Lantern to shine
Alex Hammond shares her tips for Newmarket's July Festival and says Sky Lantern can light up.
Last Updated: 12/07/13 1:45pm
Newmarket's July Festival is one of the most enjoyable race meetings on the calendar.
Think charming garden party atmosphere, combined with summery weather and throw in some outstanding sport - the perfect combination!
I have whiled away many happy hours at this fixture and I can thoroughly recommend it. A few nice winners would be good too so let's try and find some...
The Falmouth Stakes
The Falmouth Stakes may have only attracted a field of four but it's a top class line up. Richard Hannon's 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes winner Sky Lantern bids for more Group 1 success in this mile contest and it looks like she has a great chance of doing so. She takes on the older fillies for the first time in this, but things are starting to even themselves out at this time of year and she does get a 9 lb weight for age allowance.
The older generation are represented by John Gosden's Elusive Kate and last year's winner Giofra who is trained in France by Alain de Royer-Dupre. I'm sticking with the favourite and I hope the small field isn't against her.
Moving on to Saturday and the feature race, the Group 1 July Cup. The six furlong contest has attracted a field of top class sprinters, many fresh from good efforts at Royal Ascot.
Sky Bet have King's Stand second Shea Shea as their market leader and he's a solid favourite. He didn't get the clearest of runs there behind winner Sole Power who re-opposes. That was his first run since Meydan in March too so it should have knocked any rustiness off him. Unlike Sole Power he has won over this trip, whereas Eddie Lynam's horse has yet to score over six furlongs albeit from limited opportunities. He does get his favoured fast ground though, but the trip would be of huge concern for me.
Diamond Jubilee winner Lethal Force (Adam Kirby) and three year-old Reckless Abandon (Richard Hughes) represent Lambourn trainer Clive Cox. Lethal Force beat Society Rock at Ascot in good style, reversing the form of their Duke of York performances. The worry about the former in this race is the track as Cox has mentioned in the past that he isn't sure an undulating track will suit him.
Reckless Abandon isn't straightforward and can hang to his left. He has yet to win this year after his unbeaten juvenile campaign and he needs things to fall right. The step back up to six furlongs should benefit him though.
Aidan O'Brien's Gale Force Ten is also a three year-old and he won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot over seven furlongs on his last outing. He saw the back of Reckless Abandon on a couple of occasions last term, including when third in the Middle Park. This season he drops to this trip for the first time having run over seven and eight furlongs, his runs over a mile were in the French and Irish Guineas. It's interesting that O'Brien takes the same route with this horse as he did with 2001 winner Mozart. That horse was also second in the Irish 2000 Guineas before winning the Jersey Stakes and I think he is the favourite's biggest danger.
It's tough trying to pick the winner and I've agonised between Shea Shea and Gale Force Ten. The only factor that has swayed me is the price and I'm going to go with the Aidan O'Brien horse.
There is a wide open handicap, the Bunbury Cup, run over seven furlongs and it usually pays to side with a horse who has already won over the trip. Many of the leading contenders have done just that but the lightly raced Queensberry Rules has yet to try it as his four runs have come over a mile (three times) and 10 furlongs (once).
William Haggas trains the three year-old who didn't run as a two year-old and has won two of those races both over a mile. One of those starts came in the Britannia though where he put in a great effort to finish third and was beaten less than a length. So, he shouldn't be fazed by a big field handicap like this.
Belgian Bill won the Hunt Cup last time out and can go well again with Frankie Dettori in the plate. Incidentally he has won three times over seven furlongs. Burn The Boats won a very decent six furlong handicap at the Curragh last time out for Ger Lyons. He is a winner over a mile at Dundalk, but has only had one start over seven and that was on heavy ground.
Jamie Osborne's Field Of Dream was beaten a couple of lengths in the Hunt Cup last time out and won the International Stakes over this trip last summer off a 1lb higher mark so he's not badly treated once again. Bertiewhittle hasn't won for a couple of years, trainer David Barron has booked Richard Hughes to ride. He was in the plate when second in the Victoria Cup earlier this season.
Godolphin's Famous Poet should strip fitter for his seasonal reappearance last time out and the trip suits. I understand Dance And Dance will wear headgear for the first time in a bid to refind his best form. He is another horse who has slipped to a reasonable mark. Excellent Guest is one of the horses on my shortlist. He won the Victoria Cup over this trip on his penultimate start and things conspired against him in the Hunt Cup last time out. He has his preferred ground and trainer George Margarson is having a decent campaign. This is only his third start of the season and I hope he can run into a place in a wide open race.
York - John Smith's Cup
There is also a decent card at York on Saturday with the John Smith's Cup, a great handicap to get stuck in to.
Of the horses at the top of the market Stencive deserves a change of luck having been drawn out wide when finishing second to Opinion in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot last time out. The excellent Graham Lee has been booked to ride and the horse shouldn't be inconvenienced by the drop back to this mile and a quarter trip. Let's hope the draw is kinder to him on Saturday.
The Sir Michael Stoute trained Rye House won a handicap over this course and distance last time out. He is a big horse who has shown his best form with some cut in the ground so he will have to prove he's as effective on fast summer ground. Ralph Beckett's Niceofyoutotellme comes into the race in good form having won his last two for which the handicapper has raised him 10lbs. He will appreciate the fast ground.
Area Fifty One has the burden of top weight. Richard Fahey is the leading trainer at York and he has booked George Chaloner to ride and he claims an important 5lbs off his back. I've been a big fan of Stencive this season and was with him when just beaten at Royal Ascot, so I hope he can gain compensation in this.
Grandeur in the Princess of Wales's Stakes @ 7/1 with Sky Bet
Sky Lantern in the Falmouth Stakes
Gale Force Ten in the July Cup @ 13/2 with Sky Bet
Excellent Guest in the Bunbury Cup (each way)
Stencive in the John Smith's Cup @ 5/1 with Sky Bet