Darley July Cup 2018: Trends, statistics, history and replays of the past ten renewals

By Andy Stephens@StevoGG
Fri 13 Jul 2018

When and where? 2.15 Newmarket on July 14. Live in HD on Racing UK, Sky Channel 426.

What Grade? Group One.

Which Course? Adnams July Course.

What Distance? Six furlongs

What Prize-money? £500,000, with £283,550 for first place.

Ages: for three-year-olds and upwards.

Weights & Allowances: three-year-olds 9st; four-year-olds and upwards 9st 6lb. Fillies and mares get 3lb allowance.

STATS & TRENDS:

Three-year-olds or older horses?:

 Muhaarar used the Commonwealth Cup as a stepping stone to July Cup glory (Ascot)
Muhaarar used the Commonwealth Cup as a stepping stone to July Cup glory (Ascot)

No fewer than 17 three-year-olds have triumphed since 1980, even though they are routinely outnumbered. Up-and-coming sprinters getting weight from their older rivals take some stopping and the introduction of the Commonwealth Cup, three years ago, may give them an additional advantage.

Indeed, two of the past three winners have used the Commonwealth Cup as a stepping stone, while Quiet Reflection was third after winning it two years ago.

That augurs well for Eqtidaar and Sand Of Mali, who dominated the finish of last month’s renewal.

The dice is loaded against contenders that are older than four - there have been only nine since 1962. That is a negative for Limato, Brando, Washington DC and Redkirk Warrior.

Australian challengers:

 Redkirk Warrior did not shine at Royal Ascot.  (Focusonracing)
Redkirk Warrior did not shine at Royal Ascot. (Focusonracing)

No Australian-trained horse has won the July Cup, despite them having numerous well-fancied runners in recent years such as Scenic Blast and Brazen Beau.

Their fancied runners have all run big races beforehand at Royal Ascot. This year, Redkirk Warrior failed to fire at the meeting but perhaps not running eyeballs out will help him.

By the same token, he’s a seven-year-old and that is a big negative.

Horses dropping back in trip:

 U S Navy Flag  drops back in distance. (PA)
U S Navy Flag drops back in distance. (PA)

The July Cup often features horses who have been tried over longer trips and they should not be discounted.

Two years ago, for instance, Limato won well after finishing fourth in the Lockinge, while Dream Ahead had run in the St James’s Palace Stakes immediately beforehand.

Stravinsky and Mozart had also previously run at up to a mile that year before flashing home for Aidan O’Brien.

This year, O’Brien seeks to pull off the same trip with U S Navy Flag, whose past three runs have been Group One races over a mile.

The majority of winners have been in action in the past month, with Limato being a rare exception two years ago. That does not augur well for Brando, who has been absent seven weeks.

Horses stepping up in trip:

Again, it is no barrier to success. Agnes World (2000), Oasis Deam (2003) and Frizzante (2004) all ran in the King's Stand Stakes en route to victory - finishing second, third and third respectively.

Blue Point attempts to pull off the double. The last to attempt it was Profitable, fourth in 2016.

Other factors:

Nine of the past dozen winners have been in the top three in the betting.

In the past 20 years, 15 winners had run at Royal Ascot on their previous start.

Elven of the past 12 had won at least three races. Eqtidaar is among the leading fancies but has only two wins to his name.

Previous Group One winning form is handy but not vital. Five of the past 11 winners had not previously struck at the highest level - including Harry Angel last year. Sakhee’s Secret (2007) had not won a Group race of any description beforehand.

History of the race:

The Darley July Cup has long been established as one of Britain's most valuable and prestigious sprint races, with many of its winners subsequently being crowned as the champion sprinter in Europe.

It was first run in 1876, with the first two renewals won by Springfield, a colt bred by Queen Victoria.

Initially classed at Group Two contest, it was elevated to Group One status in 1978 and forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

These days it is staged on the final day of Newmarket's three-day Moet & Chandon July Festival meeting.

THE PAST TEN WINNERS:

2017: HARRY ANGEL

Only ten went to post - the smallest July Cup field since 2000 - with the presence of Caravaggio, the Commonwealth Cup winner, no doubt a factor.

Aidan O’Brien’s much touted speedster, unbeaten in his previous six starts, went off 10-11 favourite but he was in trouble a little way out and was a never-nearer fourth under Ryan Moore. Instead, the finish was all about Harry Angel, who had chased him home at the Royal Meeting.

He was in control throughout the final furlong with Limato, defending his crown, coming out of the pack to chase him home.

Cox said: "He is pretty special. Lethal Force [his 2013 winner] was exceptional, breaking the track record. To have one this good is very special again. I am proud of him.”

2016: LIMATO (9-2 fav)

Limato had begun the season by finishing fourth over a mile in the Lockinge but the drop back to six furlongs, eight weeks later, showed him in his best light.

He was simply much too quick for the opposition on the prevailing fast ground - the only anxious moment for jockey Harry Bentley being when his mount jinked late on.

Suedois chased Limato home with Quiet Reflection, who had won the Commonwealth Cup on his previous start, third, and Profitable, who had landed the King’s Stand, fourth.

Henry Candy afterwards toyed with running Limato in the Sussex Stakes but resisted the urge.

"It would be rather fun if he ran in the Sussex," the trainer said. "I wouldn't rule it out totally - it's a thought.

"I thought he ran a cracking race in the Lockinge and I thought he settled very well.

"My horses weren't right at the time and I thought he got the mile that day. I've been training him pretty much to stay."

2015: MUHAARAR (2-1 jt-fav)

Two horses dominated the betting, with Muhaarar and Brazen Beau going off the 2-1 joint-favourites and nothing else being shorter than 9-1.

It was Muhaarar who came out on top but only just, the Commonwealth Cup victor needing every inch of the trip to collar front-running Tropics and win by a nose. The winner, ridden by Paul Hanagan, traded at 64-1 in-running on Betfair with the seven-year-old runner-up, who had also finished second a year earlier, almost touching 1-5.

Eastern Impact grabbed third prize at 50-1, with Aussie challenger Brazen Beau not at his best and trailing home tenth.

"He didn't really handle the track or the dip and I could only really move on him when he hit the rising ground," Hanagan said.

Muhaarar went on to extend his winning sequence in Group One races to four before being retired to stud as champion sprinter.

2014: SLADE POWER (7-4 fav)

The five-year-old was a well-backed market leader after winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and his backers never really had a moment’s concern as he breezed home under Wayne Lordan.

Tropics and Gregorian chased home home, with American raider Undrafted fourth.

Ed Lynam immediately set his sights on travelling to Australia and beating the best they had to offer.

“If he retires to stud as champion European sprinter, it’s fine but let’s give him the chance to be champion world sprinter,” he said. “Let’s bring him to where they have the best sprinters in the world and hopefully kick their ass.”

But Slade Power was well beaten Down Under, finishing lame.

2013: LETHAL FORCE (9-2)

In stark contrast to the previous year, the ground was rattling quick and officially firm.

That was always going to play to the strengths of the rapid Lethal Force, who jumped out and made all under Adam Kirby in a course record time. It had been a similar story for the grey, trained by Clive Cox, when he made all in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot on his previous start.

“The course record time is something I will cherish," Cox said. “Lethal Force deserves the plaudits today after all the reports that Adam rode them to sleep to win the race at Ascot.”

Four “S Horses” - Society Rock, Slade Power, Shea Shea, the 3-1 favourite, and Sole Power - gave vain chase.

Lethal Force lost his two subsequent races before being retired.

2012: MAYSON (20-1)

It seemed like it would never stop raining at Newmarket and as a consequence this was a rare heavy ground renewal of the famous sprint.

Mayson relished the conditions and, having led after a furlong, the four-year-old had things in the bag a long way from home. He won by five lengths from mud-loving The Cheka, with Society Rock, the 7-2 favourite, third. He was 20-1.

For both trainer Richard Fahey and two-time champion jockey Paul Hanagan it was a first British Group One triumph.

"I’ve been champion twice but it's great to get up there and win the top races,” Hanagain said.

“That was like riding my first winner again and to do it for a man without whom I wouldn't be standing here today is very special.”

Mayson ran once more, when runner-up in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

2011: DREAM AHEAD (7-1)

A historic day with the outstanding Dream Ahead, having only his sixth race, providing Hayley Turner with a first Group One triumph. In the process, she also became only the first female jockey to win outright at the highest level - Alex Greaves having dead-heated in the 1997 Nunthorpe on Ya Malak.

Turner never really had an anxious moment - cruising through the race on David Simcock’s star and beating Bated Breath by half a length, with Hitchens another length and a half back in third.

"It’s massive, really fantastic,” Turner said. "I haven’t sat on the horse before so I can’t take much credit. David has done a fantastic job and thanks to the owners for having me on board.”

Star Witness started 4-1 favourite after being placed in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee Stakes by the Aussie challenger failed to make an impact, finishing tenth.

2010: STARSPANGLEDBANNER (2-1 fav)

The four-year-old had already established himself as one of Australia’s finest sprinters before being switched to the yard of Aidan O’Brien.

He started 2-1 favourite under Johnny Murtagh, having previously landed the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, but had to work hard to overhaul dual King's Stand winner Equiano with Australian challenger Alverta belying odds of 66-1 to finish a close third.

Murtagh also picked up a six-day ban for careless riding.

"He's got some courage and great pace,” O’Brien said of the winner. “Very few horses have that much courage when they are so fast.”

Starspangledbanner finished runner-up to Sole Power in the Nunthorpe on his next start but subsequently went backwards and never won again.

2009: FLEETING SPIRIT (12-1)

The best sprinting filly since Lochsong?

Few were in the mood to argue after Jeremy Noseda’s four-year-old had tanked along and won with authority from Main Aim, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, and J J The Jet Plane, the challenger from South Africa.

Fleeting Spirit had previously beaten all bar star Australian sprinter Scenic Blast in the King’s Stand Stakes. Many expected him to follow up, reflected in him starting 11-8 favourite, but he surrendered tamely and trailed home a disappointing tenth.

“It’s good to send the Australians home packing,” Noseda sais. “I am all for international runners in these big races but I don’t think they should be subsidised when they come over here. This is the sort of moment you do this job for.”

It seemed unlikely at the time, but Fleeting Spirit never won again - her fifth in the 2010 July Cup being her final run.

2008: MARCHAND D’OR (5-2 fav)

Freddy Head had guided Anabaa to success in the 1996 July Cup and returned a dozen years later, as a trainer, to strike with five-year-old gelding Marchand D’Or. No other French-trained horse had won in the interim - and none have won since.

The dual Maurice de Gheest winner, ridden with great nerve by Davy Bonilla, had finished a close fourth 12 months earlier behind Sakhee’s Spirit.

A tricky customer, routinely led to post at a walk, he won by a head from Aidan O’Brien’s US Ranger, having still been well in rear two out.

“It was quite frightening, but Davy rode him extremely well,” Head said when asked about his jockey’s tactics. “I thought we’d be fourth at best (two out).”

James Eustace’s War Artist another half-length back in third. Astronomer Royal, another O’Brien challenger, was fourth.

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