The prestigious Group 1 July Cup has attracted an exciting, international field of sprinters with a classy dozen going to post (3.50pm, Newmarket, Saturday).
Richard Fahey’s Mayson may have come in at 20/1 on the heavy going last year but he was a soft ground specialist who was left for dead on sounder surfaces. In the last decade the longest priced winner of the July Cup on good or faster ground was a 12/1 shot. So on good to firm ground we will concentrate on the chances of the market leaders.
Mike De Kock’s Shea Shea is the favourite at 5/1. He is a proven performer outside his native South Africa and has gained an official rating of 120 following his international campaign this season. After an understandably disappointing seasonal debut on January 31st in a handicap in Meydan when he was carrying nearly a stone more than the rest of the field, his form has been solid.
In his next run in Dubai he beat trainer Edward Lynam’s Sole Power by two and a half lengths in a listed race over five furlongs. He followed up with a Group 1 win over the same distance in the Al Quoz Sprint at the end of March. Sole Power was fourth.
Most recently at Royal Ascot, he started the 11/4 favourite in the Kings Stand Stakes but Sole Power got his revenge and beat him by a neck. The result suggests that any horse that went with the extreme early pace was compromised. Shea Shea was up with it throughout. The winner and the third and fourth placed horses were held up.
This six-year-old son of National Emblem is a class act but he has only encountered Group 1 company over six furlongs once, as a four year old at Scottsville in South Africa. Yes, he won, but he had just two rivals who were priced at 28/1 and 33/1. Let’s call him unproven in company of this quality. His age is also against him. Only one six-year-old has won the July Cup since 1968, John Egan’s Les Arcs in 2006. Whilst favourites have a pretty good record in this race, we have to oppose this one.
Shea Shea will meet Sole Power (9/1) again on Saturday. At first glance this fellow six-year-old and son of Kyllachy looks generously priced. It is purely academic that the handicapper has raised his rating 4lb after that Royal Ascot victory. However it suggest he now has just 3lb to find to match his classiest rivals.
The problem comes when you look at his record over six rather than five furlongs. He has not been asked to run over this distance since December 2011 when he finished with just five horses behind him in a 14-runner Group 1 at Sha Tin. He also finished well down the field at Haydock over the same distance in the Group 1 Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock two months earlier.
All his form suggests that trying his luck again over six is likely to be exactly that. There is nothing to indicate that he can overcome rivals of this quality. The stiff finish on the July course does not help either. He’s best watched.
Lynam also saddles Slade Power (14/1) for the same connections. He could only manage seventh in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot but he fell out of the stalls and was still less than six lengths behind the winner, Lethal Force. Most recently he won the Group 3 Sapphire Stakes over five furlongs at the Curragh. Unlike his stablemate, this four-year-old son of Dutch Art is proven over the distance albeit in lesser company. According to the official handicapper he has 11lb to find to figure here.
Society Rock (11/2) is a thoroughly likeable son of Rock Of Gibraltar. This six-year old trained by James Fanshawe has only had two runs this season. He is rated just 3lb lower than the best here at 117 and began by beating Clive Cox’s Lethal Force by a head over six furlongs in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes on good to soft ground at the Knavesmire. At Royal Ascot in June, the placings were reversed in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes when Lethal Force beat him by two lengths. He has to be in with a good chance.
That form makes the four-year-old and second favourite Lethal Force (5/1) a major contender here. This son of Dark Angel was bought for just 8500 euros by trainer Clive Cox and now he looks champion sprinter material. Lethal Force is still progressive and was raised 9lb on the back of his most recent win. Indeed he created a huge impression, putting the race to bed a furlong out and he looked value for further than the couple of lengths he blitzed home by. He now shares a rating of 120 with Shea Shea and the bookies obviously share the official handicapper’s view as he heads the market with that rival.
His form suggests that he is at his best on good to firm and connections put part of his marked improvement down to that fact last time. Like Society Rock, he has only had two outings this season. It would be no surprise to see him start as the clear favourite on the day. He has to be one for the shortlist.
Aidan O’Brien saddles the three-year-old Gale Force Ten (13/2). Stamina certainly will not be an issue for this son of Oasis Dream. Most recently he won the Group 3 Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot, beating Richard Hannon’s Montiridge by a head. He also finished second by three and a half lengths to his stablemate, Magician, in the Irish 2,000 Guineas in May. He had the Irish Derby winner, Jim Bolger’s Trading Leather a length and a half behind him in third.
Three-year-olds benefit from a 6lb weight allowance and have won the July Cup three times in the last decade. One of them was his sire, Oasis Dream who took the top prize in 2003. O’Brien has an impressive record in this race too and is bidding for his fourth win. Rated 114, his weight allowance puts Gale Force Ten on a par with the best in the race. This will be his fifth outing this season
Another horse with a chance of making the frame looks to be the only five-year-old in the race, Krypton Factor (18/1). This son of Kyllachy is owned and trained by the Bahrain based Fawzi Abdulla Nass. He came third by just under four lengths to Lethal Force in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 25/1. Previously he came third by less than a length in a six furlong Group 1 on tapeta in Meydan.
As a four-year-old he peaked in his fifth race of the season, winning a Group 1 on the same surface in Meydan. This will be his fifth race this season but he has 5lb to find in this contest. I would not be surprised to see him run into a place.
July Cup Tips Verdict
As the prices suggest, there looks to be little to choose between the four market leaders. The statistics indicate that the six-year-olds are up against it, casting doubts over Society Rock and Shea Shea. Fancied runners from outside Europe also have a disastrous record in the last ten years. Star Witness, Scenic Blast, Takeover Target plus Exceed And Excel all started as favourites but failed to make the frame. On that evidence, Shea Shea looks even more unlikely.
That leaves Gale Force Ten and improving Lethal Force. Gale Force Ten has had a busy season and may need further. LETHAL FORCE has the form in the book and, as a four old, is the optimum age to take the July Cup. He was simply devastating last time, showing a rare injection of speed a furlong out, and in that sort of form could put daylight between himself and this classy field. He has to be our pick to win at 5/1 with Bet365 or BetVictor.