In terms of in-running tactics in the July Cup, it has generally been useful to take up a prominent position, with five of the last six winners recording an in-play symbol of either 1 or 2, meaning that they were up with the leaders from an early stage.
The pace forecast for this year’s renewal is described by the Timeform Pace Map as extreme, meaning we are likely to have a frenetic opening to the contest, with half of the 14-runner field having an in-play symbol of 1, meaning that they generally make the running in their races. As such, trying to map out the race from a pace perspective becomes something of a puzzle.
The Ballydoyle contingent are a logical starting point
As is normally the case when it comes to dissecting a Group 1 contest, the Aidan O’Brien team is a good place to start, and he is set to saddle five this time around. Four of those five, U S Navy Flag, Spirit of Valor, Intelligence Cross and Fleet Review all have in-play symbols of 1 or 2, and team tactics are very much expected to come into play here.
Ballydoyle’s strongest chance looks to be with U S Navy Flag, last year’s Dewhurst winner, who like last year is being kept busy by his trainer. He was given an overly forceful ride in the St James’ Palace Stakes over a mile last time, given little chance to see the race out. The switch to sprinting seems the logical route and it will be interesting to see if they deploy his usual front-running tactics here.
Intelligence Cross took up pacemaker duties for Caravaggio in this race 12 months ago, and it is likely he will fulfil the same role on Saturday. He finished fifth in a muddling race last year, and it is unlikely that he will be able to match that here, particularly with so many likely to be challenging for the lead. Both Spirit of Valor and Fleet Review are also generally prominent at an early stage, and are likely to sit just off the pace, though both would need to show more than they have so far this season to figure.
The best suited by the way the race could pan out of O'Brien's quintet is Sioux Nation, one of the very few hold-up performers in the line-up. He has an in-play symbol of k, meaning he generally travels well into his races, and he could be primed to strike should the race fall apart in the latter stages. He disappointed in the Commonwealth Cup last time, clearly not going with his usual zest an early stage, and looks worthy of another chance in this; he would need to take a step forward from what he has shown so far to trouble those at the top of the market, though.
Godolphin have a strong hand
The King’s Stand winner Blue Point sits clear on Timeform ratings for this, and is the one they all have to beat with the likes of Battaash, Harry Angel and Merchant Navy all absent. Whilst his performance at Royal Ascot was a career best, it was also the perfect storm for him, and it is unlikely that he will find things unfolding quite like they did that day all too often, Battaash setting a blistering pace, with Blue Point the only rival who survived the onslaught. He is likely to sit just off the leaders once again and will make another bold bid, with this extra furlong no problem; he holds the track record over six furlongs at Ascot.
Also representing Godolphin is Dreamfield, another prominent racer, who has given all the vibes that he is a Group horse in the making, and deserves his place in the line-up. He is lightly raced for his age, with just four starts to date, and whilst he lost his unbeaten record in the Wokingham last time he shaped very well, and was perhaps beaten by his lack of experience. It will be interesting to see how he copes with this marked step up in class, but his connections clearly think highly of him, and he has a number of lofty entries for the remainder of the season.
The three-year-old challenge
The Commonwealth Cup is a good barometer for considering the strength of this year’s three-year-olds, and they have a lot to live up to considering the alumni that have come out of the race in its three previous renewals. It remains to be seen if this year’s crop will be quite as celebrated, and this year’s winner Eqtidaar would need to improve again if he is to make an impact in this. He was giving a waiting ride at Ascot, leading inside the final furlong and holding on gamely, and it is likely that he will again look to attack the race in the closing stages.
Second behind Eqtidaar was Sands of Mali, who has a commendable attitude, showing a real will to win when winning the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock in May. He is likely to give it a good go, though he could well find this too hot, as could Invincible Army, who has beaten both of the above during his career but was below par at the Royal meeting.
Best of the rest
It’s easy to forget about the claims of Limato, the 2016 winner of this race, who has been campaigned over a mile in his two starts so far this term. He has something to prove in terms of form, looking like he perhaps just isn’t the force of old, but he is versatile in terms of positioning, and it is plausible that he could return to form should the drop back to six furlongs galvanise him.
Australian challenger Redkirk Warrior looked an interesting proposition for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last month, though he was well held on the day. He was sent off as the joint second favourite for the race, however, and may be worth another chance.
In an open race, an interesting alternative is Brando, who will look to make his bid as late as possible. He did very well to finish third in this last year, attacking a race run at a false gallop, and he will have a much stronger pace to aim at this time around. He was below form when last seen at the Curragh in May, not having any obvious excuses that day, but he has been freshened up since, and may be worth with conditions in his favour.
A race which is the polar opposite to last year in terms of pace, but one which has the potential to be equally as muddling. Blue Point is the one they have to beat on form, but with so many likely to be challenging for the lead, it may be worth chancing that everything falls into place for Brando, who rates as an interesting each-way proposition.
Back Brando each-way at 14/1 for Saturday’s July Cup at Newmarket