Muhaarar can blitz July Cup field if Hanagan finds clear path
As mentioned in this column numerous times, I like to keep things simple in the big Group One races, and concentrating on horses rated above 120 has paid its way down through the years.
Since 2003, backing such horses in Group Ones has produced 80 winners from 189 bets (40pc) and a shows a profit of €171 to a €10 stake.
It's not exactly a fortune but it just goes to show that the form stands up well in the top-class races, and as the market suggests, both Brazen Beau (2/1) and Muhaarar (9/4) are the ones to focus on in this afternoon's Group One Darley July Cup at Newmarket (3.45).
Both horses are rated 121 but as a three-year-old, Muhaarar gets a weight allowance and will carry 9st whereas the four-year-old Brazen Beau goes to post with 9st 6lbs.
Trained in Australia by Chris Waller, Brazen Beau is one of the best sprinters around, and Waller reckons one of his main assets is that he's relaxed on the big occasions, taking everything in his stride.
I'm certainly no expert when it comes to Australian racing so it's difficult to get a handle on how good he might be, although the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot gave us a glimpse of his talent in this part of the world.
In that race, he went it alone on the near side and looking back, it probably cost him the race as jockey Craig Williams had no horses around him to judge the pace.
Having traded at 1/4 in-running, he was beaten in the end by half a length by the American horse Undrafted - although it was a good performance overall with the likes of Mustajeeb back in fifth.
On balance, though, Muhaarar appears to have the most potential.
In May, trainer Charlie Hills tried him out over a mile in the French 2,000 Guineas but it simply didn't suit and when you consider he had the worst possible draw, his eighth place can be forgiven.
He was dropped back down to six furlongs for the Group One Commonwealth Cup and he really came back to his own, running a blinder to beat Limato and some other talented three-year-olds.
One slight concern, as expressed by Hills, is the fact that he's a hold-up horse and may encounter traffic problems.
Newmarket can be a tricky place to ride with such horses but if Paul Hanagan can keep him out of trouble and let him go at the right time, he may just blitz the field including Brazen Beau.
A versatile colt, Muhaarar acts on any going and I reckon he'll have the favourite's measure in what is shaping up to be a fascinating race.
Earlier on the same card, Birchwood looks significantly overpriced at 14/1 for the Group Two Bet365 Superlative Stakes (2.35). He beat one of today's opponents, Beaverbrook (7/1), in a two-year-old conditions race at Newbury in May, and that came on the back of his debut victory at Doncaster, in which he raced a little green.
Richard Fahey sent him to Naas last month for a four-runner Listed race but he did a bit too much early on and his stamina didn't hold out on the ground which was on the softer side of good. He eventually finished third but he can bounce back today on firmer ground.
It's been a while since Ajman Bridge registered a win but he's been placed in five of his last six races and was particularly impressive when second in the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot last time off a career high mark of 100.
He remains on that rating for this afternoon's John Smith's Cup (3.25 York), which seems quite fair, and I reckon he's got a great chance of making the placings at the very least. Take him each-way at 10/1.
2.35 Newmarket: Birchwood
2.45 Ascot: Toormore
2.55 York: Out Do
3.25 York: Ajman Bridge (e/w)
3.45 Newmarket: Muhaarar
Do the double
The unbeaten Lightning Spear is an exciting colt and it’s good to see trainer Olly Stevens take a chance with him in a Group Two today at Ascot (2.45).
But it’s a big step up in class and preference is for Richard Hannon’s Toormore (11/4), which is a proven performer at the highest level.
Priced 8/1 to lift Liam MacCarthy Cup back in April, Limerick have had a disappointing summer. The Treaty men are 4/5 to beat Dublin today, although that looks short considering Limerick had to work hard to beat Westmeath.
Dublin have also been below par this term but their victory over Laois was a bit more convincing. As such, I’m backing the Dubs to win again this evening at 11/8.