This Saturday is an action packed one for horse racing fans, with the highlight the Darley July Cup run over six furlongs at Newmarket. It looks a well above average renewal, and below I preview and provide my tips for the race. With both festivals fast approaching make sure you check out my Goodwood and Galway combined festival package for my preview’s, advice and best bets for that week. Full P&L for previous festival packages I’ve done is +261 points, for an ROI of +42.7%. For my best bets daily check out my very successful Premium Advisory Service.
This looks a fascinating clash with the first two home from the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, taking on the older horses, including the first three home from the Diamond Jubilee at Ascot. The Commonwealth Cup is a new race, with the first running in 2015. Muhaarar the inaugural winner, followed up in the July Cup on his next start, although his three and a quarter length margin at Ascot, was reduced to just a nose in this race, while last year’s Commonwealth winner Quiet Reflection could manage just third in this race, but did go on to win the Haydock Park Sprint Cup against the older horses.
This years Commonwealth Cup looked one of the races of the meeting at Royal Ascot, and it didn’t disappoint with the first three in the betting filling the first three positions. The unbeaten Caravaggio beat Harry’s Angel by three quarters of a length, with Blue Point a further half a length back in third, with three lengths back to the rest. The aftermath of the race was a little hysterical, with claims that the winner had just proved himself one of the greats, but the bare facts are that while it was very strong form, Mr Scarlet who looked decidedly average before that race, was only beaten six lengths in fifth, while the seventh horse home holds the form down a bit too. The race was well run, so it wasn’t a case of them being flattered either.
Straight after the race I tweeted that the best horse lost, my logic being that Harry Angel looked to have gone plenty quick, and also pulled quite hard early on after being harried by the winner’s stablemate. I got some choice replies saying I must have watched a different race, to I’ve gone mad, or it was pocket talk.. Unsurprisingly my critics offered little in the way of logic to back up their argument. One claimed that the fact Caravaggio reared before the stalls opened and was off the bridle first, before mowing down the second, means he was much the best. What? Yes he reared, but he broke on terms, before settling beautifully, and how in the name of god does not being able to lie up, make him any better than the result I’ve no idea.
Caravaggio touched 5/1 in running on the exchanges at one stage, I assume it was when he came off the bridle over two furlongs out, and for the next furlong made no ground on the leader, and eventual second. Basic race reading would tell you horses very rarely suddenly quicken having been off the bridle for a furlong, and subsequent sectionals back this up.
In an article in the Guardian Greg Wood wrote ” They had the race to themselves in the final furlong before Caravaggio found the burst of brilliance to prove himself a class apart” What really happened is the horses in front stopped, and Caravaggio was actually displaying greater stamina in staying on so strongly, indeed his final furlong time was slower than Permian managed when winning the King Edward over twelve furlongs that day, and much slower than Stradivarius managed when winning the Queen’s Vase over fourteen furlongs that day. The facts don’t quite back up the hysteria.
So why did I think Harry’s Angel was the best horse on the day? Well as I’ve established it was the placed horses stopping that was the reason for Caravaggio gaining ground, and while the optimal way to run sprints is to be slightly faster early, than late, I don’t think Caravaggio could have run a yard faster, he was pretty much flat out all the way, where as Harry Angel went a little quick , but probably only fractionally so, it was the fact he pulled so much through the first half of the race, which had to have an energy cost, that makes me think he could have run at least a length faster. Of course by ‘best horse’ I meant he could have run faster than Caravaggio managed, but to run to your optimal you need to settle, Caravaggio did, and Harry Angel didn’t, even if part of the reason was being harried by the rag.
Both the visual impression and sectional times suggested Harry Angel might be better over five furlongs, at least until he settles better, while Caravaggio went through the race suggesting seven furlongs would suit at least as well as six. They meet again over six here, but just because I think Harry’s Angel would likely have beaten him if he settled better at Ascot doesn’t mean I’d make him favourite here. That was his third run of the season, he had already put up a big time performance on his previous start, and he was likely at concert pitch that day, while Caravaggio had only won a poor race at Naas, and indeed hadn’t met quality opposition since winning the Coventry the previous season, so in that sense he could have been a little rusty that day. Add in the fact that he’s unbeaten, and is trained by Aidan O’Brien, means he’s easily more little to improve further.
This is not just a re-match though. The older horses are headed by the first three home in the Diamond Jubilee, with The Tin Man coming out on top that day, beating Tasleet by a neck with Limato a further three parts of a length back in third. Limato was squeezed out slightly close home but would only have been third in any case, and he had no excuses apart from that, having a clear run throughout the race. The same applies to the runner up, but The Tin Man had to be switched a few times looking for a run, and he did well to get up to win, leaving the impression he would have won easier if he had a better passage.
The Tin Man improved throughout last season and it could be he still has more to come after just thirteen races. He travels really well through his races so the likely decent pace will suit. That second was a career best for Tasleet and he had no excuses, but with just eleven career runs, and only seven off those at sprint trips, he’s still got potential to do better. Limato was likely a little below his best at Ascot, the form of his win in last years July Cup would be rated higher, so he has potential to come back to that sort of form, although this year’s renewal looks a much better race. None of the others appeal as likely winners.
While I stand by my assertion that Harry Angel would on balance probably have beaten Caravaggio if he had settled better, and thus gone a stride slower last time, he could face the same issue here with Caravaggio’s stablemate Intelligence Cross declared for this too. Caravaggio also has more scope to improve on what they could have done that day, but that said the market seems to have priced him as if he was much the best last time, and that simply isn’t true. Harry Angel is currently 6/1 and that looks too big to me, but the market hasn’t fully formed yet after declarations and you may get bigger. I’d definitely prefer The Tin Man of the older horses, yet he is currently 7/1, while Limato is just 5/1. At current best prices backing both Harry Angel and The Tin Man is around 11/4 coupled, and I think that’s a decent bet with the potential to get bigger when the exchange markets form. If you were backing one of them each way, which is an option with the market shape, especially with any bookies going a 1/4 the odds a place, then i’d make it The Tin Man as he is pretty solid, and he would be the most likely to place of the pair.