Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 20 January 2018

Society Rock to fly home in July Cup

THREE Tipperary-based trainers will today attempt to continue the Premier county's storied association with Newmarket's Darley July Cup, though victory for one of the trio in particular would be of considerably more significance.

Bansha's David Marnane, who has made his name by plundering valuable cross-channel handicaps since acquiring his licence in 2005, has his first runner in a British or Irish Group One after supplementing Dandy Boy for the prestigious sprint.

In powering clear to land the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, the busy six-year-old earned a tilt at the highest level -- and sprinting prizes simply don't come any bigger than this.

Since the 1970s, just eight raiders have enjoyed July Cup glory, Starspangledbanner the most recent of the speedy octet to emerge from Ballydoyle. Today, Reply bids to get Aidan O'Brien within one of his predecessor Vincent's tally of five.

While it's hard to see the three-year-old being good enough, Coolmore may have a more robust contender in the shape of David Wachman's Fire Lily.

The Goolds Cross handler's runners have been in excellent heart lately, and this classy filly is not without a chance of making the frame, given the weight allowances that she receives.

As she showed when scoring at Leopardstown a month ago, six furlongs with a bit of cut in the ground are possibly her optimum conditions, so she could conceivably outrun odds of 16/1.

Dandy Boy is also an each-way option at slightly shorter odds under Pat Dobbs, but both are expected to struggle to beat James Fanshawe's Society Rock. With the market leader Bated Breath opposable on this testing going, that Society Rock's only previous Group One triumph came on soft ground in the 2011 Golden Jubilee at Ascot is of greater note.

Granted, he has been frustrating since, never more so than when ponderously away in the corresponding event this year, eventually flying home to get far closer to Black Caviar than he was entitled to by his start.

If nothing else, then, that was a performance that confirmed Society Rock's class and well-being. Provided he breaks more urgently under Ryan Moore this time, he could prove especially difficult to beat in the star mare's absence.

Marnane will be on more familiar territory when Jamesie tackles the day's featured handicap, the Bunbury Cup. A field of 20 goes to post for the competitive seven-furlong affair and Jamesie has serious prospects if he can replicate his latest effort.

In the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Ascot, he powered clear on the stands side, yet still ended up only second, nearly a couple of lengths behind Eton Forever on the far side. This time, he looks to have a plum draw in stall one, and it was encouraging to see the third home at Ascot, Atlantic Sport, frank the form by winning last week.

With that in mind, Jamesie, available at up to 7/1 yesterday evening, could be poised to defy a modest 3lb hike under Dobbs.


The other Irish runner of real interest in England this afternoon is Maarek in the Group Three sprint at Newbury. Representing another Tipperary man, Fethard's David Nagle, the proven mudlark hacked up in the same grade at Newcastle last month, but this is a far better race.

Roger Charlton's versatile Definightly displayed his prowess in similar conditions when taking the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh, while Godolphin's Soul got within a length and a quarter of Black Caviar at Ascot.

Given that Soul, proven in heavy going in his native Australia, receives 4lb from both Maarek and Definightly, it's hard to deny that, on paper, he is the one to beat under Silvestre De Souza now.

Also at Newbury, Clare-born Seamus Durack can land the Listed race with Qaraaba, which is already a three-time winner this year.

There are a few rated above Durack's filly in the 10-furlong contest, but none are as progressive, her excellent fourth off a career-high 101 in the Wolferton confirming that she is still on the ascent.

Best Bet: Soul

Irish Independent

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