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July Cup Preview: Take a couple of Brits to hit Aussie for six
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July Cup Preview: Take a couple of Brits to hit Aussie for six

Ahead of Saturday's July Cup, Ben Fearnley draws comparisons with another big Anglo-Australian sporting contest.

What do the Ashes and Newmarket’s July Cup have in common? Not much, in truth. In fact, they could counter-balance one another, at least if we’re talking in terms of national pride. The Ashes have historically been dominated by the Australians, who have won 128 of the 320 series played, compared with the 103 won by England. In the July Cup, success for the tourists has been much scarcer.

Since the turn of the century a total of 11 Australian raiders have attempted to claim one of Britain’s most prestigious sprinting prizes, and yet they’re still stuck on nought. That’s despite sending big hitters like Star Witness, Scenic Blast and even Choisir.

Why do the Australians have an ordinary record in the July Cup? Perhaps some of the big names mentioned above give a clue. They all came across primarily for Royal Ascot, sometimes taking in both the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee before being tasked with the July Cup, a third hard race in little more than three weeks.

This year’s principal Australian challenger, Brazen Beau, also went to Royal Ascot. However, he was spared the King’s Stand, running in just the Diamond Jubilee. Many, including Timeform, were of the view that he was an unlucky loser that day, isolated on the near side as the race took shape in the centre of the track. Eventual winner Undrafted got the benefit cover that Brazen Beau simply couldn’t, and it was reckoned that mattered more than the half-length that separated them at the line.

All other things being equal, Brazen Beau should reverse the form of the Diamond Jubilee. But he faces a new challenge, one not even the British contenders for the July Cup have had to deal with before: the Commonwealth Cup.

It’s a challenge that the market is clearly alive to, as Muhaarar, impressive winner of the inaugural Commonwealth Cup, is joint-favourite with Brazen Beau in many lists. We fancy that he’s the more exciting prospect. In blasting a strong-looking field by going on for four lengths at Ascot, Muhaarar left no doubt about his credentials as a sprinter. He has room to grow, too, having been campaigned for mile races prior to then- he won the Greenham before getting the worst of the draw in the French Guineas.

The Greenham is an extra little fillip for Muhaarar here, as it shows a surfeit of stamina for the trip, which is often asked for in the July Cup with its stiff finish. Form isn’t a question: receiving what we see as a generous weight-for-age allowance, Muhaarar tops Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings for this race by clear water, 3lb clear of Brazen Beau on 138p. In our view he deserves to be clear favourite and should therefore be backed.

There’s a case for saying you can hold off backing a shorter-priced runner ante-post as there is less value to be lost. It’s a fair point, so to sweeten the deal we’d advise adding G Force to the portfolio.

Though he’s beaten only three of 44 rivals faced since he won the Sprint Cup last September, G Force has suffered from bad luck as much as anything else. Drawn worst of all on Champions Day, he was blocked and stumbled in the Temple Stakes on his return and shaped as though amiss in the King’s Stand. Though not obviously short of the speed for five furlongs, he clearly has the power to see out six and has a better chance of a place at least than odds of 16/1 would imply- so long as things go his way.

Ahead of the Ashes, it’s a best-priced 4/9 that Australia will end this summer with the urn. Come what may in the cricket, we’d be hopeful that England can get its retaliation in first by winning the July Cup at Brazen Beau’s expense. Muhaarar is our Joe Root, the emerging force and obvious hero. You’re also advised to take G Force as more of a Ben Stokes- a less likely hero who might just deliver a big slog for glory.

Recommeded bets:

Back Muhaarar 1pt win

Back G Force 0.5 pt each-way

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