Edited from a release
The £250,000 Darley July Cup (Eng-I) at Newmarket on July 8 has attracted an outstandingly high-class entry of 72 horses, including the strongest international entry that any race at Newmarket has ever received. As well as all the leading home-trained contenders, Europe's premier sprint has attracted entries from Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, the USA and Canada, as well as France and Ireland.
Following in the footsteps of Choisir, who was second in last year's Darley July Cup after his two Royal Ascot victories, comes the big Australian hope, Exceed And Excel, still in the care of Aussie trainer Tim Martin, but now owned by Sheikh Mohammed. Australia's champion sprinter has won five of his last six starts, including the Newmarket Handicap (Aust-I) at Flemington on his latest outing in March. Could he be the horse to give Sheikh Mohammed a first victory for 16 years in a race that his Darley Stud sponsors?
From Japan, two Hideyuki Mori-trained 3-year-old colts, Seeking The Dia and Dorubako, have been entered. The former, who is out of Mori's 1998 Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) winner, Seeking the Pearl, has won four out of his six starts in Japan including a group II and a group III over a mile. Dorubako has never been out of the first two in six starts, but has yet to tackle Pattern Race company. Mori knows what it takes to win the Darley July Cup, having landed the 2000 running with Agnes World. That year Mori used Royal Ascot as a stepping stone to Newmarket, but significantly neither of his two potential challengers has been entered at Ascot this time.
From Hong Kong, trainer David Oughton has entered Cape Of Good Hope. Originally trained in England by David Elsworth, the tough six-year-old was a fine second in the Chairman's Sprint Prize (HK-I) at Sha Tin last month.
Soaring Free is a fascinating North American entry. A multiple winner at Woodbine in his native Canada, he was a fine fifth to Six Perfections in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) for his trainer Mark Frostad.
Sheikh Mohammed's US-based trainer, Eoin Harty, has entered Lydgate, a grade III winner in the States, while the Sheikh also has an ex-USA-trained colt entered in Maple Syrple, second in a grade II at Saratoga last year, as well as State City, who has only ever raced in Dubai and the USA. Both are now with Godolphin and trained by Saeed bin Suroor.
There are five very interesting French entries, headed by Whipper (Robert Collet), who ran fifth in the UltimateBet.com Two Thousand Guineas, and one of last year's leading juveniles, the Pascal Bary-trained Much Faster. John Hammond has two entries - the 2002 Diadem Stakes (Eng-II) winner, Crystal Castle, and a lightly raced 3-year-old, Estihdaaf--while last year's Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) winner, Porlezza (Yves De Nicolay), has also been entered.
From Ireland, Aidan O'Brien has entered eight horses, headed by his much vaunted Two Thousand Guineas disappointment, One Cool Cat, while Dermot Weld has entered his previously unbeaten Guineas fourth-place finisher Grey Swallow. John Oxx's tough sprinter Hanabad has also been entered.
This is the array of international talent that the UK entries might have to face in July. All the top sprinters have been entered, together with two top class 3-year-old fillies who could be stepping back down in trip to the six furlongs of the Darley July Cup. Amongst the established sprinters, Patavellian, Roger Charlton's Vodafone Stewards' Cup and Prix de l'Abbaye (Fr-I) winner, and Airwave, a close third in last year's Darley July Cup, stand out. Monsieur Bond, Steenberg and Arakan, the first three home in yesterday's Duke of York Hearthstead Homes Stakes (Eng-II), and the fast improving Victor Chandler Palace House Stakes (Eng-II) winner, Frizzante, are others to take the eye.
The 3-year-old entry is fascinating, with the unbeaten UltimateBet.com One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) winner, Attraction, standing out. She is already a course and distance winner after her Chippenham Lodge Stud Cherry Hinton Stakes (Eng-II) victory last season. Carry On Katie, one of nine entries for Saeed bin Suroor, would be very interesting coming back in trip after her good sixth in the race. Meanwhile, several of last year's top juvenile colts have been entered including Milk It Mick, Three Valleys, Balmont, Pastoral Pursuits and Howick Falls.
"This must be the strongest international entry that a race at Newmarket has ever received and, with a cracking home entry as well, it promises to be a race that befits the Darley July Cup's status as the top sprint race in Europe," commented Newmarket's Clerk of the Course, Michael Prosser.
"We have clearly benefited from Ascot's drive to attract international sprinters to the Royal Meeting, but the two Japanese have only been entered for Newmarket which I believe highlights the huge international reputation of our race.
"It wouldn't be a surprise if the likes of Attraction and One Cool Cat were in the final lineup against seasoned sprinters like Exceed And Excel, Patavellian and Airwave. Last year's showdown between Oasis Dream, Choisir and Airwave was a cracker and this entry gives us every hope that we'll have something to match it come July."