SCAN through the records of European Group 1 races, you’ll not find many races with a more international roll of honour than the one provided by the Group 1 Darley July Cup (4.25).
This century, winners have come from Japan, France and Ireland, with Australia almost on the board through Choisir’s valiant effort against Oasis Dream in 2003 and the once Aussie, then Ballydoyle-trained Starspangledbanner in 2010.
Today’s running is an international affair again. Continuing the Australian challenge from Royal Ascot where their challengers went off favourite for the two big sprints, Artorius is well fancied to make a bold bid.
He made great late strides to grab third in the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee at Ascot and he sits among those at the top of the market with two other Ascot winners Perfect Power and Naval Crown and the Platinum Jubilee second Creative Force.
The home British team is headed by the impressive Commonwealth Cup winner Perfect Power, with Christophe Soumillon on track for a second Group 1 in two Saturdays.
Fresh from his Coral-Eclipse success, Soumillon is excited about continuing the partnership with Perfect Power. He said this week: “I’m very confident about him. The way he did it at Royal Ascot last time was very impressive, as we were quite far back. It showed we have a top-class sprinter on our hands.
“His turn of foot is his special weapon. For a sprinter he is able to settle very easily, and when you ask him to quicken he’s able to show that turn of foot which not so many horses have.”
The July Cup saw the first successful expedition from Japan when in 2000 Agnes World took this sprint.
The Lord Kanaloa colt King Hermes will bid to become the second Japanese-trained runner to win the prestigious Group 1 prize, 22 years after Agnes World.
Trainer Yoshito Yahagi hit the international scene in a big way last year with Loves Only You and Marche Lorraine in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf and Distaff made the headlines. Contrail won the Japan Cup, Loves Only You followed up in the Hong Kong Cup and Panthalassa, Stay Foolish and Bathrat Leon all won in Dubai on World Cup night.
Yahagi said victory in the Darley July Cup would be particularly special as his affection for Newmarket started back in 1990 during a stint with the late July Cup-winning trainer Geoff Wragg.
Yahagi said this week: “I specifically love the July Cup and the July Course. It would be an honour and I would be very pleased if that fortunate thing could happen.
Sam Freedman, who trains Artorius in partnership with his father Anthony, is also delighted with the colt since the Platinum Jubilee.
He said this week: “We think he’s improved a bit since Ascot. His coat is better and he seems a bit sharper and more switched on since the run. He’s very fresh too, and that’s the main thing. We’ve still got some unfinished business, so hopefully he can go two places better.”
The two Irish challengers have been a bit neglected in the markets with Eddie Lynam’s Group 1 Flying Five winner Romantic Proposal available at 12/1 and Michael O’Callaghan’s Twilight Jet bidding to bounce back from his disappointing Platinum Jubilee run where he was found to have a respiratory infection.
Both horses are at double figures but could out-run those odds with Eddie Lynam already having landed this big prize with Slade Power back in 2104.
Cadamosto is bidding to give Aidan O’Brien an outright record sixth July Cup win.
IT’S a quiet weekend on the home front with two flat cards and a jumps one at Sligo tomorrow where Gordon Elliott has four runners and is also represented in five of the seven races at Perth, with Sean Bowen at the helm, kicking off on the hat-trick-seeking Enki Flacke at 1.45.
Billy Lee still holds a four-winner lead over Colin Keane in the flat jockeys’ title race and has has eight rides over the two flat meetings, but Colin Keane has a good chance to pull a few back with 12 rides over the weekend meetings including two well-fancied mounts in Studio City for Michael O’Callaghan and Arriba for Willie Mullins at Navan today.
Lee and Paddy Twomey took last year’s Group 3 Brownstown Stakes with the high-class Pearls Galore and team up with Diadora in the Fairyhouse feature tomorrow.
Keane goes for a hat-trick on Affogato for his boss Ger Lyons in what is a very competitive eight-runner race.