Get ready, everyone! One of the most prestigious race meets in England is set to begin on July 9th, that being the Newmarket July meeting at Newmarket racecourse. The opening-day card features eight exceptional races full of talented horses and competitive fields, including a trio of major stakes races. Here are some thoughts on each race!
Race 1: Bahrain Trophy (Eng-III)
13 furlongs for 3yos
A field of seven will contest this thirteen-furlong race, led by the John Gosden-trained runner Mr Singh. The colt finished a strong second in the twelve-furlong King Edward VII Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot in his most recent start, and off that effort, he is a very heavy favorite to win. But after tiring late in the Kind Edward VII, will he be able to stretch out another furlong while facing several quality rivals in the Bahrain Trophy?
His main opposition is expected to come from Horseshoe Bay, who won a twelve-furlong maiden race at Newmarket last time out by seven impressive lengths. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, the son of Arch will have the services of top jockey Ryan Moore in the Bahrain Trophy and figures to have a strong chance at upsetting Mr Singh if he can take another step forward.
Tommy Docc and Future Empire finished second and third, respectively, in the sixteen-furlong Queen’s Vase during the Royal Ascot meet, and while both would need to show improvement on Thursday, they shouldn’t have any trouble handling the distance of the Bahrain Trophy and could be in the mix to hit the board at solid prices.
Race 2: Arqana July Stakes (Eng-II)
6 furlongs for 2yo colts & geldings
Areen and Steady Pace, the second- and third-place finishers in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot, will square off again in the July Stakes, where the improving Areen (who finished a length in front of Steady Pace in the Windsor Castle) should have a slight edge. However, they are likely to receive a stiff challenge from the Richard Hannon-trained Eltezam, who finished third in the prestigious Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot and will have Frankie Dettori in the saddle on Thursday. He is my selection to pull off a mild upset.
Race 3: Princess of Wales’s Arquana Racing Cub Stakes (Eng-II)
12 furlongs for 3yo+
A very strong field is set to contest this twelve-furlong group II stakes, including a pair of names that will be familiar to North American racing fans: Sheikhzayedroad and Hillstar. The former shipped to Woodbine last September and won the Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. I), while the latter invaded Woodbine a month later and defeated Big Blue Kitten in the Pattison Canadian International (gr. I). Hillstar is probably the better of the pair, having proven himself to be a very capable group stakes performer, and while he did finish behind Sheikhzayedroad in the Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot last time out, that was his first start since the Canadian International, and he should show improvement in his second start of the season.
But all of that said, Hillstar will have to be very sharp to beat Mahsoob, an unbeaten four-year-old trained by John Gosden. Last time out, the colt won the ten-furlong Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot, and off that effort, he is favored to win the Princess of Wales’s. But given that this will be his first start at twelve furlongs, it might be worth trying to beat him with Hillstar and/or Second Step, who beat the talented Telescope in the twelve-furlong Jockey Club Stakes (Eng-II) at Newmarket last time out, or perhaps with Gospel Choir, who has won three straight for Sir Michael Stoute, including the twelve-furlong Fred Archer Stakes at Newmarket.
Race 4: Unibet Handicap
10 furlongs for 3yos
Muntadab is favored in this ten-furlong handicap after winning a similar race at Sandown last time out, and with only 116 pounds on his back (17 less than the highweight, he should have a very strong chance to pick up a third consecutive victory. His stablemate Dissolution disappointed when favored in the twelve-furlong King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot last time out, but cuts back in distance and takes a drop in class today that should help him return to the winner’s circle. If he goes off at 4-1 or higher, I think he’s worth a bet, especially with Ryan Moore in the saddle.
Race 5: John Deere EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Division 1)
6 furlongs for 2yo fillies
In a field comprised primarily of first-time starters, Richard Hannon’s Greenfyre is the heavy favorite after finishing second in her debut sprinting six furlongs at Newbury.on July 2nd. Among the first-time starters, the Richard Hannon-trained pair of Marenko and Winter Rose are the favorites, and both have pedigrees that suggest they should be able to sprint just fine.
Race 6: John Deere EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies’ Stakes (Division 2)
6 furlongs for 2yo fillies
The second half of race five features a ten-horse field that includes eight first-time starters, making it a rather tricky race to handicap. Mark Johnston’s Lumiere is well-regarded but bred like a stayer, as is Richard Hannon’s Madhatten. To me, this looks like a good race to watch and not bet! :)
Race 7: Hastings Direct Sir Henry Cecil Stakes
8 furlongs for 3yos
The heavy favorite in this quality field is Bossy Guest, who finished a good fourth in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Eng-I) before running third by 1 1/4 lengths in the Jersey Stakes (Eng-III) at Royal Ascot. If he brings his best race, he should be difficult to beat, and looks like a very solid favorite.
Race 8: Robinsons Mercedes-Benz Handicap
5 furlongs for 3yo+
The last race of the card features eight horses vying for supremacy of a five-furlong sprint, and it looks like a very evenly-matched race. Maljaa, third in the five-furlong Diamond Dash Handicap at Newmarket last time out, is among the favorites, along with Newton’s Law (who won a five-furlong handicap at Newmarket last time out) and Jan Van Hoof (who has won two straight handicap sprints at Pontefract and Wolverhampton.) The latter gets the best weight assighment, carrying nine pounds less than Newton’s Law and seven less than Maljaa, but I believe that Newton’s Law–despite carrying top weight–has what it takes to out-sprint his rivals and win this race.