July Festival 2018 | Handicappers Blog

17 Jul 18

U S Navy flies the flag

US Navy Flag and Ryan Moore winning The Darley July Cup Stakes

Before the 6f Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket – often the first significant clash of the year between the sprinting generations – the impression so far this season was that the older horses looked to hold the upper hand in the sprint division. However, it was a member of the younger generation dropping back in trip who came to the fore on the July Course, as Stewart Copeland explains.

That horse was Ballydoyle’s U S Navy Flag, Europe’s leading juvenile last season when completing the Middle Park-Dewhurst double. He’d run with credit over 8f previously this year, including when second in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, but the decision to drop him back in trip at Newmarket proved a masterstroke and he showed sprinting is truly his game.

Bouncing out and soon cutting out the pace in the larger group down the centre, U S Navy Flag dictated the tempo throughout under a well-judged ride from Ryan Moore. He never looked in any real danger of being caught, despite a gallant challenge from Brando, who went one better than when third in the race the previous year.

The responsibility for publishing U S Navy Flag’s new official rating lies with our Irish counterparts. After discussing the race with them we settled on a revised rating of 119, which is pretty much bang on the average for a winner of the July Cup. Though still a shade below U S Navy Flag’s peak juvenile figure of 122, his form is firmly heading back in the right direction now (his rating had actually dipped to 113 prior to the July Cup).

The aforementioned Brando deserves plenty of credit for another excellent effort, even more so considering he was drawn in the smaller group near the stand rail. He had to edge across the track to lay down a challenge to U S Navy Flag, and that possibly took its toll as he weakened close home to finish a length and three quarters back. We have him running to a figure of 114, a shade below his career peak of 116. On this evidence though he has every chance of reproducing that level when attempting to defend his crown in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville next month.

Warm favourite for the July Cup was Blue Point, the year’s highest rated sprinter on 120 following his impressive success in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot. He pulled far too hard early on off a relatively modest early gallop at Newmarket – a view backed up by no more than a respectable overall time for the race – and that surely told in the end. His connections cited that he ran too free and a drop back to 5f for the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York probably beckons for him. His rating remains unchanged.

Star Performer

Alpha Centauri and Colm O’Donoghue

Having lit up Royal Ascot with a runaway success in the Coronation Stakes, Alpha Centauri enhanced her standing with another dominant display in the Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes, writes BHA Head of Handicapping Dominic Gardiner-Hill.

Rated 122 after Ascot, Alpha Centauri was the clear standout on form in the Falmouth and she had little trouble completing a Group 1 hat-trick, making just about all and stretching clear from 3f out.

The Falmouth is tricky race to level with absolute confidence at the moment with the likes of Nyaleti (4th; pre-race 109), Threading (6th; 110) and Opal Tiara (7th; 110) obviously performing below their best, and the places behind Jessica Harrington’s filly were filled by outsider Altyn Orda (2nd; 108) and Clemmie (3rd), the latter having been some way off her 2yo figure of 115 in two previous starts this season.

Historically the race stacks up from a form perspective, however, and I see no obvious reason at this stage why this year’s renewal should prove an exception. Looking at previous results and the level of performance required to make the frame, there hasn’t been a third place performance in the Falmouth lower than 110 since 2006 and I have taken this fact to provide a short-term guide to last week’s race. As such, I have Alpha Centauri performing to 121+, which is the best Falmouth winning performance since my records began in 1999, beating the brace of 119s recorded by Soviet Song in 2004 and 2005. Altyn Orda improved 4lb to 112 and Clemmie got much closer to her juvenile form with a figure of 110.

I highlighted the process of looking at historical levels of races when assessing last month’s Queen Anne at Royal Ascot and the result of the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot on Saturday hopefully shows that I wasn’t too wide of the mark on that occasion.

The first four in the Summer Mile had all contested the Queen Anne and it looks as though runner-up Lord Glitters has reproduced his figure of 115, which ties in neatly with his stable companion Suedois’ (short head behind in 3rd) recapturing the pick of his 2017 form. Both were bettered however by Beat The Bank who didn’t get the clearest of passages at the Royal meeting and had to sit and suffer again for a few strides up the straight on Saturday – the gap came however and I have him running to 116+, 2lb below his current mark (and best figure of last season) of 118.

Pretty Impressive

July week at Newmarket brought a real shake-up at the top of the juvenile tree, writes Graeme Smith.

Advertise after winning The Arqana July Stakes

The first of three significant performances came from Advertise, who justified cramped odds in the Arqana July Stakes on the first day of the fixture. In a truly-run race Advertise was produced by Frankie Dettori to account for Konchek and Charming Kid by two lengths, and in the process became the latest horse to endorse the form of the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Coventry had been a muddling race, with the principals on opposite sides of the track, and under a more efficient ride this time Advertise improved on that performance in winning decisively. His rating rose from 110 to 112 as a result. Incidentally, the speed figure would have supported higher still.

The balance of subsequent runs from those who took part in the Coventry suggested a collateral rise of 1lb was justified for that race. As such, Coventry winner Calyx has had his rating increased from 113 to 114. It’s worth remembering that Calyx thrashed those that raced on his side of the track by upwards of six and a half lengths, so it could well be that he was disadvantaged to some degree and is value for an even higher figure. Hopefully he’ll prove the point one way or another in the Morny at Deauville next month.

Both Konchek and Charming Kid looked likely to improve for the step up from 5f pre-race and so it proved, with the pair now rated 106 and 105 respectively having been separated by a neck at the line after the latter had hampered the former.

There’s always an element of feel when factoring subsequent improvement at a different trip into a prior race, but looking back at the Norfolk Land Force had also endorsed the form when winning a listed race in Ireland. Factoring in that Shang Shang Shang had been rated at the bottom end of Norfolk winners historically, I saw enough reason to increase the level of that race by 1lb – Shang Shang Shang is now judged to have run to 103 and Konchek is rated upsides her on his 6f form when her fillies allowance is factored in, with Charming Kid just behind.

Day two of the Newmarket fixture saw the best performance by a two-year-old filly in Europe this season, and by some way too. Pretty Pollyanna’s Albany fifth came only a week on from her debut and from a wide draw, and she proved a completely different proposition in the Bet365 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes as she turned the form around with Main Edition and La Pelosa in no uncertain terms, running out a seven-length winner.

Admittedly the waters were muddied by an ugly incident that cost several their chance, including the Albany 1-2, and that makes assessing the race tricky, but Pretty Pollyanna would have run out an impressive winner regardless.

Historical standards weren’t much use given the exaggerated distances that trouble in running produced. The speed figure was helpful though – Pretty Pollyanna ran to a figure of 110 on the clock.

Another line to the performance was that she beat the Albany fourth Angel’s Hideaway by seven lengths, which equates to 18lb at the poundage used. Whilst Angel’s Hideaway caused the interference she wasn’t adversely affected by it, and judging her as having reproduced the same 100 performance as at Ascot suggested a figure of 118 for Pretty Pollyanna. I split the difference between that and the speed figure and went with 114 in the hope that we get a more definitive guide to Pretty Pollyanna next time she runs.

Incidentally, the best performances in the Duchess of Cambridge (or Cherry Hinton as it was previously known) this century are 119 from Attraction and 115 from Sander Camillo. There’s every chance Pretty Pollyanna’s performance is in the same ballpark as Sander Camillo’s but I’ve tempered things slightly for now given the circumstances that affected several of the opposing fillies.

Quorto & William Buick winning The bet365 Superlative Stakes

The final day of the Moet & Chandon July Festival saw the emergence of another promising talent in Quorto, although in truth his wide-margin win in the Bet365 Superlative wasn’t exactly a surprise given the impression he’d made on his debut three weeks previously.

Sent off favourite, Quorto came away from a couple who were also having their first start in pattern company, with the pattern-proven Certain Lad much further back in fourth and Blown By Wind clearly not himself further back.

It’s hard to know exactly what Quorto beat on the day but historical standards point towards 114 and that is where I have pitched him for now. His speed figure also supports that sort of level and on time alone the form could be higher still (as high as 118).

Quorto is by Dubawi out of a mare who was placed in both the Oaks and Irish Oaks. It’s not hard to see him making into a genuine Group 1 horse himself, and it sounds as though the National Stakes at the Curragh could be his first top-level test.

Wells Farhh Go delivers

Wells Farhh Go and David Allan (red cap) winning The Bahrain Trophy

Three of the last four Bahrain Trophy winners have gone on to contest the St Leger and the latest victor, Wells Farhh Go, is expected to follow the same route. Matthew Tester looks at how those other winners have done and whether this year’s winner has what it takes to make in impact at Doncaster.

Wells Farhh Go had raced keenly on his first two starts this year so at Newmarket connections decided to let him bowl along.  He seemed relaxed in front and kept pulling out more as the challengers lined up, beating Loxley by two lengths. That earned him a rating of 112, which is a couple of pounds ahead of the best that Raheen House, Housesofparliament or Hartnell earned in the Bahrain Trophy before running in the St Leger. At Doncaster Housesofparliament was third, beaten under a length, though the other two each finished only seventh in their year.

The bad news for Wells Farhh Go is that the Leger has not favoured front runners in recent years, though it remains to be seen whether Wells Farhh Go has to be ridden that way to produce his best. His next run in the Great Voltigeur at York may tell us more on that score.

117 is a typical rating for winning a St Leger in recent years. Wells Farhh Go’s 112 is a career high and there may be more to come. His main rivals in the betting at present are Kew Gardens and Latrobe, who are both rated 115 on our figures. Both of those are very progressive so this may prove an above-average renewal.

Do not rule out Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee either. His 118 performance at Epsom is eight pounds higher than he has been given for any of his other runs.  However, everything about the Leger could be set up for him to produce a resurgent performance.

In short, there will have to be another step up from Wells Farhh Go if he is to cope with those three colts.