July Festival 2019 | Handicappers Blog
Sovereigns reigns supreme
When I arrived at the July course on Saturday the news that greeted me was a huge gamble taking place on Ten Sovereigns, writes Stewart Copeland. Early morning quotes of 10/1 had soon disappeared and he’d displaced Advertise, his conqueror in last month’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, as favourite for the Darley July Cup. Come late afternoon, those who had placed such faith in the colt were more than vindicated.
With this season’s leading sprinter Blue Point retired following his Royal Ascot double, much of the pre-race talk had largely focussed on Dream of Dreams, who had narrowly failed to catch Blue Point in the Diamond Jubilee, and the aforementioned three-year-old Advertise. We couldn’t split that pair on official ratings, with both rated 119, and a fascinating clash beckoned between the older and younger generations.
However, it shouldn’t have been forgotten that the best form in the race had been posted by Ten Sovereigns when successful in last year’s Middle Park, after which he’d been credited with a rating of 120. The faith in the market suggested the combination of 6f and quick going – conditions he’d encountered in the Middle Park – would see him return to form, and so it proved in spectacular style.
The field split into two groups, one down the centre and the other coming down the stand side. Under a no-nonsense ride Ten Sovereigns was soon at the head of affairs in the centre group, displaying excellent speed and finding plenty when push came to shove around two furlongs out. He ran out a commanding winner, beating his old foe Advertise by two and three quarters lengths, with the filly Fairyland (one of two other Ballydoyle runners) a further three quarters of a length back in third.
The responsibility for publishing Ten Sovereigns’ rating rests with my Irish colleagues. After discussing the race, we settled on a figure of 122 for him. That is a particularly noteworthy achievement as it’s the highest rating posted in the race since Oasis Dream’s 125 in 2003, and also the leading figure at 6f in Europe this year.
As for those who chased him home, Advertise ran a highly creditable race despite not quite fully reproducing his Commonwealth Cup form. He left the distinct impression that this test on quicker going than at Ascot was on the sharp side for him, and the Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6.5f at Deauville – his mooted next target – looks an ideal race for him.
The next three places were filled by three-year-old fillies – that generation dominated the contest – and they give the form a solid look. All largely reproduced the level they had shown previously this season. In Fairyland’s case she deserves a special mention as she fared best of the slightly smaller group who came up the stand rail, with her being somewhat isolated from the two main protagonists late on. She ran to a rating of 110 but it would be no great surprise if there was better to come from her.
Mystery powers to Superlative success
With a trio of juvenile pattern events across the three days, the July Festival is an important staging post in the two-year-old calendar. Graeme Smith assesses the merits of the latest winners of those races…
The opening pattern race for juveniles, the Tattersalls July Stakes, saw Visinari sent off at odds-on to add to a dazzling debut on the July course last month only for him to succumb in a tight finish to a couple who’d been beaten at Royal Ascot.
In hindsight, both Royal Lytham and Platinum Star had scope for further improvement; the former having lined up for the Coventry only ten days on from his debut and then found trouble, while the latter was stepping back up in trip after a second over 5f in the Windsor Castle. Nevertheless, following on from bunched finishes to those two races, this was another that returned a below-standard winner.
The average winning performance in the July Stakes over the last five years has been around 113, and factoring in the distances between the principals this time suggested 110 for Royal Lytham. However, a speed figure stemming from the handicap over the same course and distance (supported by the sectionals) pointed to even lower and both myself and my Irish counterpart Mark Bird feel 108 is in the right region as things stand. That puts Platinum Star and Visinari (not yet eligible for a mark) on 107, with Guildsman 5lb off his Coventry figure of 106 back in fourth.
There’s every chance Royal Lytham will progress further, however. He could certainly sharpen up his act in the early stages and I have a feeling an extra furlong will help.
The Bet365 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes attracted the winners of both the Queen Mary and the Albany, and Raffle Prize produced the best performance of the season so far by a juvenile filly as she evened the score numerically with Daahyeh after having to give best on their respective debuts. Factor in the 3lb-penalty Raffle Prize conceded and this was impressive stuff.
I outlined in my Ascot blog that track records aren’t always what they seem, and Raffle Prize’s lowering of the older-horse perch by 0.59 seconds is over-egging things slightly (strong tailwind, 6f record was reset in 2017 when the start was moved), but this was still a strong time trial and it fully justifies her new mark of 111. That’s as good as any performance in the Duchess of Cambridge from the last dozen years, with the exception of Pretty Pollyanna’s 116 last summer.
The Queen Mary form is proving strong but the same can’t be said about the Albany and I’ve reined Daahyeh’s figure back 2 lb to 107. I’m not convinced she was seen to best effect here, however – she effectively gave Raffle Prize a two-length start in a race run with positive finishing splits, while this was run in a time 5 seconds faster than when her stamina won the day in the Albany (negative finishing split). I wouldn’t write her off for the Moyglare over an extra furlong just yet.
The pick of the performances at Newmarket, and indeed from the British-trained juveniles all told at this stage, likely came from Mystery Power in the Bet365 Superlative Stakes. It’s never easy to be dogmatic about the level of the Superlative given it tends to attract unexposed sorts straight out of maidens/novices, but it was certainly encouraging to see the field string out. Historical standards suggested a figure of 112 and the time went a good way to backing that up, bearing in mind this finish was slightly faster, relatively speaking, than the maiden over the same trip.
Both Mystery Power and runner-up Juan Elcano proved themselves smart on just their second career starts and it’s interesting that they beat the same horse in Subjectivist on their respective debuts. Mystery Power came out three quarters of a length ahead of Juan Elcano on a line through that rival and gained the verdict here by a length.