TV racing fans are in for a real treat this coming Saturday as the ITV crew head to Ascot, Newmarket, and York for a bumper afternoon of top-class racing action. There’s something to suit all tastes this week, from the 5f City Walls Stakes to the stamina-sapping 1m6f John Smith’s Silver Cup and just about all trips in between.
The headline act comes from HQ, as the Group 1 July Cup serves as the centrepiece to the third and final day of the excellent July Festival. On a day peppered with quality, all three tracks offer at least one contest rated at Listed level or above, in addition to a clutch of cracking handicaps. Ten races on offer means 10 winners to find, and here we give it our best shot in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:45 Ascot1711 Learning To Work Bake-Off Competition Heritage Handicap
Class 2, 5f
King’s Lynn and Rohaan bring plenty of class to the table in this opening handicap for the sprinters – having both scored at up to Group 2 level in the past. On the downside, the former has been beaten off this mark in his two most recent handicap outings, whilst the late-running style of the latter means everything will need to drop right as he steps down to 5f for the first time in two years.
The one we like for an each-way punt is last year’s third-placed finisher, Zarzyni. Beaten by only 1½l that day, when running off a mark of 104 and carrying a welter burden of 9st9lb, he gets in off only 94 here and will be shouldered with a more manageable 8st10lb. Doing his best work late in similar events on good to firm ground at York and Epsom on his two most recent outings, the slower ground here ought to be in his favour. At a double figure price, he looks worth backing to at least hit the frame.
2:00 John Smith’s Racing Handicap
Class 2, 1m
Saeed bin Suroor’s Wild Lion heads the betting in the first race from York but looks a short enough price as he steps up to a mile for the first time. Course and distance winners Blue For You and Eilean Dubh make more appeal at the head of the betting but sit one and two in the handicap and may just be vulnerable.
The one to be on for our money is the in-form La Trinidad from the yard of Roger Fell and Sean Murray. Failing to score in nine starts during an up-and-down 2022, it took him just two attempts to break his duck this season. That winning performance came last time out at Doncaster when putting the race to bed in no uncertain terms close home. He’s 5lbs higher than when winning this race in 2021 but still 1lb below his peak career rating and, with a strong pace to aim at, is fancied to get involved late in the piece.
2:20 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile Stakes
Group 2, 1m
Master Of The Seas seems likely to prove popular in the first of the day’s Group Class events. As a four-time winner at Group 3 level or above, he makes plenty of appeal on the pick of his form. There are, however, a couple of negatives in the shape of a lacklustre effort when last sighted in Meydan and the fact that he must concede a 3lb penalty to a talented field.
The classy Aldaary is interesting for William Haggas, with the ground coming in his favour, but we would like to have seen just a little more on his recent comeback following an absence of over a year. In a tricky contest, it may be worth siding with the up-and-coming Jimi Hendrix, who made short work of his 29 rivals in the Royal Hunt Cup over this course and distance last time out. Having also run out an easy winner of the Spring Cup at Newbury this season, he has earnt his shot at a Group class event and may be up to the task.
2:35 John Smith’s City Walls Stakes
Course and distance winner Regional heads the betting in this 5f event for the speedballs, on the back of successive wins at this track and Haydock. He’s certainly hard to fault on current form but has failed to make the frame in two previous outings on good to soft or worse going and may need the rain to stay away.
Moving down the list, Silky Wilkie is yet to show his best at this track, Queen Me drops to 5f for the first time, and the form of Great State’s third in a Listed event at Sandown has since taken a knock. As such, the most solid option is an each-way punt on the talented and versatile course and distance winner Chipstead.
A winner over this trip on ground ranging from soft to firm, the unsettled forecast is of little concern, and his most recent spin around here resulted in an excellent win in a quality handicap off a mark of 102. This is tougher, but he should have the race run to suit and can at least go close with his trademark late rattle.
2:50 bet365 Mile Handicap
Class 2, 1m
The market looks to have this right in favouring Havana Blue, Tafreej, and Royal Dubai. Havana Blue is the form horse and arrives at Newmarket seeking a hat-trick. He does, however, step up to a mile for the first time, which isn’t sure to suit. Tafreej and Royal Dubai are closely matched on form, having finished fourth and second in a similar event at Chester. Of the two, Royal Dubai looked to hit the line stronger that day and is taken to confirm those Chester placings switching to this stiffer track.
3:10 John Smith’s Cup Handicap
Class 2, 1m2½f
Saeed bin Suroor’s Long Tradition has earnt his position at the head of the market on the back of an impressive success over this trip at Chelmsford in June. The lightly raced six-year-old is, however, zero from four on turf and can be passed over until proving himself as effective away from the synthetic surfaces. Second favourite Sonny Liston has decent form in the book but is zero from four over trips in excess of a mile.
With a number of firms offering additional places, this looks like an ideal contest for an each-way punt at a big price. The consistent Migration and potentially well-in Millbosque make the shortlist, but the one to most catch our eye is the Jim Goldie-trained Faylaq.
All trips seem to come alike for this son of Dubawi, who finished an excellent third in the Northumberland Plate on his most recent run. The seven-year-old has had just one previous outing over this course and distance, but it was a good one when going down by a diminishing head back in October. Only 1lb higher here, and with a strong pace guaranteed, his proven stamina may prove a potent weapon on the run to the line.
3:25 bet365 Superlative Stakes
Group 2, 7f
Richard Hannon’s Haatem boasts the strongest form on paper in this juvenile event, having finished a close-up fifth in the Coventry Stakes last time out. If able to replicate that effort, he shouldn’t be far away, but the suspicion is he may just come up short against a couple of unexposed rivals from two of the biggest yards in the game.
Aidan O’Brien’s City Of Troy is the colt the market has latched onto, and the son of Justify was pretty impressive in landing his maiden at the Curragh at the first time of asking. However, he was allowed to dictate his own fractions that day and seems unlikely to be afforded such a luxury here.
Side instead with Charlie Appleby’s Great Truth. By Dubawi and out of a mare in Beyond Reason, who was a Group 2 winner at this trip, the mount of William Buick boasts a beautiful pedigree and certainly lived up to that paper appeal when hacking up at Leicester on racecourse debut. Having won this four times in the past seven years, Appleby knows what it takes to succeed and looks to have another likely sort on his hands here.
3:45 John Smith’s Silver Cup Stakes
Group 3, 1m6f
By virtue of being proven over this distance, Hamish, Tashkan, and Get Shirty look the three to concentrate on in this event for the stayers. Of that trio, the current form of Get Shirty has to be a concern, whilst Tashkan has become something of an expert at giving himself way too much to do during his races.
Therefore, despite his advancing years, the seven-year-old Hamish is the most solid option. 9lbs clear of the field according to the official handicapper, he’s a perfect two from two over this course and distance (good to firm and soft) and warmed up for this with a strong-staying success in the Ormonde Stakes at the Chester May meeting. He’s priced accordingly but does look like the most likely winner of this and may be the most probable victor of the whole day.
4:00 bet365 Bunbury Cup
Class 2, 7f
From the smallest field of the day to the biggest, as 20 line up across the track for this hugely competitive 7f handicap. A decent case can be made for a host of these, including topweight Shining Blue, who should be suited by stepping down from a mile, and the Simon & Ed Crisford-trained Awaal, who finished a solid third in the Royal Hunt Cup.
However, the one to just get our vote is the Ralph Beckett runner, Biggles, who is surely due a change of luck in these big field handicaps. First of 14 on his side of the track in the Victoria Cup, he had to make do for second overall back in May, and a similar story unfolded in the Buckingham Palace Stakes at the Royal Meeting, when winning the race up the stands rail, only to find that the far side group had shot well clear. On the plus side, those efforts have left him on an unchanged mark of 100, and with Ryan Moore in the saddle, he shouldn’t be far away.
4:35 Pertemps Network July Cup Stakes
Group 1, 6f
As ever, the feature contest of the July Festival sees an intriguing clash of the generations as the best of the three-year-old sprinters lock horns with their elders. Leading the charge for the older runners is the Michael Dods filly Azure Blue, who has won each of her last four starts, and impressed when seeing off Highfield Princess in a Group 2 at York last time out. Also in the line-up is the shock 80/1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes winner, Khaadem, who may be a little disrespected at around the 16/1 mark and looks like an each-way player.
In the three-year-old corner, we have Commonwealth Cup 1st and 2nd, Shaquille and Little Big Bear. Aidan O’Brien’s Little Big Bear was just about the best in the business during his juvenile season but appeared to have no excuses in going down to Shaquille at Ascot, and there are no obvious reasons why the result should be any different here. That winning effort from Shaquille was all the more remarkable, considering he lost around five lengths when blowing the start. To still manage to run down a Group 1 field in the manner he did was the sign of an extremely talented sprinter. Only beaten once in seven career starts – and never over this 6f trip – he is fancied to land another big pot for the Julie Camacho operation.