The Duke’s Weekend Preview

The July Cup is always an entertaining race and offers quite a different test for the horses than other sprint races across the UK.

The straight six furlongs are undulating and there is a rising finish which sometimes catches those who have hit the front too early. Limato has a good record in this race, having won it in 2016 and been runner-up last year, however he really is tough to back after two poor efforts over a mile this term.

Redkirk Warrior has won a Group 1 in Australia but was comprehensively smashed at Ascot last time. It would be quite the effort to recover from that defeat.

US Navy Flag is the pick of Ryan Moore out of the Ballydoyle yard. He has to be respected on last season’s efforts (including two Group 1 wins), but he hasn’t looked the same this year. Sioux Nation and Fleet Review are big priced runners from the same stable who have run well at the top level before, but also have some questions to answer.

Dreamfield is a really fascinating one for trainer John Gosden. He’s only had four starts and won three of them. It was his most recent run in the Wokingham though that caught the eye. Given his inexperience, Dreamfield nearly won one of the toughest handicaps of the season. If he can build upon that Ascot effort then he could be one to hit the frame.

Sands Of Mali won a Group 2 at Haydock before a fine effort in the Commonwealth Cup. He finished runner-up behind Eqtidaar, but raced on the stand’s side versus the winner who ran in the centre group. It will be interesting to see whether they maintain these positions this time round. Eqtidaar must be respected as he is a very progressive colt who Sir Michael Stoute has developed very shrewdly.

The favourite is Blue Point and that is easy to understand after such a magnificent run to win the King’s Stand. It’s notable that was over five furlongs and also that he has to concede 6lbs to the three-year-olds like Eqtidaar. You can make a case for half a dozen in such a competitive race but I like the way Sands Of Mali ran on last time and I have a sneaky suspicion that the rising finish might just suit him.

Of the other races, Dash Of Spice is a well-fancied favourite for the 59th John Smith’s Cup. He’s set to go up to a mark of 107, so even under a 5lb penalty for his Duke of Edinburgh Stakes win at Ascot, he’s still 4lb ahead of the handicapper. I’m a fan of backing in-form horses in races that are this competitive and I fancy him to go well, while those looking for a double-figure price might side with Brorocco who needs a strong pace to run off and based on his effort at Epsom three starts ago, he may have more to offer on this kind of mark.

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