The July Cup is the second of four races over 6 furlongs in the British Champion Series Sprint category and regularly attracts the crème de la crème of sprinting talent from Europe and beyond (3.50pm, Newmarket, Saturday). This year is no different, with representatives from Britain, Ireland, France and North America among the 16 runners.
Two favourites, Marchand D’Or in 2008 and Starspangledbanner in 2010, have won the July Cup in the last 10 years and this year Slade Power (3/1) heads the betting market. Edward Lynam’s five-year-old took his form to a new level when winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot three weeks ago and on that form holds Due Diligence, Aljamaaheer, Astaire, Jack Dexter and Tropics. He’s officially the highest rated horse in the race and has won on going ranging from good to firm to soft/heavy, so he must have bright prospects of adding to his Group 1 haul.
Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O’Brien has won the July Cup three times, most recently with Starspangledbanner in 2010, and saddles Due Diligence (9/2), Cougar (33/1) and Fountain Of Youth (66/1). It’ll be interesting to see how once-raced maiden winner Cougar performs at the highest level, but Due Diligence, who ‘won’ the race on the near side when second, beaten 1½ lengths, behind Slade Power in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, looks far and away his best chance. Even so, there appears no obvious reason why he should reverse the Royal Ascot form.
Spanish raider Noozhoh Canarias (6/1) remains something of an unknown quantity, but was only beaten three-quarters of a length in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, over 7 furlongs, at Longchamp last October and finished a respectable sixth, beaten 4½ lengths, in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May. He’s been off the course since but, as a free-going sort with winning form over 6 furlongs, it would be folly to write him off altogether.
Five of the last 10 winners of the July Cup started at double-figure prices, so we shouldn’t be afraid to consider some of those at longer odds. Gregorian (33/1) would be an unusual July Cup winner insofar as he’s never raced, never mind won, over 6 furlongs. That said, he only has 4lb to find with Slade Power on official ratings and looked as good as ever when winning the Group 3 Criterion Stakes, over 7 furlongs, on the July Course two weeks ago. All his wins have come on good or softer going but, with heavy showers forecast for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, some easing of the ground is not out of the question and he may be capable of springing a surprise.
Frankly, it’s difficult to see past Slade Power but, at much longer odds, GREGORIAN could be the proverbial ‘fly in the ointment’, so our betting tips advice is to have a small each-way bet on John Gosden’s (pictured above) five-year-old at best odds of 33/1 with Bet365, Betfred, BetVictor or Coral. The Newmarket trainer saddled Oasis Dream to win the July Cup in 2003, so clearly knows what’s required.