Tuesday 24 April 2018

Azraff looks up for the Cup at York

Botti's charge certain to be better prospect over longer trip

Azraff's trainer Marco Botti. Although he has 18 runs under his belt, Azraff remains on an upward curve, and he strikes as being especially unexposed at this trip. Photo: Edward Whitaker
Azraff's trainer Marco Botti. Although he has 18 runs under his belt, Azraff remains on an upward curve, and he strikes as being especially unexposed at this trip. Photo: Edward Whitaker
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

York's John Smith's Cup doesn't get the attention that it used to since the July Cup was switched to a Saturday, but it is well worth a second look today.

As is so often the case in major Flat races in the north, Fermoy native David O'Meara - who saddles three in all - is responsible for one of the leading contenders in Tawdeea.

In six starts for O'Meara since leaving Richard Hannon, Tawdeea has won three and been second and third. He ran out a convincing winner of the Old Newton Cup over 12 furlongs last week, and gets in here under just a five-pound penalty, which means that he is four pounds well in based on his future rating.

However, it was only late on that he asserted himself at Haydock, so the drop back to 10 furlongs in such a competitive affair might not necessarily play to his strengths.

Arthenus trades at odds of around 9/1, and he appeals as a solid each-way option at that.

James Fanshawe's four-year-old completed a hat-trick here in the autumn, and recorded his best effort of 2016 when fourth behind Sir Isaac Newton in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot.

Read More: Harty's 'Moon' fancied to eclipse Grimes rivals

Arthenus challenged wide from a long way back that day, and, bearing in mind the way that the winner has progressed again since, it was a performance that can be upgraded.

Off the same mark, Freddy Tylicki's mount should run its race in first-time visor. There are plenty others of interest, but the one that stands out most is the Marco Botti-trained Azraff, which is drawn high in stall 20.

Although he has 18 runs under his belt, Azraff remains on an upward curve, and he strikes as being especially unexposed at this trip.

When scoring for a third time in his career in a valuable Newbury handicap in May, Azraff beat Gabrial's Kaka and Strong Steps, both of which have won since.

He then contested the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot, where he ran a blinder to be fourth to Portage.

Under the excellent Andrea Atzeni, he got caught in a pocket at a crucial stage and didn't get motoring until too late, but he finished with purpose to be beaten a couple of lengths.

Read More: 'Twilight' can follow up Ascot win in July Cup

Azraff certainly left the impression that he would stay further than a mile, and he has run well over this trip, including behind Time Test at Newbury last year.

In total, though, he has tried a mile-and-a-quarter just three times, and the suspicion now is that he might be better suited by the longer distance.

If that proves to be the case, then Azraff could play a significant role here, so odds of up to 20/1 are too big to ignore.

Off the same mark of 99 that he ran off at Ascot - just four pounds higher than his successful Newbury rating - he is the one for the win money.

Also at York, Quest For More, last year's Northumberland Plate hero, could take a bit of beating in the Silver Cup.

Just denied in a similar contest over course and distance on its 2016 return, Roger Charlton's charge probably has the Yorkshire Cup runner-up Curbyour-enthusiasm to beat.

Still, Quest For More should have too much quality, so odds of 10/3 look very fair about the Philip Makin-ridden six-year-old.

Read More: 'Springs' soars in Falmouth

At Ascot, the insatiable Pat Smullen flies in for a full book of eight rides, but Convey is surely the one that is taking the Derby winner there.

Michael Stoute's four-year-old contests the Summer Mile, and he certainly has a bit to find if he is to land the £120,000 Group Two.

Toormore, Dutch Connection, Kodi Bear, Custom Cut and Richard Pankhurst are all rated higher.

They are established as being well capable at this level, but neither are any of them the most reliable.

Convey is by far the most unexposed. The well-bred Dansili colt has run just seven times, winning its sole start as a juvenile.

He failed to fire in two starts last year, but looked progressive earlier this term, running on to be second in Listed and Group Three company here and at Haydock.

Convey then flopped in bad ground from a poor draw in the Hunt Cup.

Chances are that a line can be drawn through that, so, at odds of up to 5/1, he is fancied to justify Smullen's foray.

Alice Springs' July course record time at Newmarket yesterday. The previous best of 1m 35.53s was set by Lovers Knot in 1998, with Soviet Song's 2004 time of 1m 36.11s the fastest since the Falmouth became a Group One that year.


Watching Brief . . .

Air Force Blue will lead this weekend's Ballydoyle Group One onslaught in the July Cup.

Washington DC and Eddie Lynam's stalwart Sole Power also contest the Newmarket event. Tomorrow, it's Landofhopeandglory's turn in the German Derby at Hamburg.

Aidan O'Brien's Curragh runner-up could well be good enough in what is probably a second-class Group One.

Again, though, this is a race to watch, notwithstanding Landofhopeandglory has been supplemented for €65,000.

Maybe the elite firm's best prospects will come at Belmont tonight.

Colm O'Donoghue, who has a fine record in States, is on Long Island Sound in the Derby and Ballydoyle in the Oaks.

Deauville and Coolmore also contest both races but, at respective odds of 6/1 and 9/4, O'Donoghue's mounts appeal as the better options.

Irish Independent

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