The July Cup and Bunbury Cup will be the main betting heats of the final day of what has been a fascinating three-day July Festival. Run primarily on soft ground over the first two days, I’m working on the assumption that it dries just a touch for Saturday’s racing and will probably ride like good to soft, but a touch tacky maybe.
In addition to that there looks to be a tailwind down the straight mile section of the track – not a gale by any means, but in combination with drying ground, it might be that we see front-runners quite hard to peg back.
In the July Cup, were the Kevin Ryan-trained pair Hello Youmzain and Brando drawn anywhere other than stalls 12 and 13, then I’d be very keen on both. Events may suggest that those boxes are fine, but I’m not going to suggest backing them now without evidence to suggest so.
And so too, in the Bunbury Cup, I have a shortlist of three – they are all drawn of different parts of the track and usually like to come from off the pace, so I would be a little worried about the prevailing conditions. For reference, they are Mutamaasik, Blown By Wind and Raising Sand.
In terms of recommended selections, it is the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at 3.00 over 7f for two-year-olds that I turn, and I think there are two horses worth backing. Tom Dascombe’s unbeaten Devious Company must be backed at 9/1 each-way with William Hill. Two from two at Dascombe’s beloved Haydock, he is nicely drawn near the rail here and can lead them a merry dance on a track that should really suit his style. In addition to that, he could conceivably improve markedly for the softest ground he will have encountered.
Mark Johnston’s Kempton debut winner King Zain is the other worth a go each-way at 8/1 generally. He was a very impressive winner of his only start in a good time, and is just the big-striding galloping type that this stable excel with at this meeting year on year.
Elsewhere on a busy Saturday, there are some nice opportunities away from HQ, and three races at Ascot take my eye. First up is the Fillies’ Handicap at 2.05, and I believe the northern raider Al Rasmah has to outrun her odds of 12/1 each-way with Skybet, who offer four places. She was a real eyecatcher in the Sandringham Handicap at the Royal meeting a few weeks ago, when following through the progressive Waliyak on the wrong side. She saw out the 1m trip very well, but ultimately finished only eighth. That just means that we have an opportunity to back a really progressive filly at generous odds on a marked step down in class.
Then on to the Summer Mile at 3.15, over the 1m trip on the round course this time. It is last year’s second Zaaki, who at 8/1 each-way, is a very solid each-way bet. Chasing a strong pace on that occasion last season, he came through smoothly, only to be run down in the closing stages by the high-class Beat The Bank. It is a competitive field this year yes, but one or two will be having their seasonal reappearances and/or perhaps not suited by the way the race could pan out on the round course. Mohaather is an obvious danger after his luckless run in the Queen Anne Stakes, but Zaaki can take a large step forward for Sir Michael Stoute after his notable run behind Century Dream at Newbury.
The last bets come in the big field 5f handicap at 3.50, and there looks to be a real Ascot-style generous gallop on here, with quite a few pacesetters in opposition. That should set things up for the closers, and main one of those will be David O’Meara’s Arecibo, but at the quoted odds, he is too short for a horse who doesn’t win all that often.
Jonah Jones was an incredibly unlucky third on stable debut for Ed Walker at Haydock, and at 17/2 each-way with BetVictor, he will flying late.
Also, Venturous ran a mighty race at Newcastle last time, when making up a load of ground from the rear on a day when it was very hard to do so, on account of a strong tailwind. Venturous at 12/1 generally, looks absolutely suited to the nature of these Ascot sprints, and he must too be backed each-way.