Story stepping up.

I rode What’s The Story at Ascot and he’s a nice horse, I was very taken with him. He’s lightly-raced and is capable of stepping up while you’d think Afaak would get 10 furlongs at a track like York as well.

One thing I would say about the Hunt Cup is that the first four may have had the run of things. We raced together and finished together, with not a lot of horses getting into things on the far side, but Afaak and What’s The Story are respected along with the fast-improving Dash Of Spice.

I wouldn’t swap Thundering Blue for anything, though.

Study's Time in Silver Cup?

Earlier on at York I ride Time To Study in the John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes (2.35) and he’s a very nice ride to pick up for Mark Johnston.

He has a chance on ratings with his mark of 107 and he’s been mixing it in top handicaps as well as Listed and Group races, always being there or thereabouts.

He ran a fine race in the Sagaro behind Torcedor and I’m sure that sort of level of performance would give him a fine chance in this.

With just four rivals the race might just suit him well. He doesn’t have to lead and if My Reward wanted to set a strong pace my fellow could sit in just behind, he’s pretty versatile but the good thing is we know he stays well.

5
5
49-0OR: 107D
4/1
Last RunWatch last race


FRIDAY'S RIDES

On Friday I have a couple of rides at Ascot which I’ll quickly go through.

Golden Birthday began a fine winning spree this time last year and, though things haven’t worked out for him so far this year, he’s showing signs that he’s coming back to form.

He was value for much better than his finishing position at Newmarket last time I was badly interfered with by Addicted To You who unshipped Harry Bentley early on.

He got tired in the closing stages after being forced to make up ground following the incident, but he felt better after a mini break and I’m sure it was a step back in the right direction.

As for Kitaabaat, he’s only had one run this year but ran well for a long way over 10 furlongs at Newmarket. He might not have got the trip that day, he seemed to die a bit late on, so dropping in trip could see him in a much better light.

His form last year was good, beating Sevenna Star at Sandown, and with his comeback run under his belt I can see him running well for him on Friday afternoon.


I say Limato in July Cup

Over at Newmarket it’s the Darley July Cup and the first clash of the generations over sprint trips.

U S Navy Flag dropping back is interesting and so is Blue Point stepping back up, while the Commonwealth Cup form adds another layer of intrigue to a terrific race.

However, Limato, who I regularly see up at close quarters, seems in good form at home and I’m convinced that it was purely the trip that beat him at Royal Ascot.

5
6
69-6OR: 117CD
8/1
Last RunWatch last race

Back in a race he’s won before, he’s working well enough to have a say and he might be underestimated by the market purely because of his runs over a mile this campaign.

VIBRANT CHORDS CONTROVERSY

Limato’s owner Paul Jacobs had a horse in the news last week when I rode his Vibrant Chords to victory at Sandown, even if he wasn’t called the winner at first.

I don’t think anything in this game would surprise me anymore but this was certainly one of the stranger things I’ve been involved in.

I had no idea if I’d won when crossing the line – I wouldn’t be the best judge of a photo finish when I’m in the saddle – but I knew it was close so was disappointed when the result was called.

What happened next was bizarre. I felt very sorry for connections of Rio Ronaldo who thought they’d won and when I saw the photo it was obviously a very clear human error, the whole thing was extremely unsatisfactory.

I guess when you have one person making the call you leave yourselves open to human error. Perhaps an assistant judge or somebody they can bounce off ideas off before announcing would be a solution to something we don’t want to see happen again.

Two fillies for your trackers

I won on Melodies in a fillies’ handicap for Ed Dunlop at Doncaster on Thursday. She’s improved now switching to handicaps as a three-year-old and I think the fast ground helped her.

She actually over-raced in the first quarter mile but finished off her race really well and I can see her being competitive again next time even after she’s reassessed.

Finally, one filly to keep an eye out for next time is Henry Candy’s Quarry Beach.

She was sent off at 50/1 the other day at Kempton on debut and came out slowly, completely missing the break by some way.

However, she gave me a good feel and came home really well to be beaten just five lengths in fifth, so she’s definitely one to watch out for next time.

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