July Cup & Superlative Stakes Odds, Field and Betting Picks

The three-day Newmarket July meeting concludes on Saturday with the G1 July Cup, the main event of the week. Royal Ascot G1 winners Naval Crown and Perfect Power lead a strong cast-list that includes Australian star Artorius, Creative Force and Flaming Rib, with those three all G1-placed at the Royal meeting. The supporting feature is the G2 Superlative, which brings together unbeaten two-year-old colts Lion Of War, Victory Dance and Isaac Shelby.

July Cup

Group 1, £600,000, 6f turf, 3yo+

A big field of sprinters goes to the gate for the July Cup, the centrepiece of Saturday’s action at Newmarket and the main event of the week. This year there is no stand-out speedball, which has made for a hugely competitive contest with horses from four countries duelling down the straight six-furlong track.

Unusually, all but three runners come on from just two races at Royal Ascot, giving bettors clear areas to pinpoint. In recent years older horses have generally held sway over the three-year-olds, so the G1 Platinum Jubilee may be the key to unlocking the puzzle.

In that six-furlong burn-up at Ascot, the longshot Naval Crown made his breakthrough at the top level when getting up in the last few jumps to beat barnmate Creative Force by a neck, with Australian raider Artorius a dead-heat third, half a length back. Also reopposing today are Happy Romance (seventh), Alcohol Free (ninth), Double Or Bubble (11th) and Emaraaty Ana (15th), with the latter beaten just five and three-quarter lengths in what was a blanket finish across the track.

Given the nature of these big sprints, it’s unwise to expect exactly the same outcome today. That was Naval Crown’s first win at six furlongs and the stiffer track should suit, although he has never put two wins together in his life and longshot winners are often just in the right place at the right time rather than being definitively superior to the opposition. Creative Force was fifth in this race 12 months ago and would prefer softer ground – as would the filly Alcohol Free – and there’s (unusually for Britain) no rain forecast.

The unlucky horse was Artorius, who was denied a clear run at a crucial time, but given that he has to be held up and then close late, luck is a big part of his profile, and his jockey is prone to overdoing the waiting tactics in any case. He has the class to win but needs everything to go right, and may not make it through the crowd. Happy Romance and Double Or Bubble need a lifetime best, while Emaraaty Ana would be a big threat at his best but appears to have completely lost his form.

The other Royal Ascot race on which to focus is the six-furlong G1 Commonwealth Cup for three-year-olds, in which Perfect Power was a dominant winner by a length and a quarter from Flaming Rib, with Cadamosto a length further back in fourth and Twilight Jet last of the 20 runners.

After a try at a mile Perfect Power is now back doing what he’s best at, and is now a three-time G1 winner at today’s distance, although his trainer asserts that the colt prefers slightly easier conditions underfoot. Quick turf didn’t stop him at Ascot, but the caveat remains.

Flaming Rib has been supplemented for the race, has been progressive in his last three starts and could move up again. He should again be too good for Cadamosto, who is zero-for-five since his maiden win on debut, while Twilight Jet reportedly scoped badly after his Ascot blowout and is better than that, although he has never appealed as a genuine G1 contender.

The Japanese raider King Hermes is a seven-furlong/mile horse who may find things happening too fast for him, but Irish mare Romantic Proposal won the G1 Flying Five at the Curragh last year and would be right in the shake-up if reproducing that level of form. The extra furlong today is not an issue.

July Cup Betting Pick

Half a dozen can be given a big chance but CREATIVE FORCE, narrowly beaten at Royal Ascot, is the choice to gain compensation and win his second G1 sprint.

Perfect PowerChristophe Soumillon+160
ArtoriusJamie Spencer+400
Creative ForceWilliam Buick+500
Naval CrownJames Doyle+500
Flaming RibBen Curtis+1000
Romantic ProposalChris Hayes+1200
Happy RomanceSean Levey+1700
Twilight JetLeigh Roche+2000
Alcohol FreeRob Hornby+2200
CadamostoSeamie Heffernan+2500
Double Or BubbleJack Mitchell+2500
King HermesRyusei Sakai+2500
Emaraaty AnaTom Eaves+3000
BlackrodConnor Beasley+5000

Superlative Stakes

Group 2, £100,000, 7f turf, 2yo

Another short field for a major race – both Britain and the US are having problems filling races at the top level – but the Superlative looks a competitive contest with four of the five runners in close contention.

Charlie Appleby has won this race four times in the last six years, including 12 months ago with future champion juvenile Native Trail, and this time he relies on Victory Dance, who made a winning debut over course and distance last month. He was up against more experienced rivals, but showed a great attitude to keep on strongly through the final furlong and steal it on the line by a head.

Improvement is certain and his experience of the track is a plus and, although he will certainly stretch out to a mile before much longer, today’s distance should suit for the moment.

His only rival with winning form at the distance is Lion Of War, who is unbeaten in two, both at seven furlongs. He looked a good prospect on his debut at Leicester and then moved up a long way on the synthetic surface at Newcastle, clearing right away to beat a moderate bunch by ten lengths. He could be the pace angle, like so many of his trainer’s horses, and is highly regarded at home.

Brian Meehan often has a smart two-year-old in the barn and his Isaac Shelby made a big impression when an easy winner of a Newbury maiden on debut, striding three and a half lengths clear and value for more than the official margin. That was over six and a half furlongs and the extra yardage will hold no fears, although today’s ground is a fair bit faster and it remains to be seen whether he handles it.

Dark Thirty hails from a renowned two-year-old yard, but after winning on debut at Newbury he failed to cope with the rise in class at Royal Ascot, finishing fifth in a seven-furlong stakes after running rank in the early stages. He may be better than that and shouldn’t be ignored, but this is tougher.

The sole maiden in the field is For A Laugh, who possibly wants a mile already judged on his late-closing effort over seven furlongs at Sandown on debut. He will improve but may not be ready for this level yet.

Superlative Stakes Betting Prediction

Unexposed horses make for a difficult choice, but unbeaten LION OF WAR couldn’t have been more impressive last time and could get the run of the race in front.

Victory DanceWilliam Buick+120
Lion Of WarCieren Fallon+200
Isaac ShelbySean Levey+350
Dark ThirtyChristophe Soumillon+650
For A LaughJamie Spencer+3000

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