Japanese raider, Keeneland Swan, who finished 10th on his first run in Europe in the Golden Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) at the Royal Meeting at York, is on course to contest next Thursday's (July 7) Darley July Cup (Group 1), highlight of the July Meeting at Newmarket. The six-year-old son of Distant View will get acquainted with the July Course tomorrow (Thursday, June 30) when he will work on the track shortly after 7am.
Though beaten just over 10 lengths at York, that race came just six days after Keeneland Swan had arrived in the UK and improvement is expected now that he has had time to acclimatise and settle in.
Keeneland Swan has yet to taste Group 1 success, but he has been second and third in two Group 1s over six furlongs in Japan and has won a Group 3 contest. His trainer, Hideyuki Mori, knows exactly what it takes to win the Darley July Cup, having saddled Agnes World to success in 2000. He also sent out Seeking The Dia to finish 12th last year.
The BHB has revealed that, with a rating of 110, Keeneland Swan currently stands at 20th equal (with four other horses) in the official ratings of the 51 horses remaining engaged in the Darley July Cup. Although the maximum field size is 20, Newmarket envisages no problem with Keeneland Swan getting a run as several higher-rated horses are either certain non-runners or are thought unlikely to run, including the recently retired Coolmore pair of Antonius Pius and Footstepsinthesand, Godolphin's Irish 2000 Guineas winner, Dubawi, and Luca Cumani's Australian import, Starcraft.
After a request from Newmarket, the BHB has introduced a reserve system for the Darley July Cup this year to give every possible chance for a full field of 20 going to post. Two reserves can now be brought in if there are withdrawals up to 11.30am the day before the race. Last year several horses were eliminated from the race, although there were no withdrawals and all 20 ran.
Michael Prosser, Newmarket's Clerk of the Course, commented:
"Keeneland Swan seems sure to get a run next week which is very good news for a race that has developed such a strong international profile. Such is the competition at the top level of sprinting that for the second year running horses may have to be eliminated from the Darley July Cup, as also happened at York in the Golden Jubilee, and it is precisely for this reason that I asked the BHB to introduce a reserve system for our race."
IFFRAAJ AND SOLDIER'S TALE SHARE THE SAME NEW RATING OF 112
The BHB handicapper still cannot split the two fast improving Newmarket-trained sprinters, Iffraaj and Soldier's Tale, who head the ante-post market for Europe's premier sprint. Prior to their recent victories, each had a rating of 101. Iffraaj was put up to 112 after his impressive triumph in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot at York, while Soldier's Tale has been raised to the same mark following his victory in the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle on Saturday. Somnus is likely to be the highest-rated runner on 118.
"The fact that Iffraaj and Soldier's Tale seem to be improving at exactly the same rate adds a fascinating twist to next week's race," said Michael Prosser today.
"Can they both improve again to dominate the finish and, if so, which one will come out on top? Newmarket's betting shops took a hammering when Iffraaj won the Wokingham, while I understand that the Ladbrokes shops here had to send out for more cash from other shops up to 50 miles away to pay punters after Soldier's Tale was backed off the boards to win at Newcastle on Saturday. They had better brace themselves for next Thursday!"
ROYAL ASCOT WINNER TITUS ALONE AMONG 59 BIDDING FOR SUPER SPRINT GLORY
Bargain buy Titus Alone, who gave trainer Bryan Smart a first Royal Ascot success in this year's Windsor Castle Stakes, is set to bid for further big-race glory in the £135,000 Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury on Saturday, July 16.
The Titus Livius colt is unbeaten in three outings and gained his latest success by a length from Strike Up The Band at Royal Ascot at York on June 18. Having cost just 8,000 euros (around 5,300 guineas) as a yearling, he will get into the Weatherbys Super Sprint off a low weight despite collecting a 5lb penalty with his York success.
The five-furlong contest offers a bumper payout for less expensive two-year-olds, with only those who went through a British or Irish yearling sale for 40,000gns or less eligible to run. There is a 1lb allowance for each 2,500gns less than 40,000gns that a horse cost as a yearling.
And Smart is counting down the days until Titus Alone lines up at Newbury. "I've been very pleased with him since York and he's bang on course for the Weatherbys Super Sprint," said the North Yorkshire handler.
"The race has been his target since March when we first entered him and he gets in off a low weight. The five-furlong trip is perfect for him and I hope he'd have a good chance - he's certainly one of the highest-rated horses in the field."
Titus Alone is one of 59 entries remaining in the Weatherbys Super Sprint after the June 28 forfeit stage, details of which are announced today, with the Mick Channon-trained BA Foxtrot, six-length winner of the Listed Vodafone Woodcote Stakes at Epsom on Derby day, another entry to have already bagged a big-race success. The 12,000 guineas yearling purchase, who is owned by 20 past and present British Airways employees, will be bidding to bounce back from a recent disappointing run in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot at York. Channon has four others going forward - Crabadabadoo, Queen's Night, Ridgeway Cross and Secret Night. The maximum field size is 25.
Trainer Richard Hannon, who has won the Weatherbys Super Sprint five times before, has seven entries remaining - Gamble In Gold, Godfrey Street, Hot, Lady Livius, Rapsgate, Savannah Pride and The Snatcher - while Rod Millman, who landed the spoils with Lord Kintyre in 1997 and is always a big supporter of the race, has five still engaged.
These are Azygous, winner of both his runs at Lingfield, Bathwick Intyre, Bathwick Prince, Montzando and Phantom Whisper.
The Charles O'Brien-trained filly Platinum Blonde adds an Irish interest to the race while owner John Fretwell and his trainer Eoghan O'Neill are represented by a pair of winners in Always Hopeful and Champara.
Nick Craven, Commercial Director at Weatherbys, commented: "The Weatherbys Super Sprint offers an opportunity for inexpensively-bought horses to bid for an extremely valuable prize and we are delighted so many owners and trainers look to be targeting their horses at the race. The entries include those that have shown form at the highest level already this season as well as a whole host of less-exposed contenders."