After more than a month of practically unbroken sunshine, Newmarket’s July Course played host to a glorious three days of top class racing in one of the sport’s most convivial settings.
Thursday was Ladies’ Day and delivered a kaleidoscope of colour, fashion and high class competition, both on and off the track.
The meeting got underway with St Leger aspirations on trial in the Group Three Bahrain Trophy, over one mile and five furlongs.
In the event, the Tim Easterby trained Wells Farrh Go came back to his best, appreciating the step up in trip, as he beat Loxley by two lengths.
David Allan had the colt up with the pace throughout and as other rivals fell by the wayside, the Godolphin runner Loxley, came to challenge on the stands side.
But Wells Farrh Go had plenty left in reserve and as they met the rising ground, his abundant stamina came into effect and he drew away once again, for a victory that brooked no argument.
“He’s got class, and that’s exactly what you have to have to win the Leger and he’s getting there, but we’ve had to wait for him to come right. He’s a proper horse,” said Easterby, who won the St Leger in 2002 with Bollin Eric.
“If you can’t race on this ground you can’t race on anything, it’s beautiful ground.
“We were planning on heading to Goodwood next but we might chance our minds now and go to York for the Voltigeur.
“We did have Derby aspirations with him but he wasn’t ready, it’s alright saying the Derby and the Guineas are there, but if the horse isn’t ready for them you can’t go.”
After the stamina requirements of the opener, speed was at a premium in the Group Two Arqana July Stakes, with Advertise proving a cut above his rivals.
The Martyn Meade trained son of Showcasing, had finished a length second to Calyx in the Coventry Stakes, winning the race on the far rail.
That undoubted touch of class was very much in evidence on the July Course, as Advertise smoothly came from the back of the field to take it up with a furlong to race.
Travelling well under Frankie Dettori, he comfortably put the race to bed, beating Konchek by two lengths, with Charming Kid taking third.
Afterwards, a delighted Meade commented: “I was hoping he was going to win, that was the reason for being here, but I just loved the way he did it, it was fantastic and I loved it.
“Frankie gave him a great ride, he gave him time to find his stride, which he needs because he’s a big horse, and he’s one of those horses that does actually cooperate with you all of the time, he knows what’s required.
“I think he put them to bed pretty convincingly to be honest.
“The Dewhurst is a strong possibility now, but we’ve got plenty of options, which is a great position to be in. I don’t want to over-race him this year because, as I said, he’s a big horse and we want to think about his three-year-old career too.
“I think he should be a Guineas contender, looking through his pedigree I don’t see why not and at this stage I definitely consider that to be an option.”
Goldolphin’s opening winner of what would prove a highly successful meeting, came courtesy of Best Solution, in the Group Two Princess Of Wales’s Arqana Racing Club Stakes.
The only three year old in the field, Raa Atoll, disputed the early lead with Mirage Dancer, with the latter going on, tracked by Barsanti and Laaraib.
With three furlongs to race, Laaraib joined the front pair, with Raa Atoll under pressure, while Best Solution and Pat Cosgrave began to close.
The race soon developed into a duel between Mirage Dancer and Best Solution, with the latter taking a clear lead, as Duretto stayed on.
As the line approached, Mirage Dancer began to close on the leader who got home by ½ a length, with Duretto a close third.
Winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor said: “We gave him a break after Dubai because although he was only there for a short period, he ran four times. We were always going to miss Ascot and come here instead.
“He’s improved physically and has been working really well, and we’ll look at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes or the Irish St Leger and we’ll see how he goes in the future.
“Pat Cosgrave knows the horse really well, he won the Derby Trial at Lingfield on him last year, and he got the horse very relaxed and into a nice rhythm.
“I’m looking for a Group 1 for him, possibly overseas, including Australia where he could be a Melbourne Cup horse. Horses that do well over a mile-and-a-quarter or mile-and-a-half often do well in that race.”
Naval Intelligence provided Jane Chapple-Hyam with another big race winner in the Listed Edmondson Hall Solicitors Sir Henry Cecil Stakes.
The son of War Front maintained his unbeaten record with a second victory on the July Course, landing the spoils under John Egan, by 1 ½ lengths from Gabr, with Masaarr third.
The winning trainer said: “We’ve believed in this horse right from the start, we’ve made no secret of it, he’s done everything right. He’s got a lovely pedigree and although he might be small, he’s very good.
“When you have been in the game for 30 odd years and you see one like this on the gallops, you have got to have faith, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. Injuries, anything could happen so you have to run them while they are fit.
“It’s a long time since I saw one that sparkles like he does on the gallops.
“We are thinking big, races like the Cox Plate and Arlington Million are on the radar next year. We are hoping that Winx isn’t around next year, then we can go for the Cox Plate, I would love that.
“He wants firm ground so I don’t know what we’ll do in the autumn when the ground starts to change. I wouldn’t run him on soft ground.
“There are five of us in the horse and we’ve had some offers for him already but I don’t want to sell him, I would keep saying no, but you never know what’s around the corner.”
Foxtrot Lady followed in the footsteps of her half-sister Dancing Star, when landing the bet365 Handicap.
In a close finish, she just denied Stormbringer, to emulate Dancing Star, who also won the race in Jeff Smith’s colours in 2016.
Winning trainer Andrew Balding, said: “She’s in the Stewards’ Cup but she will need a bit of luck to get into it, even with a penalty, but we will take our chance and hope she does.”
Lover’s Knot continued Godolphin’s domination of the British Stallion Studs’ EBF Fillies’ Maiden, as they won the race for the third year in succession.
The daughter of Invincible Spirit had to knuckle down to beat Handmaiden by a neck, with Roger Varian’s Yourtimeisnow running a hugely promising race to finish a close third.
Lover’s Knot, holds a Lowther Stakes entry and built nicely on her encouraging debut effort on the July Course, when she finished second to Aquarius.
Trainer Charlie Appleby said: “She’s progressed from her first run and we were quite confident coming up here but I was sort of sitting on the fence because I was also hoping John Gosden’s filly Handmaiden would run well because we beat that with Quorto on his first start.
“I think I might just keep her at six furlongs for now and something like the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot. She’s a neat filly so I’m not too worried about bringing her back quite quickly.”
Friday on the July Course brought a smaller crowd than the previous day, but a card laced with quality and a championship performance in the big race.
Alpha Centauri stamped herself one of 2018’s leading lights with a dominant performance in the Group One Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket.
Seven went to post for this clash of the female mile generations, with Alpha Centauri the stand-out beforehand, after her demolition job in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.
There was little pace from the gates and Colm O’Donoghue pressed on aboard Jessica Harrington’s imposing three year old.
In behind, Clemmie began to pick up, while Altyn Orda, next to the rails, continued to travel well.
However, when O’Donoghue asked his filly for more, she lengthened her stride and devoured the hill climb to the finish, pulling further clear in the manner of a special talent.
At the line, Alpha Centauri had 4 ½ lengths to spare over Altyn Orda, who ran a cracker for second, to hold off Clemmie, who hinted that she might now be coming back to her best.
Afterwards, connections hinted that a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Mile was a possibility.
The winning trainer said: “She had to do all the donkey work today, she had to make her own running, but Colm said they weren’t going quick enough for her so he decided to go on himself.
“She just has a very high cruising speed.
“She will probably go to Deauville next, to take on the colts, and I know the Niarchos family love the Breeders’ Cup, so we have that option later in the year too, but either way the owners are keen to take on the colts now.
“The last twice we came into the races a bit under the radar but today was different, she was odds-on and I have been waking up in the middle of the night feeling a bit sick and I want to look at the race again because I didn’t really watch it.
“It’s my fault if I go and get her beaten at the end of the day, so this was a day where the pressure was well and truly on.
“She’s just an amazing filly, she really is. She is so relaxed, stands there and has all the photographs taken and just goes away. I sometimes worry that she is almost too relaxed before races but that’s just her.
“She is amazing but she relaxes, she travels and she can quicken, and the stronger the pace the better she can quicken.”
Roger Varian said of Altyn Orda: “I’m delighted with her – she has run a huge race and bounced back from a disappointing run in France. It was definitely a lesser run there than it was in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas and at Royal Ascot (in the Coronation Stakes). She is talented, she’s Group One-placed, and on the back of that, we can dream about winning at the top level with her, can’t we?
“She has run a solid race, the winner is a fantastic filly – she is outstanding, especially on fast ground. But we have to be proud of our filly. She travels and stays, and she gets this trip well. I think this is her trip and I’m not sure I would rush her up in distance. She gets the trip well, she travelled well, she tries and she has a great attitude.
“There is not much more we can say other than we have bumped into a superstar, but she beat the rest. I think she did it comprehensively, too.
“She carries some big entries and it is a long wait and she will run somewhere beforehand, but I’d really like to get her into the Sun Chariot in good form as she has got such good Newmarket form. She won the Oh So Sharp Stakes, she ran second in the Nell Gwyn and a solid fifth in the Guineas, and now a solid second here. She might not like travelling as much as she does staying at home! We’ll see how she comes out of this race, we’ll speak to her owner Mr Bizakov and then we’ll make a plan, but we’re very delighted with today.”
Fillies were also centre stage in the other big race of the afternoon, with Pretty Pollyanna routing her rivals in the Group Two Duchess of Cambridge Stakes.
La Pelosa was up with the early pace, along with Main Edition, while Pretty Pollyanna raced freely and without cover, through the first furlong.
Once on an even keel, Pretty Pollyanna carried Silvestre de Sousa to the front of the field with power and some authority.
As she gradually edged across to her right, she began to draw clear of her toiling rivals.
In behind, Frankie Dettori and Angel’s Hideaway began a run, but as the filly came under pressure, she drifted to her right and there was a concertina effect.
Main Edition became short of room and in turn she squeezed up La Pelosa, who was all but on the floor. It was a nasty moment, which impacted many of those closest to Pretty Pollyanna, who sailed serenely further clear.
At the line, Michael Bell’s daughter of Oasis Dream was seven lengths clear of Angel’s Hideaway, with Chaleur staying on nicely for third, ahead of Gossamer Wings and La Pelosa.
The winner had been put in her place by Main Edition at Royal Ascot but has clearly come on a good deal since then and she was able to reverse that form in no uncertain terms.
Winning trainer Michael Bell said: “She’s been working very well and she’s clearly improved from Ascot. She’s a lovely filly with a fantastic temperament and I would like to say she can only improve, but she probably doesn’t need to improve.
“She was visually very impressive, although because of that scrimmaging in behind one or two might have finished a little bit closer. Either way it was a very good time and she has won very easily, so you can’t be less than very impressed with her.
“It’s all a learning curve for her, she has probably learned from being in a scrap at Ascot and she’s clearly improved a lot from that run, even though we have only done one piece of work with her.
“I thought she would run very well at Ascot and she did run well, I wasn’t sure how much she improved but clearly it’s a lot.
“She’s in the Lowther but she would carry a penalty so we’ll see, we’ve got plenty of options.”
Friday’s card had started with a victory for the Richard Fahey-trained Zap, who landed the Silver Bunbury Cup.
Zap was the last to make his challenge under PJ McDonald and a late surge up the stands’ rail plundered the valuable prize by a head from the tough Swift Approval, with Fahey also training the third home, Gallipoli.
Mark Johnston has farmed the bet365 Handicap in recent times – and Communique produced a power-packed finish under Silvestre De Sousa to land a fifth success in the last six renewals of this contest, with a narrow defeat of Zaaki, with the pair clear of Berringer.
Al Hilalee lived up to his beautiful pedigree by winning on debut, in the always-informative Weatherbys British EBF Maiden Stakes.
The Charlie Appleby trained son of Dubawi, is out of the top class mare Ambivalent and is likely to be suited by middle distances next year.
However, over seven furlongs on this occasion, Al Hilalee looked very smart and had plenty of pace, to defeat Al Mureib by 3 ½ lengths, with Mount Tabora third.
The winning trainer said: “As an individual you cannot fault him, his work has been nice at home, but it was unfortunate for William because he had shown more at home but he decided to act up today despite being good at home.
“Staying is going to be his forte, he is out of a very good race mare who had her own idiosyncrasies herself, and he has shown those today, but that will teach him plenty, once he was asked to quicken he rolled around a bit so he’s entitled to come on from that.
“We’ll get him home and see where we are but I have it in the back of my mind that he could be a horse for something like the Racing Post Trophy later in the season. He’s got a bright future.”
Godolphin and Appleby’s purple patch of form continued as Hamada stayed on strongly to win the Gordon’s Handicap Stakes by seven lengths from Shraaoh.
It was the third successive victory for the son of Cape Cross, since a lay-off and Appleby suggested he could be headed to Australia, later in the year.
David Elsworth’s Rip Orff came late to agonisingly deny the game Corrosive, in the concluding Saeed Suhail Saeed Handicap Stakes.
Hugo Palmer’s Corrosive have battled his way to what looked like an unassailable lead. However, Ryan Moore galvanised Rip Orff from last to first in the final furlong, to edge this contest by a head.
July Cup Day
Once again, the hot, sunny weather prevailed on the July Course as the final day of the Moet & Chandon July Festival arrived, with a big crowd.
U S Navy Flag (right) wins the July Cup from Brando (yellow silks)
U S Navy Flag, winner of last year’s Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, showed that a stiff six furlongs is his real niche, with an impressive victory in the Group One Darley July Cup.
Fourteen went to post, with plenty of proven Group One form on display.
Ryan Moore had U S Navy Flag up with the early pace, as the field split, with Sands Of Mali leading a small group to the stands side, while the Australian challenger Redkirk Warrior, raced down the centre of the track.
The race still looked open with two furlongs to race, but U S Navy Flag pressed on, with Brando emerging from the pack.
However, the three year old had plenty in hand and pulled further clear on the uphill climb to the finish, to record his first win of what had been a disappointing season over a mile.
Brando came home second, with Fleet Review third and Sir Dancealot fourth.
This victory sealed a fourth July Cup for trainer Aidan O’Brien, previously successful with Stravinsky (1999), Mozart (2001) and Starspangledbanner (2010).
Aidan O’Brien said: “What he did last year was unbelievable. What threw us was that he was able to win a Dewhurst, after setting a strong pace and he nearly won an Irish Guineas, probably the toughest mile any horse can run, and he was absolutely out on his head in the final furlong but still kept trying, so he’s an unbelievable little horse to be doing that. He shouldn’t have been able to do that.
“To come back after running a hard mile at Ascot is incredible. He’s got a lot of natural speed, he’s pure speed and we didn’t protect him, you know, Ryan gave him a brilliant ride.
“We knew he was out of a Galileo mare and one thing he wasn’t going to do when Brando came to challenge was stop, and he didn’t.
“We were hoping that he would put on a performance today and obviously we have our eye on the Everest Stakes in Australia, he’ll probably have a little rest now, he’s had a tough time, then we’ll train him for the Everest.
“Speed is his biggest attribute but heart is his next biggest, he never lies down and is an amazing horse.
“We said we would have to give him a break after this, we’ve been pushing him hard and he deserves a rest for a while now.
“He’s very straightforward, he’s an aggressive horse who will go forward and if you want to lead him, you would have to go very hard. He’s so genuine.
“Australian racing is very strong, healthy and competitive so it’s great that we can race through the first half of the year in this country and then go down for the second half of their season.”
Kevin Ryan was left ruing what might have been, with Brando.
The colt has always run well at both Newmarket tracks, but was not helped by spreading a plate beforehand. In the race itself, Brando was drawn towards the stands rails and ended up on the wrong side of the track.
Ryan said: “We knew we had him in great shape and while we wanted to go to Royal Ascot, we just felt he was so good at Newmarket that we’d train it for this race and it nearly came off, didn’t it?
“It is a little bit gut-wrenching that it hasn’t, but I’m proud of him and we’ll try and win it next year. We’ll go to the Prix Maurice de Gheest next.
“He was in a group of four horses up the stands’ rail and we’d always prefer to be in the bigger group. In the small group, you’ve only one horse to follow and you hope it carries you far enough into the race. In the bigger group, you have two or three to follow that are going to take you there, especially Aidan’s [O’Brien’s] horse. Aidan will always have a horse who will put pace into the race, and rightly so – I’d do it myself if I had a good one.
“But I’m delighted with the way he ran. I’m obviously a little bit disappointed but I told the owners that I don’t think I’ve had him better. It’s proved that was the case. It is hard to come out second best, but someone has to come out second best. It is a long year and I’m sure he’ll find his day in the sun.”
Saturday’s racing commenced with the Group Two bet365 Superlative Stakes and a commanding performance from Godolphin’s Quorto, who emulated his sire Dubawi, in taking this race.
The Charlie Appleby-trained colt came into the contest as the least experienced of the seven runners, but with perhaps the most potential.
Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Of Good Hope cut out the running and stuck on gamely, as the field reached the uphill climb.
However, he had no answer to Quorto and William Buick, who came with a powerful run and went 3 ¼ lengths clear.
Cape Of Good Hope kept on for second, with Neverland Rock coming home third.
Winning trainer Charlie Appleby said: “We were confident today that he had come forward and the step up in trip was going to suit him.
“He’s shown some gears there and William has got off him and said he’s got a great racing mind.
“He travels sweetly in your hands and he picked up well when he hit the rising ground, so he’s an exciting horse for sure.
“Being by Dubawi, I think we’ll see more improvement as time goes on.
“The National Stakes at the Curragh looks his most likely target now, seven furlongs looks to be his trip for now, and a mile next year.”
Burnt Sugar may have been slightly reluctant to go to post, but he came back fastest of all, to land the bet365 Bunbury Cup.
The good form of Roger Fell’s North Yorkshire stable was advertised by Burnt Sugar who burst through when the gap came, late on, to win under Paul Hanagan.
At the line, Burnt Sugar was ½ a length clear of the dead-heaters Shady McCoy and Spanish City.
Winning jockey Paul Hanagan, who also won the race in 2015, said: “He showed a good attitude and knuckled down well.
“He won a handicap at Leopardstown in September and they take some winning, so he’s obviously a good horse.
“He might appreciate getting his toe in, so he’s done well to win on this fast ground.”
Ralph Beckett has done very well with fillies down the years and looks to have unearthed another gem, in the form of Antonia De Vega, who flew home towards the stands’ side of the track to make a winning debut in the Rossdales British EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes.
The well-bred £130,000 yearling, a daughter of Lope De Vega, won by 1 ¼ lengths from the eye-catching Zagitova, with New Jazz, another debutant, running well in third.
However, the winner was going away from her rivals at the line and she already looks like a filly who will thrive over slightly longer distances.
Winning jockey Harry Bentley said afterwards: “I’m really pleased with her. She’s a smart little thing, she’s very well behaved and she’s got a really good attitude.
“She travelled well and I thought coming down the dip that she might run into a place but as soon as she hit the rising ground she ran on really well.
“She’ll get further and will appreciate stepping up in trip.”
Charlie Appleby’s terrific July Festival continued with a dominant display from First Contact, who made all the running under James Doyle, in the bet365 Mile Handicap, to provide Charlie Appleby with a fifth winner of the 2018 July Festival.
Highly progressive prior to a blip in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, Doyle kept things simple and sent the Dark Angel colt straight to the front and his rivals could never get in a blow.
At the line, First Contact was 2 ½ lengths clear of Curiosity, with Argentello third.
Victory number six for Appleby, was not long in following, when Poetic Charm landed the Spa At Bedford Lodge Hotel EBF Fillies’ Handicap.
The daughter of Dubawi didn’t reappear this season until Royal Ascot where she failed to land a blow in the Sandringham Handicap, but she took a big step forward from that on ground she relished, finishing strongly to win for the third time.
In a close finish, Poetic Charm got the better of Elysium Dream by ¾ of a length, with Amandine a close third.
The winning trainer said: “We are delighted with that. We fancied her going into the Sandringham, a little bit like First Contact, but we were probably trying to be a little bit too clever with them by looking after them going into Ascot but this filly just genuinely came forward from the Ascot run and I was much more confident that she was where she needed to be today.
“James [Doyle] gave her a lovely ride and he says she wants to stay at around this sort of trip for now. She got beat on rain-softened ground in the Sweet Solera and a sound surface is quite important to her.”
Luca Cumani had to wait for the final race of the meeting, but Drill, a son of Dansili, put up a fine performance to land the concluding Saeed Suhail Saeed Handicap.
Drill stayed on stoutly under Gerald Mosse to score by 2 ¼ lengths, from Final, with Sporting Times further back in third.
Cumani said: “He’s from a fantastic family. We bought his grand dam as a yearling and it’s a family that has flourished, producing some lovely horses.
“Unfortunately he lost a shoe coming out of the stalls at Salisbury last time and the ground was quite fast, so when he was asked to pick up, he wouldn’t let himself down.
“He came back with a severely bruised foot and it took a few days to get it right.
“He’s a progressive three-year-old and we’ll look to go to Goodwood with him now, there is a mile-and-a-half handicap there for him.”
Summing up a fabulous three days, Amy Starkey, Regional Director, Jockey Club Racecourses East Region, said:
“The 2018 Moet & Chandon July Festival has been absolutely fantastic. Once again we were greeted with glorious weather which has ensured that our racegoers have enjoyed a spectacular experience of world-class racing and fantastic fashion and entertainment on our picturesque course.
“It has been a three days of momentous racing and I could not praise the ground staff here at Newmarket Racecourses enough for their tireless hard work in ensuring the ground has been perfect, despite the prolonged dry spell we have had in recent weeks.
“I would like to congratulate Aidan O’Brien for securing his fourth Darley July Cup success with U S Navy Flag, who gave us two fantastic performances at Group One level over at the Rowley Mile last autumn. His victory here today has put him firmly in the picture for landing the best international sprint prizes, and I am particularly pleased for Ryan Moore, who landed his first ever Darley July Cup win today.
“Racegoers were treated to a tremendous performance on Friday from Alpha Centauri in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes – I would not be surprised if she now puts up a similar performance against the colts next time out. It will be exciting to see.
“We are very grateful for the support of Moët & Chandon in sponsoring this special festival this year, and Newmarket Racecourses looks forward to delivering another great festival in 2019.”