July Cup Preview & Betting Tips: First Draft @ 25/1

Wesley WardThe Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket run over six furlongs reunites the top sprinters that did battle at Royal Ascot and includes some fascinating foreign raiders (3.50pm Saturday).

Slade Power, Edward Lynam’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner, leads the market at 3/1 but favourites cannot be relied upon in this race. Only two have won it in the past ten years.

On the positive side this five-year-old son of Dutch Art, previously thought by some to need cut in the ground, proved that he can be just as effective on a faster surface at Ascot. Unlike some runners he will not be inconvenienced by rain-softened going. He finished third here last year and stands a good chance of improving on that placing for his owner-breeders, the Power family.

Lynam is double-handed, saddling Sole Power (10/1) for the same connections. This seven-year-old son of Kyllachy trounced his mainly younger rivals with his customary last minute surge to take the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot for the second consecutive year. He beat William Muir’s Stepper Point by just over a length. In his previous run he beat Robert Cowell’s evergreen Kingsgate Native in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May.

At his age you would not expect him to improve but his official handicap mark is at an all time high at 119, just a pound lower than his more fancied stablemate’s. Both his recent wins were over five furlongs and his form suggests that the extra furlong he will encounter here is not ideal. He is yet to score at this distance but he came second in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint in December, five lengths behind the Japanese star sprinter, Lord Kanaloa who has six Group 1 victories to his name.

He finished fifth in this race last year, a length behind Slade Power. It would not be a surprise to see him put in another strong performance if the ground stays on the fast side.

The Spanish challenger, Noozhoh Canarias (11/2) will certainly not be troubled by the distance. Enrique Leon Penate’s stable star was last seen in the 2,000 Guineas. He led the field until the final furlong and finished a very respectable sixth, only four lengths behind Richard Hannon’s Night Of Thunder. The Guineas form has been working out brilliantly ever since. In October Noozhoh Canarias was three-quarters-of-a-length runner-up to Karakontie in the Group 1 Grand Criterium at Longchamp over seven furlongs on soft ground.

As a three-year-old he will benefit from a 6lb weight allowance. He is the joint-highest rated runner of his age group with a mark of 116. We can expect him to blast out of the stalls and be prominent from the off. He should be suited by testing conditions and stands a very decent chance of maintaining his position to the line under Christophe Soumillon.

Aidan O’Brien’s similarly rated Diamond Jubilee runner-up Due Diligence is the 4/1 second favourite. This three-year-old son of War Front started his career in the US with Todd Pletcher and appears to be progressive since he joined O’Brien this season. He won twice at Naas over this distance in handicap and listed company before his latest appearance.

He finished a length and a half behind Slade Power having raced in the less successful group on the near side at Ascot. He was hampered at a crucial stage increasing hopes of reversing the placings if he manages to avoid trouble.

The five-year-old Aljamaaheer (7/1) finished a head behind Due Diligence at Royal Ascot under Paul Hanagan. His trainer Roger Varian decided to use blinkers on him for the first time but he appeared to be held up in the early stages and, although he stayed on well, was never going to reach the winner.

Hanagan is a very reliable pilot who is used to being at the head of affairs as retained jockey for Hamdan Al Maktoum (who likes his horses to be up with the pace). We will never know why those tactics were adopted but it seemed a strange approach on a horse that was dropping back in distance and has the stamina to win in Group company over a mile.

Blinkers are being used again here. If Aljamaaheer is allowed to bowl along from the off we will get a better idea of how effective he can be at this distance if he gets his preferred fast ground.

If the going is good or quicker it usually pays not to be greedy if you are looking for the July Cup winner. Only twice in the last decade has a horse succeeded at a price in double figures on decent ground.

One runner appears to have a chance of bucking that trend, the US raider Undrafted (25/1). Owned by the NFL star Wes Welker, Undrafted gained his first success in Group company last time out at Belmont Park on turf over six furlongs in June. His US form suggests this gelding is improving and his trainer Wesley Ward (pictured) knows what it takes to win in the UK. He thinks this horse has “a big chance of winning the July Cup” and that he is better than Cannonball. Ward sent out Cannonball to finish second in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot five years ago.

Ward is used to successful forays into England, winning the Queen Mary Stakes in 2009. He has already had a Royal Ascot winner this year (Hootenanny in the Windsor Castle Stakes) and last year he won the Norfolk Stakes with No Nay Never before that horse went on to take the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville.

At four-years-old Undrafted is the perfect age for the July Cup – they have accounted for four of the past five winners. Frankie Dettori has been booked to partner him and winning this race is apparently on his ‘bucket list.’ He will be hoping for a sound surface.

In contrast the three-year-old Hot Streak (12/1) seems at his best when there is cut in the ground. Trained by Kevin Ryan, his action is anything but elegant but it doesn’t stop him winning. He took the Group 1 Temple Stakes at Haydock in May from the front, beating David Barron’s Pearl Secret by half a length on soft ground. Most recently he started as the 3/1 favourite in the King’s Stand Stakes but finished third – that was on good ground.  Last season he was beaten half a length by his stablemate Astaire in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes over six furlongs here on good to soft. If he gets his conditions on the day he should run into a place at least.

July Cup Preview & Betting Tips Conclusion

There is strength in depth in this field and it is likely to be a close-run contest. With rain forecast things are still up in the air but both the foreign raiders have to be taken seriously. We like Noozhoh Canarias but our betting tips preference has to be for Wesley Ward’s UNDRAFTED as he offers outstanding value each-way, best priced at the current standout of 25/1 with Coral. The horse is as low as 14/1 elsewhere.