Starman rockets home in Darley July Cup
This year’s 6f Group 1 Darley July Cup was an eagerly awaited renewal, with no fewer than five Group 1 winners in the 19-strong field that went to post, writes Stewart Copeland.
It should have been six, but sadly the leading 6f sprinter, Dream Of Dreams, was withdrawn with injury leading up to the race. Let’s hope we see him back on the racecourse at the earliest opportunity.
Despite his withdrawal, the field boasted great strength in depth and looked one of the strongest line-ups we have seen of late. The ratings were headed by 2020 winner (and recent King’s Stand scorer) Oxted on 119. However, it was the progressive three-year-old Dragon Symbol who went off favourite, with the lightly-raced four-year-old Starman next best in the market.
As it turned out those three fought out the finish, with Starman emerging best of the trio and proving himself a sprinter right out of the top drawer. Unraced as a juvenile and highly progressive last year, he resumed in 2021 with an authoritative success in the Group 2 Duke of York on the Knavesmire in May before connections bypassed the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot when the rain came, his sole disappointing run having come on soft going in the British Champions Sprint last season.
That decision was more than vindicated on Saturday. His performance in beating Dragon Symbol by a length and a quarter, with Oxted a short head back in third, is credited with a rating of 120, which is higher than the average winner of the July Cup (119) this century. Also, the ratings of the first five home in this edition are worthy of note. They equate to an average of 116 – the norm is 114 – which emphasises the point above regarding the depth of the race.
Starman’s performance is even more meritorious considering he had a far from trouble free passage from soon after halfway, and the way he stayed on strongly up the hill at the end of such a truly-run affair was most impressive. On this evidence, the best is yet to come.
As for the placed horses, Dragon Symbol reproduced his rating of 116 from the Commonwealth Cup and Oxted also ran to that same figure. In the latter’s case, his chance was somewhat compromised by hanging badly right in the last two furlongs, which arguably cost him second.
Pacesetter Art Power ran as well as ever in finishing fourth and is credited with a rating of 115. Closely following him home was another progressive three-year old Creative Force, who reproduced his pre-race rating of 114. Successful in the 7f Jersey Stakes, he left the impression this challenge was a minimum and it will be no surprise if he has more to offer granted a stiffer test.
All in all, this was an excellent renewal of the July Cup, not just in terms of the exciting Starman, but the overall quality of the race, too. The rest of the sprint season promises plenty on this evidence.
Lantern shines brightest in Falmouth
The Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes on Friday saw the first top quality meeting of the generations amongst the European female milers and it was the three-year-olds who dominated, writes Dominic Gardiner-Hill.
The first three from the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot once again filled the same three places at Newmarket – despite very different ground – though in a slightly different order. Richard Hannon’s improving Snow Lantern (up from 112 to 115) stayed on to get the better of Mother Earth (up from 111 to 114) by half a length, with Royal Meeting winner Alcohol Free running a very creditable 113 in third after cutting out the running – she stays on her post-Ascot figure of 115.
This level drags up a couple of the beaten horses to new highs but I think it is justified. Primo Bacio (fifth) was impressive when winning her previous start at York and with a little more luck in running might have finished a bit closer last week. She’s been raised 5lb to 112 for her effort. Just Beautiful arrived unbeaten in four runs over 7f and is judged to have improved from 102 to 110 in finishing sixth.
A winning performance of 115 is well up to recent standards for the Falmouth. It’s the same level achieved by Roly Poly (2017), Alice Springs (2016) and Amazing Maria (2015), and only the exceptional Alpha Centauri’s 121 in 2018 has bettered that rating during the same period.
On the face of it, the top older fillies were put in their place but the jury is still out to some extent. Lockinge runner-up Lady Bowthorpe came home as well as anything from an impossible position and would have given the first three something to think about with more luck – she retains her rating of 117, gained when chasing home Palace Pier in the Lockinge, suggesting she might even have landed the spoils under different circumstances.
Indie Angel (114) and Queen Power (113) might have been inconvenienced by being drawn 4 and 5 respectively in a race which seemed to favour those drawn high, whilst the latter was also reported to be lame on her left fore post-race.
The other highlight over a mile at the meeting was the arrival of Baaeed in the top echelon. He had looked a horse of enormous potential when winning his first two starts and he very much confirmed that view with a smooth success in the Edmondson Hall Solicitors Sir Henry Cecil Stakes (Listed), beating a couple of rivals who represented some of the best three-year-old mile form of the year to date.
Runner-up Maximal had finished five lengths behind Poetic Flare when fourth in the St James’s Palace at Royal Ascot, suggesting that in beating the Stoute-trained colt four lengths here, Baaeed would have finished runner-up at worst in that contest, whilst third-placed One Ruler was beaten around half a length further here than he was in the 2000 Guineas in May. He is an exciting prospect and a new rating of 119 (with hopefully more improvement to come) suggests he will be more than capable of making his mark in Group 1 company as the season progresses.