Starspangledbanner followed up his success in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I) with a gritty victory over Equiano in the Darley July Cup (Eng-I) July 9 at Newmarket.
A field of 14 top sprinters entered the starting gate for the July Cup. Among those contesting the race were Fleeting Spirit, the swift filly who captured the race last year, Kinsale King, the crack California sprinter who was third in the Golden Jubilee, and Kingsgate Native, a dual group I-winning sprinter.
Equiano, who won the King’s Stand Stakes (Eng-I) in his last start, broke sharply under Michael Hills and went straight to the front. Starspangledbanner was off a step slowly and was hustled to the front by Johnny Murtagh. Murtagh also maneuvered his colt toward the far rail, securing a position at the front as the field split into two groups.
Equiano continued to race out in the center of the course, and was followed closely by Kinsale King and longshot Alverta. With three furlongs to go it was obvious the race was between Starspangledbanner and Equiano, and both horses were set down for the drive.
Starspangledbanner gained the advantage with less than a furlong to go, but had to keep working to put away Equiano, who fought back in the final strides only to come up a neck short at the wire. Alverta, a tough 7-year-old Australian mare, ran on strongly for third, finishing just three-quarters of a length further back.
The final time for the six-furlong contest was 1:09.81 over the good to firm going.
Kinsale King, who was sent off as the third choice in the betting, paid dearly for his early exertions, fading in the final furlong to finish 12th.
Murtagh was full of praise for his charge after the race. “You need to be a tough, resilient horse to win a race like that and this one is; he’s tough, he’s hardy, he’s got loads of class and loads of speed."
Winning trainer Aidan O’Brien added: “He’s a serious horse and has some courage. Johnny made the decision to move across and it paid off. I’m delighted."
“He originally came over for Ascot and then he was going back to Australia for the covering season, but everyone agreed to leave him here after his Ascot win. We now have to debate on his future, if he’s going back to Australia he has to go back into quarantine tonight.”
Starspangledbanner is a 4-year-old colt by Choisir, out of Gold Anthem (by Made Of Gold). He is owned by the partnership of Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Ms. Massey, and was bred in Australia by Emily Krstina Pty. Limited. Starspangledbanner hails from the immediate female family of champions Elvstroem (by Danehill) and Haradasun (by Fusaichi Pegasus).