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July Cup preview

The big race of the weekend is the Newmarket feature, the Darley July Cup. The star of the Commonwealth Cup steps up to open company, the international star who conceivably could have won with different tactics in the Diamond Jubilee, and several others who have won or gone close at the highest level. Cracking race, but is it easy as picking between the two favourites?

Lining up for another crack at a blog preview is the shrewd @RightJudgeIAm.

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Darley July Cup
Group 1, 6 furlongs
£500k
1545 local, 0045 AEST


Part of the Global Sprint Challenge series, high class and very high prestige race. Surprisingly, given how well overseas raiders have done at Royal Ascot, it is the home team that have dominated this race.

The Betting Market

The market is heavily skewed towards two horses that ran extremely well at Royal Ascot & it is 12/1 bar those two.

Muhaarar is an extremely annoying horse for me. I don't know if you remember but we bet him on just his second lifetime start when he was third to Ivawood in a Group 2 race. I said at the time that they must think the world of him to chuck him into that company so early. He went on to win the Gimcrack Stakes. This year he has won the Fred Darling and the new Group 1 6 furlong race, in very taking fashion, at Royal Ascot. He's annoying because despite having spotted him as a big talent when he bolted up on racecourse début I've not managed to back him when he has won on three of his next seven starts at 7/1, 16/1 and 10/1. There's an old saying that goes 'if you didn't go to the wedding, don't turn up for the funeral' which means, in this context, that there is now no way I can back this horse at 9/4 in this race, a race that represents by far his hardest task to date, taking on the older horses for the first time. So, despite feeling like he could very well win again I have to pass. There are some crumbs of comfort to make us feel better about taking him on and I'll discuss that in a bit.

Brazen Beau was narrowly defeated by our Undrafted (get in!) in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and he is strongly fancied to go one better without that rival to beat. He may very well go and win but at around 2/1 he makes no appeal at all when you look at the record of Australian trained runners in the July Cup. In the last 10 years, 11 Aussies have run, 5 were sent off clear favourite, none have managed to win and only two made the frame. Those are not the kind of stats that make me want to take 2/1 about a horse, however good the form.

So looking at this market, it is 12/1 bar two horses that I couldn't back with counterfeit money let alone my own bankroll, we just have to be interested here right guys? If the two favs blow out then there must be huge value elsewhere and about one in three times we can estimate the favs will blow-out.

Key Factors

As so often, age is a key factor and here the older horses really struggle. You might find a 6 or 7 year old makes the frame if they come here off the back of a top three finish in a Group 1 at Royal Ascot. None of them do and I am ruling out immediately Caspar Netscher, Jack Dexter, Sole Power, Steps and Tropics.

Now, looking at the history of this race, I cannot get away from the importance of Group 1 form. A minimum requirement is a top three, preferably a top two finish, in a Group 1 at some point. The only horses remaining that fit that criterion are:

Astaire
Anthem Alexander
Due Diligence
G Force
Muthmir

To cut to the chase, I'm looking at ASTAIRE here. The track is favouring front runners. He won the Abernant Stakes earlier in the season and was a Group 1 winner at six furlongs as a 2 year old and he just ran third in the Diamond Jubilee where he tried to make all. He is four years old, which is ideal, and is British trained (most successful group compared to Irish, French, Aussie). On this track that is favouring pace on the front end I see no reason why he should not be able to reverse form with the Aussie horse.

The 3 year old Irish filly Anthem Alexander was four lengths behind Muhaarar at Royal Ascot and although she's been placed in Gr 1, and 3 year old fillies have a decent record in the July Cup, I don't really see her reversing that form too easily.

Aidan O'Brien's Due Diligence was a good second in the Diamond Jubilee in 2014, form that would give him a leading chance here, but has been unsighted on every subsequent run. You would need a leap of faith, or close inside knowledge, to bet him to bounce back and with Ryan Moore absent from riding duties he is easily passed over.

Muthmir ran a cracker in the King's Stand Stakes only going down by half a length. He finished a nose in front of Astaire in the Duke of York Stakes and won in France earlier. Another likely to be up with the pace, he may well be the one. I just have the feeling he is better at five and the stiff finish to the winning line may be his undoing. He has a cracking draw though and is sure to trade shorter in running. Most definitely one for a 'back to lay' strategy on the exchanges, he may even trade short in running so I'll be making that play for sure.

G Force won the Haydock Group 1 sprint and was very unlucky in the Nunthorpe where he was smashed into. He could make his presence felt but is another hold up performer and has been down the field in two runs this season, be a big surprise if he were to bounce back here. Later on he may figure in the autumn faces though (Nunthorpe, Haydock, Abbaye possibly).

What about the crumbs of comfort I was speaking about with regards to Muhaarar and why I think he is worth opposing? Well, firstly, whilst 3 year olds can win this they tend to have been Group 1 winning two year olds and he wasn't. Secondly, he has been held up in all his races to date and horses are finding it hard to come from behind. Will they change riding style and keep him closer to the pace? How would that affect his performance? Not even they know. Thirdly, he won a brand new race at Royal Ascot so he will be the first one ever to attempt the double. This will be his first run against the older horses too and there is no telling at this stage how the generations will stack up. In the Commonwealth Cup, they went an absolutely suicidal gallop from the very start, so much so that Limato was completely taken off his feat and was way back before coming through to get second. I cannot believe that the front end pace in the July Cup will be as crazy nor that it will collapse as badly as it did in the Commonwealth. So, how are those crumbs of comfort for you? Big enough to make you think 9/4 about Muhaarar may not really be any value at all? Let's hope he doesn't now piss in and rub salt into my wounds. Seriously, though, I do think he is well worth opposing.

Betting Advice

Back ASTAIRE 3 points ew at 25/1

Back MUTHMIR 3 points Betfair win market

Lay MUTHMIR in running 'keep' bets


I'll be putting in a variety of 'keep' bets all the way down to 1.01 to claw back the stakes and to make a profit on all runners, won't be getting greedy. The main bet, I must stress, is the each way punt on Astaire, he ran a lifetime best last time out in a Group 1 at this trip and he should be well favoured by the track bias. Stall 8 is only OK but you cannot have everything when punting 25/1 pokes in a race where it's 12/1 bar two. For information, stalls 1 to 5 are usually the best draws and Muthmir is in two. He could get away quickly and get these in trouble hence the back to lay approach.

Hopefully, that makes at least some sense. It is the distillation of several days worth of form and trends study combined with visualisation of the race after the decs, so transferring all that 'crunched data' to you guys in an intelligible form is not so easy. Probably all sounds like gibberish ha-ha!

Fingers crossed my gibberish turns into a lovely 25/1 winning boom. As they say, I know what I mean even if you don't.

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