Darley July Cup 2022 Preview

Last Saturday saw the three-year-old Vadeni battle back to repel the late challenge of Mishriff in the Coral-Eclipse and, in the craziness of the political landscape, one thing is a certainty – the Darley July Cup at Newmarket looks to be another scintillating clash of the generations.

The winning prize value has increased by 15% compared to last year’s total and fourteen runners are set to line up in this premier six furlong contest. Twelve of these contested three different races at Royal Ascot – the Platinum Jubilee Stakes, the Commonwealth Cup and the Wokingham Handicap. 

Platinum Jubilee Stakes 

The Platinum Jubilee was held on good to firm ground over six furlongs. The runners were four years old or older and, throughout the meeting, there was no apparent draw bias, yet jockeys tended to come down the middle, rather than alongside the rail, which is the course the winner plotted. 

Overall, it was an even break by all runners. American runner Campanelle led in the early stages on the far side and, to begin with, Emaraaty Ana slipstreamed before moving to race alongside and Double Or Bubble assumed that position. Creative Force was on the far edge of this group. Alcohol Free was buried inside the group and was slipstreamed by Happy Romance. Artorius was last, under a patient Jamie Spencer. 

Things opened up as they passed the two-pole with Naval Crown making his challenge down the rail after the Australian runner, Home Affairs, burned out. He helped to give the Godolphin horse something to aim at. On the other side, his stablemate Creative Force had been left with a lot to do after halfway and was having to battle between Japanese runner Grenadier Guards and Minzaal. Creative Force and Naval Crown were locked in an epic tussle, which led to Naval Crown a neck ahead at the line, yet the pair were separated by a significant portion of the track. Potentially, Naval Crown outstayed Creative Force as he has strong form over a mile. It was a super performance by this son of Dubawi because he had very little company, whereas Creative Force was surrounded by rivals throughout, which probably meant the latter had to do more in the running of the race and Naval Crown had to only respond to his rider’s urgings, which he did in a willing style. Newmarket’s July course has a steep uphill finish, which will play to the strengths of horses who stay further and that is an advantage for these two.

Australian horse Artorius finished off his race incredibly eye-catchingly to dead heat for third and it is fair to assume his challenge will be better-timed during this race because Jamie Spencer will be familiar with his characteristics. He received a two day ban for whip usage and the horse was accidentally smacked across the face by a rival’s whip.

At some point within the last few furlongs, Double Or Bubble probably hit the front but wasn’t given a hard time when she had no more to give. Of the other mares in the race, Happy Romance plugged on through horses to be seventh and Alcohol Free had a coming together with Emaraaty Ana, which left them both unbalanced but he came off worse than the filly and faded.

Emaraaty Ana was last season’s Haydock Sprint Cup hero in what was a very successful season for the gelding. He placed in class one races during the early part of the year, although they were followed by two below-par runs behind Starman at York and then eleventh in the July Cup. He actually showed himself really well in the Nunthorpe over five furlongs, which put him spot on for reversing the form with Starman at Haydock. He found himself in America next with a good fourth in the Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint. However, he has made a poor start to 2022 with two fifteenth place finishes in Meydan (the first of which was when he was found to have mucus build up, which would’ve hampered his respiratory capabilities in the race) and he filled the same placing at Ascot. That isn’t possible in the July Cup as there are only fourteen runners, but he seems as though he could do with being back over five furlongs so he is interesting if he goes to the Nunthorpe.

Happy Romance and Creative Force were both behind Emaraaty Ana at Haydock, but reversed the form with him multiple times since. Happy Romance must be a delight to own – she has won six races and took connections to the biggest stages. She won a group three before the Haydock race and, after it, she finished eleventh in the Champion Sprint, which Creative Force won. Her 2022 campaign kicked off with a sensational second in Meydan with Naval Crown, Creative Force and Emaraaty Ana in behind. The form with the Godolphin horses as obviously reversed at Ascot, where the ground was potentially on the quick side for her. It is likely to be fast at Newmarket for the July Cup.

Creative Force is only a four-year-old, but it feels like he has been around for much longer. The gelding operation he received at the end of his two-year-old campaign worked wonders as he rattled up a four timer after turning three and it culminated in winning the Jersey Stakes. His fifth in this race last year was good and, next time, he was far too keen when returning to seven furlongs on soft ground. The good to firm ground, uncharacteristic of Haydock, ruined his chances in the Sprint Cup and he returned to winning ways in the Champion Stakes – a very successful three-year-old campaign. He was found to be lame after Meydan in March when he finished fourteenth and the Ascot run obviously shows that he handles fast ground, but some cut in the ground would heighten his chances.

He is closely matched with his stablemate, Naval Crown, seemingly. Naval Crown comes out best when comparing their races against each other because Creative Force sustained an injury when racing in Meydan when Naval Crown was fourth. The latter started his career over seven furlongs with his two-year-old season ending with two third places in group three company, one of which was over a mile on heavy ground. He won a listed race over a mile in Meydan at the beginning of 2022 and was campaigned with the Guineas in mind, finishing second in the Free Handicap and fourth in the 2000 Guineas. After this, he dropped back to seven furlongs to be second to Creative Force in the Jersey Stakes and he was then eighth in the Prix Jean Prat. This season, he won a group two over seven furlongs, before finishing down the field in to more races in Riyadh and Meydan. The Platinum Jubilee was only his second ever start over six furlongs and he was so impressive: he’ll definitely be hard to beat in the July Cup.

Only a neck and half length split Naval Crown, Creative Force and Artorius when the Aussie dead-heated with Campanelle. He has to carry 9st8 like the older horses as, even though he is three-years-old currently, he will be a four-year-old in October as he is a southern-hemisphere bred colt. He won a group one at two and received over £150,000 more than what he would win if he passed the post first in this contest. British racing holds prestige, which is probably why they are campaigning him over here, and he has been ultra-consistent back home, but his form slightly worsened with his two runs before he came to England. His British rating puts him well within the top contenders and a big run can be expected.

2020 July Cup hero Oxted at home at the beginning of the season.

Double Or Bubble won the Abernant Stakes on seasonal reappearance, like Oxted did on the way to his July Cup victory. However, she ran in the interim at Ascot and put up a bold showing before fading out of contention. The strange thing is – if one was to watch the race with no prior knowledge of the mare, then it would be fair to say she was a five furlong horse who didn’t last home over six. In actual fact, she has won over seven furlongs in the past. She has a fondness for the Rowley Mile, like her dam, who won over a mile and a half on debut in 2008 at the track. Double Or Bubble’s siblings contest races over much further than six furlongs. Jack Mitchell knows this filly very well, but, whether she is up to this calibre of contest is unlikely.

Alcohol Free won the six furlong group one Cheveley Park Stakes as a two year old and asserted herself as a top miler during the next season, winning the Fred Darling, Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes and placing in the Falmouth. She progressed into much higher company after the Sussex Stakes and was somewhat found out, causing connections to drop her back to six furlongs. She comes across as a quirky, buzzy filly (remember her throwing Oisin Murphy after the Coronation Stakes last year?) and her run at this year’s Royal Ascot wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t good. The raced proved her to be vulnerable to the male sprinters and, with the three-year-olds joining in for the July Cup, she is at something of a disadvantage. However, she really is a super filly and it wouldn’t be a surprise if she was in the winners’ enclosure at four thirty this Saturday.

Commonwealth Cup 

The Commonwealth Cup is a six furlong race for three year old colts or fillies only – no geldings are allowed. It is over the same course and distance as the Platinum Jubilee and the ground was good to firm. 

Perfect Power won the race and he was buried on the flank of the far side group. To a certain extent, Christophe Soumillon was nudging the colt to keep his position in the early stages. By the closing furlongs, the two horses in front of him were going backwards, so he had to switch right to get a gap to have daylight. It benefitted him to have Ehraz on his right to help him to keep straight before finally asserting to win in excellent style. He won four out of his six races at two, including the Prix Morny and Middle Park. Connections eyed up the 2000 Guineas after he won the seven furlong Greeham Stakes. His run in the Classic wasn’t drastically bad, but they have acknowledged that sprinting is what he is good at and he returned to six furlongs for the Commonwealth Cup. He will be held up and faces a brand-new test in this race.

Flaming Rib was shrewdly campaigned over nine races in handicaps and novice races last season when he won his final four races as a two-year-old, ending in a listed race over six furlongs. He ran in the Greeenham Stakes and finished six of six, meaning any 2000 Guineas plans were ruled out. So, he went to his local track Chester instead and put in a pleasing win. He was a good second at Haydock to El Caballo, but he under performed at Royal Ascot. Flaming Rib is a brave colt by Ribchester and he’s definitely fast as he showed at Ascot when they just couldn’t go quick enough for him, but it remains to be seen if he is up to this.

It is not confirmed yet, either, that Cadamosto has actually trained on from two. He was a very early two-year-old: ready on the 21st March but then a non-runner twice. He eventually made a lovely debut and was a non-runner four more times. He was then fourth to Perfect Power in the Norfolk and seventh in the Railway Stakes. After his winter break, he was third to New York City, who was left in this race until a very late stage. This form means he has six lengths to make up on Twilight Jet. He was fifth to Tiber Flow and went to the Commonwealth Cup as a 40/1 shot. It was an interesting run, blinkered for the first time. Ryan Moore clearly had a plan and joined the larger group to his left, which meant he was able to slipstream Flotus, who has gone on to win at York in sensational style, boosting the form of these three colts. As the groups merged, Moore and Cadamosto got slightly lucky in that they still had a clear passage through. In the final half a furlong, he hung right onto the heals of Perfect Power, even when Moore had his whip in his right hand. It led to Moore having to stop riding and correct him, which was probably why he finished fourth, not second. Ten Sovereigns finished fourth in the Commonwealth Cup before winning too.

A horse who severely underperformed in the Commonwealth Cup was Twilight Jet. He scoped dirty, which explains his awkward jump from the stalls and Leigh Roche easing down before the furlong pole. Before that, he has had some good form to his name and connections have been vocal about the standard they consider him to be. He ran eleven times as a two-year-old and made five trips to England and one to America. He won a group three on the Rowley course and it looks like he has trained on after beating New York City by three lengths. He is a very fast horse and this is his biggest test.

Wokingham Handicap

The Wokingham Handicap is another six furlong race that was held on good to firm ground. 

Blackrod finished seventh and, as it is a handicap, he carried 9st3 and the number cloth twenty. He was drawn in twenty-five and it looked as though he would have to make his own running for a while, but rivals pulled to be alongside him and he had some company. He was marginally nudged along throughout and one of the first to be rousted along. To his credit, he stayed bang there for a long way, despite this. He wasn’t given a hard time when he was headed. He has only raced once in class one company so this is a massive step up in grade, but he is a course and distance winner in a big field when drawn high. On his first start of the season, he won at the other Newmarket course and he was third in the Ayr Silver Cup before Ascot. He is bred to win this, being by Mayson, who sired Oxted to win in 2020.

The Others

Romantic Proposal is an ultra-consistent Irish mare and has aged like a fine wine. She started out her career over a mile and won twice over seven furlongs as a two-year-old. She raced against a lot of English handicappers in the 2020 campaign when they went over to Ireland. Her win that season was over six and a half furlongs at the Curragh. She looked like a new filly at four, running well in class one company and winning at the Curragh again – this time in a group one, beating A Case Of You by a half-length. Her return to action in April was a good listed run over five furlongs. She has a useful combination of speed and stamina.

Last by no means least is the Japanese raider, King Hermes. He is only three years old so must have an excellent constitution to travel such a long way. He is by six-times (five of those over six furlongs) group one winner Lord Kanaloa, who absolutely romped in on his final ever start beating Slade Power and Sole Power. He has had a successful time at stud so far as the sire of Almond Eye. King Hermes is a half sibling to a filly with black type, but probably found herself just short of class one company, considering this, her career earnings are huge. Their dam didn’t win but King Hermes won on his debut, over six furlongs by two lengths. It is very difficult to tell how he stacks up against the other runners.

Draw

The graphic shows the draw of the first four home in the last three renewals of the July Cup and the 2022 renewal of the Heritage Handicap over six furlongs on the Thursday of the meeting. The most popular draw to occur is number four, which Blackrod will be jumping out of.

However, this has to be taken into consideration with the pace angles in the race. There is no confirmed font runner who is guaranteed to run from the lead. From the looks of things, the horses most likely to be prominent are Flaming Rib, Twilight Jet and perhaps Blackrod, based on their most recent few runs. This means that Naval Crown is drawn on his own again with little pace around him as Alcohol Free and Artorius are confirmed hold up horses. Emaraaty Ana could potentially be front-rank too, but, as he didn’t get home last time, connections may try a different tactic. The Japanese raider King Hermes has very good gate speed and I would love to see him bowl along in front and play catch-me-if-you-can, as he has confirmed stamina.

Verdict

PERFECT POWER could be something very special for the sprinting division. He should be suited to the July course and his allowance puts the key older horses at a massive disadvantage. Creative Force and Naval Crown will, no doubt, be huge players again at the finish with Naval Crown looking to have value in his price. Flaming Rib and Blackrod could surprise a few people as their connections wouldn’t pitch them in at the deep end without a good reason. Flaming Rib ran a massive race at Ascot and Blackrod likes the track. It would be great to have a Japanese winner and there is no reason to discount King Hermes.

Hopefully, we will be seeing another Christophe Soumillon celebration – perhaps after the horses have pulled up this time!

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