With 18 declared and the ground finally drying out to good-to-firm, this year’s July Cup looks a cracker.
Last year’s winner and European champion sprinter Muhaarar has been retired, but there’s no shortage of class among the long queue of pretenders, with the winners of the first three British Group One sprints this season, the Commonwealth Cup, Diamond Jubilee Stakes and King’s Stand, all lining up.
The quick ground has turned the formbook upside down and none of those winners – Quiet Reflection, Twilight Son and Profitable – are certain to run to the same level of form.
As such, the market is led by a couple of quick-ground lovers in Magical Memory and Limato, who are both yet to notch at Group One level but certainly don’t lack the class.
I think Magical Memory is short enough at 11/2 – particularly as he’s been beaten fair and square by Twilight Son four out of the last five times they’ve met and the one occasion where he did beat him, at York earlier this season, Twilight Son can claim a lack of match fitness.
Twilight Son is 6/1 for this, which looks a much better bet to me considering the one time in his career he’s been beaten without excuses was when running an excellent second to Muhaarar on Ascot’s Champions Day card.
He arrives on the back of that impressive win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and any ground fears are allayed by two wins on good-to-firm ground, including one at Newmarket.
At 6/1 Limato also seems solid bet on the form of his second to – you guessed it -Muhaarar in last season’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and his narrow defeat by Make Believe in the Foret at Longchamp last season, when the winner broke the track record.
Similar comments apply to the excellent Commonwealth Cup winner Quiet Reflection, who is a best price of 8/1 and, having won her last five, could hardly arrive in better nick.
If we rule Magical Memory out on price grounds, picking between the three of Twilight Son, Quiet Reflection and Limato feels like a roll of the dice, as their claims are all rock-solid.
It’s a bit of a bookmaking paradise in that sense, so instead I’m looking for a bit of each-way value – the absent Tropics’s massive run at a huge price last season proves it can be fruitful.
An entry that catches the eye is crack-miler Arod, who loves quick ground and drops to six furlongs for the first time in his career.
He’s a whopping 50/1 in places and, with such solid Group One form in the book, that alone might be enough reason to back him.
The drop back might just bring out some improvement and with several bookies going five places on the each-way terms I think he’s well worth a few quid.
However, I could make a case for many of these and would rather side with Godolphin’s JUNGLE CAT, who was agonisingly pipped in a photo by a 50/1 shot the last time we put him up, and looks a really nice price at 20/1 considering the form he’s in.
His last five starts have all been over five furlongs and he’s only been beaten an aggregate two lengths by the Palace House Stakes and King’s Stand winner Profitable this season.
Both of those runs were with significant cut in the ground, particularly the latter, and there’s every reason to believe he’ll reverse the form on this much faster surface and over the longer trip of six furlongs.
The last time he raced over six was when bolting up at Meydan in Dubai earlier this year (watch below), so he’s guaranteed to see the trip out and also certain to go on the ground.
Despite having run 12 times, as a Group horse in open company the horse is still unexposed, considering a nasty injury in last season’s Commonwealth Cup ruled him out for the rest of the season and his two-year-old form included a short-head defeat to, again, Muhaarar in the Gimcrack Stakes at York.
Not a lot has gone right for him in his career so far but, despite not a single Group race win to his name, it’s hard to doubt his class and seems very likely he’ll run another blinder.
Waady has similar form claims as he ran in all of those heats against Profitable and will appreciate the quick ground; however the step up from five furlongs doesn’t bode well on last season’s evidence so I think there are better options.
Another certainly worth a mention is Eastern Impact, who came third in this last year.
With similar conditions you’d be daft to doubt another big run and at around 33/1 he’s priced very generously indeed.
However, I’m taking last year’s renewal with a pinch of salt considering the placed horses and the fact Muhaarar only just got up to win.
It goes against the dominant other Muhaarar-linked formlines from last season and I think the winner ran well below his best.
The three-year-old sprinters were a very good bunch last season and I’d expect them, now at four, to raise the bar this year – and Jungle Cat is one of them.
Finally, a word on Air Force Blue, who I’ll admit to have backed earlier in the week at 16/1 but by the time I’d written him up the price had vanished.
He’s been dire over a mile this season on unsuitably soft ground, but his two-year-old form was outstanding and it’s significant that Ryan Moore has got off Twilight Son to ride.
With the quick ground and back to this trip he should have everything in his favour and he might be worth one last try.
I don’t think the current 12/1 on offer is value though considering the big claims of the first four in the market, but I will certainly be cheering him home should the real Air Force Blue take off.
For now we’ll stick with Jungle Cat, but morning prices could change everything and we’ve not ruled out adding more selections, so check back tomorrow or subscribe to our tips via the homepage to receive them via email.
0.75pt each-way Jungle Cat @20/1 or best morning price, 16:35 Newmarket, Saturday (SkyBet, 1,2,3,4,5, 1/4)