Tuesday, July 5, 2011
STAR WITNESS & DELEGATOR GO INTO SATURDAY’S DARLEY JULY CUP IN TOP FORM
Star Witness worked on the July Course early on the morning of Tuesday, 5th July, and pleased both trainer Danny O’Brien and jockey Steven Arnold ahead of the Group One Darley July Cup over the same course at Newmarket on Saturday (9th July).
The Australian raider, one of 19 going forward for the £400,000 six-furlong sprint after the previous day’s confirmation stage, has already run well in Britain, finishing second in the five-furlong King Stands’ Stakes and third in the six-furlong Golden Jubilee Stakes - both Group Ones at Royal Ascot.
O’Brien said after the five-furlong gallop: “That was very pleasing. Steven was really happy with the way Star Witness felt on the course.
“Obviously, it is a different course from what we would have at home. Most of our racecourses are fairly flat.
“The horse did not appear to have any problem taking the dips and rises. He was very strong through the line on his gallop. All in all, very pleasing.
“Steven commented that Star Witness felt very at home on that course - I am sure there are horses that don’t handle it. It is obviously different when you get under raceday pressure but it was all positive out there this morning.
“An Australian-trained horse has never won the July Cup - a bridge too far for the Australians in the past but naturally it is a challenge and we would like to be the first to win it.
“He is as good as he was on Golden Jubilee Day - he went into the King’s Stand Stakes needing the run - it was part of his preparation for the Jubilee but we were still hoping to win that race.
“He came out of the King’s Stand Stakes in great order and obviously ran very well on the Saturday without conditions being in his favour.
“He has had three weeks since and really enjoyed the environment here at Newmarket - he certainly has not gone backwards.
“The Darley July Cup is his last run. He is going to Widden Stud. He goes into quarantine straight from the races here on Saturday. He gets on the flight with all the shuttle horses and will start at Widden in September.
“The Darley July Cup will be very competitive - the horse who won the King’s Stand Stakes (Prohibit) was a strong winner, while Society Rock, successful in the Jubilee, ran second the year before. I think the top half a dozen sprinters here are very hard horses to beat. Delegator did not turn up at Ascot and he heads up the market for Saturday’s race.
“There is never a Group One race in a country like England that is going to be easy to win.
“If we can win on Saturday, we will have done a very good job. His places at Royal Ascot have not done his stallion prospects any harm - obviously wins are what matters in that department - we have been close but to get the real enhancement we would have to win.
“Probably of the three races, the July Cup is the most prestigious. If we could walk away with a July Cup win on this horse’s resume then would be a fantastic thing for him to take into his stud career.
“In racing, you have to look forward. Everyone in racing, be they an owner, trainer, jockey or punter has their hard-luck stories. There were two deserving winners at Ascot and we just hope we get our turn on Saturday.
“The dry ground we hope to have on Saturday will be in his favour - it would be fantastic to end his trip here with a win.
“I came here five years ago with a mare called Glamour Puss who ran in the King’s Stand Stakes and I probably learned a few things then. This year I knew I had to bring the horse over with plenty of racing left in him. We raced Star Witness only twice at home after Melbourne Cup week and brought him over just needing a run first time out. Because of that, he has held his form and we should have another really good crack on Saturday.
“Any time you travel, you never win if it is at the backend of anything. I took 10 days off after the Golden Jubilee but my assistant Paul has been at Newmarket the whole time. I got back here on Saturday morning.
“Star Witness is a very good five and six-furlong horse. He was a very precocious two-year-old who won a Group One on his third start. He won another Group One in the spring - he is a nice explosive sprinter. Six furlongs is probably as far as he wants to go. He should do well at stud.
“We probably would like to hold him up for a bit longer on Saturday. We got a bit exposed in the Jubilee - we probably went a fraction early as the horses down the stands’ side rail looked to be well in front. We were out on our feet in the last 100 metres. We need to be running to the post rather than staggering to it.
“I will leave it to Steven but I am sure he will be a little bit more patient on Saturday and hold it together for as long as he can. There a was a strong headwind and soft ground for the Jubilee and they ran 1m 17s for 1,200 metres which is unheard of back home. This horse has won Group Ones running 1m 8s so you know when they have run a much slower time that it has been a significant test.
“On the July Course on top of the ground, they are going to run 1m 10s or 1m 11s so it is going to be a different race - at least six seconds faster. Star Witness will be able to run to the line a lot stronger than he did in the Jubilee. Horses really relax for Steven in races.
“Star Witness is a good-natured horse but he is a real competitor. On a raceday, he just wants to get out there and get on with it.”
Steven Arnold added: “Star Witness seems to be holding his form well which is obviously important and, if he ran like he did at Ascot, he will be competitive on Saturday.
“He handled the dips well in hand but it is different under race pressure so you never quite know. There is a steep uphill rise but for the first couple of furlongs you go downhill.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not quite as testing as Ascot over six furlongs. The speed in the race will dictate where we are - we will probably be just behind the pace.
“I rode here two years ago in the Darley July Cup on Scenic Blast - there are few undulations but I will just ride the horse where he is comfortable.
“If he performs up to his best, he will be in there at the finish. Scenic Blast came off winning the King’s Stand Stakes so he was in good form as well but he did not put up his run that day for whatever reason but he was gone well before the rise so it was not the track.
“Star Witness seems to be in great form - I was really happy with him this morning - but until the race pressure comes on you are never 100 per cent sure.
“I have stayed in Europe since Royal Ascot and had a bit of break - I went to Spain and looked around Barcelona as well as having a few days in Paris.”
Godolphin is also hoping that the ground is on the fast side for the Darley July Cup on Saturday. The Maktoum family’s racing operation is responsible for Delegator, the current ante-post favourite.
His trainer Saeed bin Suroor said today: “Delegator won nicely at York and he came back really well, in good condition, sound and healthy from that race.
“He worked five days ago over six furlongs on the Limekilns Short Gallop at Newmarket and he was impressive when going away from his lead horse on grass - that gave me a good feeling.
“Today he had his last piece of work before the Darley July Cup, a three-furlong blow-out on our Snailwell Gallops on grass.
“I am happy with Delegator and so far he is doing really well - he missed Royal Ascot because the ground was too soft for him. I think we will get better ground at Newmarket on Saturday - good to firm would be ideal for him.
“Six furlongs is probably going to be the best trip for him. He was second in the 2,000 Guineas two years ago but his work in the morning shows that he is more of a sprinter than a miler.
“He came from behind to win at York over six furlongs last time and he remains at that distance on Saturday. We will keep our options open for the future.
“Delegator runs well when fresh and he is one of our top horses. He was going to be my best chance at Royal Ascot and now he will be running on more suitable ground hopefully. It would be good to see him win.
“He did not show his best form last year, either when working or on the track, because of problems but this year he is 100 per cent sound and healthy - a different horse. Physically he has improved a lot and mentally he is much better.
“It will not be easy to win a Group One - you need everything to go right in a six-furlong race - but he is doing really well.
“Delegator is ready. Ideally, I would like him to sit just off the pace and then come through because he has a good turn of foot. Frankie (Dettori) knows the horse very well.”
Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, gave more background information about the horse: “Delegator had a wart just behind his pastern last year and it kept growing back.
“It was one of those annoying things which meant he could not have a proper campaign. He then had a quarter-crack when he ran in the Breeders’ Cup last year. So everything conspired against him in 2010.
“For the past two years, we have been trying to run him over six furlongs but it has never worked out until this year.
“He still has plenty to prove and there are a lot of horses in the Darley July Cup rated higher than he is.
“I think he goes into the race with a rating of 112 and that is not good enough to win a July Cup so he needs to demonstrate that he is better than the official handicappers think.
“Now it is up to the horse to show he can perform beyond 112 and we very much hope he can do that. He certainly gives us that feeling anyway.
“You cannot judge him on home work - he is not one of those horses really. I am looking forward to seeing him on fast ground against these horses on Saturday and then I think we will all be a bit wiser.
“We took him out of the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot because of the soft ground and we are hoping for proper summer ground on Saturday. We would have loved to have run at Ascot but it would have backfired.
“We definitely want dry conditions and the horse is in very good form going into the race. The faster the track the better it is for him - what he doesn’t want is soft ground which affects his action.
“The Darley July Cup is one of the key championship sprint races in the world - a banner race which we like to be part of. Godolphin has never won the Darley July Cup and it would be a big thing to gain success.
“You need a bit of luck in a race like this - a sprint with a large field and I think there are a lot of horses with a chance because they are battle-hardened sprinters.
“If anything, our horse is just a little bit short on experience, having had just one start this year. And he was very lightly raced last year. That is a slight negative but, having said that, he will be super fresh on the day and he travels well in his races. The pace will be very genuine and he has a good turn of foot.
“Saeed (bin Suroor) wants to produce him very fresh and well on the day. There is a lot we still have to learn about this horse. He won the Duke Of York Stakes but is still not proven as a top international sprinter but he gives us the feeling that he is capable of establishing himself among the higher ranks of sprinters.
“Let us hope that Delegator can get a clear run this season - we hope to go to Haydock (for the Group One Betfred Sprint Cup over six furlongs on September 3) after the Darley July Cup and then there are plenty more opportunities.”
2011 PIPER HEIDSIECK JULY FESTIVAL KICKS OFF TOMORROW
The 2011 Piper Heidsieck July Festival kicks off on Thursday 7th July, Grand Arcade Ladies Day, with a fantastic seven-race card that features three Pattern races, headed by the £80,000 Group Two Princess Of Wales’s sportingbet.com Stakes (3.00pm).
Sans Frontieres took the prestigious mile and a half contest in 2010 en route to Group One success in the Irish St Leger and this year’s field of 10 is well up to standard.
The Barry Hills-trained Redwood was runner-up to Sans Frontieres and went on to land the Grade One Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine, Canada. He was runner-up to Rewilding in the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic on his latest start at Meydan in March.
Also among the declarations are the Saeed bin Suroor-trained dual Group One winner Campanologist, Crystal Capella, twice successful in the Group Two Pride Stakes for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, and the Roger Varian-trained Group Three winner Laaheb.
Mark Johnston is set to run Dordogne, winner of the Group Three Lingfield Derby Trial in May, while the remainder declared are Afsare, City Leader, Ted Spread, Myplacelater and Buthelezi.
Also of Group Two standard is one of the summer’s most important two-year-old races, the £60,000 TNT July Stakes (1.50pm) over six furlongs, which has eight declared runners, including the David Brown-trained Frederick Engels, winner of the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes over five furlongs at Royal Ascot in June.
The Jeremy Noseda-trained Roman Soldier was a close second to Power in the Group Two Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, a race in which the Richard Hannon-trained North Star Boy was fifth. Church Music won his only start so far when successful at York in June for trainer Kevin Ryan.
Raising the curtain on the three-day festival is the £50,000 Group Three Bahrain Trophy (1.20pm) with six runners declared today.
The one mile, five-furlong race for three-year-olds has attracted a quality line-up that includes Listed Cocked Hat Stakes winner and Investec Derby eighth Masked Marvel from the John Gosden stable as well as the Sir Henry Cecil-trained Group Three Queen’s Vase second Solar Sky.
Hurricane Higgins was runner-up to stablemate Dordogne in the Group Three Lingfield Derby Trial in May, while Census was second to Brown Panther in the King George V Handicap at the Royal Meeting, Crimson Knight won a course and distance handicap last time and Lingfield Oaks Trial heroine Zain Al Boldan was fifth in the Group Two Ribblesdale Stakes at Ascot last month.
The competitive £50,000 sportingbet.com Handicap (2.25pm) is staged over 10 furlongs for three-year-olds and has attracted 19 declarations including the Roger Varian-trained Mijhaar and the Luca Cumani-trained Fulgur, fourth and fifth respectively to Nathaniel in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
Also on the card is the Earl Of Euston EBF Conditions Stakes (3.35pm) over six furlongs for two-year-olds, as well the Portland Place Properties Conditions Stakes (4.05pm) at a mile, and the five-furlong Three Chimneys Handicap (4.40pm).
DELEGATOR (GB) FACTFILE - DARLEY JULY CUP
5 b h Dansili - Indian Love Bird (Efisio)
Form: 215/12021d35/140-1 Owner: Godolphin Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Breeder: Poilin Good Jockey: Frankie Dettori
Campaigned exclusively at seven furlongs and a mile through his first three seasons, Delegator emerged as a potential star sprinter when winning over six furlongs in the Group Two Duke Of York Stakes on the Knavesmire last time out. That initial attempt at sprinting on May 11, his first start of 2011, saw him power home from a hold-up position to defeat Group One Haydock Sprint Cup and Prix Maurice de Gheest winner Regal Parade by half a length. Delegator began his career in the care of trainer Brian Meehan, racing in the colours of his breeder, Poilin Good. The Dansili colt won once from three starts as a juvenile, that seven-furlong maiden win preceding his final outing of 2008 that saw him finish a close fifth to Intense Focus in the Group One Darley Dewhurst Stakes on the Rowley Mile. Delegator’s Classic campaign commenced with a first time out victory in the Group Three Craven Stakes on the Rowley Mile, for which he was 4/6 favourite. Sent off the 3/1 favourite for the Group One QIPCO 2000 Guineas itself, he ran a fine race to finish second, a length and a half behind Sea The Stars. Heavy ground scuppered his chances in the Group One Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh as he finished eighth behind Mastercraftsman but he bounced back to be only a neck second to that rival in the Group One St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Following that effort, Godolphin purchased Delegator and he joined the Newmarket stable of Saeed bin Suroor. The colt seemed to have rewarded connections at the first attempt with a commanding win in the Group Two Celebration Mile at Goodwood that August but a banned substance was discovered in his post race sample, leading to disqualification. After a fair third to Rip Van Winkle in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in September, he ended the campaign on November 7 with fifth place behind Goldikova in the Grade One Breeders Cup Mile at Santa Anita. Having raced exclusively at a mile throughout his three-year-old season, Delegator dropped down a furlong for his belated four-year-old debut in a Listed contest at Newbury on September 17, 2010. Hoof problems and a wart on a pastern had sidelined the colt but he showed no ill effects with a neck victory over Sir Gerry, who attempted to bite him in the race’s final strides. Sent off the 6/4 favourite for the Group Two Challenge Stakes at Newmarket, again over seven furlongs, Delegator finished fourth to Red Jazz. He closed out a short 2010 campaign with eighth place behind Goldikova in the Grade One Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. Delegator is out of Indian Love Bird, a sister to the top-class six/seven-furlong performer Tomba, winner of the 1998 Prix de la Foret. His dam is also a half-sister to 2000 Prix du Jockey Club winner Holding Court. Race Record: Starts: 14; Wins: 4; 2nd: 3; 3rd: 1; Win & Place Prize Money: £347,389
Godolphin is the racing entity of Sheikh Mohammed and other members of the ruling Maktoum family of Dubai. Its aim is to win races worldwide. Godolphin horses benefit from Dubai's warm winter climate. The experiment began on a small scale in the winter of 1992, with horses enjoying the advantages of the Arabian sunshine before arriving in Britain for the 1993 season. The Godolphin operation was formally established in 1994, with Hilal Ibrahim as trainer, when Balanchine won the Investec Oaks and Irish Derby. The following year, Saeed bin Suroor was appointed as the official trainer. In 1999 and 2000, Godolphin's two-year-olds were housed at the former Evry racecourse in France under the care of David Loder, who in 2001 relocated to Godolphin Stables in Newmarket, although 2003 was his last year as Godolphin's juvenile handler and he has subsequently retired from training. Godolphin horses are now trained by Saeed bin Suroor and Mahmood Al Zarooni, who was appointed in March, 2010, and enjoyed a first European Classic win with Frozen Power in the 2010 German 2000 Guineas, plus Andre Fabre in France. Godolphin's famous blue colours have been carried to victory in every British Classic bar the Investec Derby, although Saeed bin Suroor did train Lammtarra to win the premier Classic for Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum in 1995 and Godolphin claims the success. Godolphin ambitions, other than landing the Investec Derby, include taking the American Triple Crown series, winning the Japan Cup and the Melbourne Cup. Daylami led an historic 1-2-3 in the 1998 Coral-Eclipse, the first time that the same owner and trainer had the first three in a British Group One, and Godolphin's tally of Group/Grade One wins stands at 175. Godolphin has enjoyed winners in 14 countries. Godolphin has been leading British owner seven times and won a US Eclipse Award for outstanding owner in 2009. Godolphin has won 13 (14) British Classics: QIPCO 2000 Guineas (1996 Mark Of Esteem, 1999 Island Sands), QIPCO 1000 Guineas (1998 Cape Verdi, 2002 Kazzia, 2011 Blue Bunting), Investec Oaks (1994 Balanchine, 1995 Moonshell, 2002 Kazzia), (Investec Derby (1995 Lammtarra); St Leger (1995 Classic Cliche, 1998 Nedawi, 1999 Mutafaweq, 2004 Rule Of Law and 2009 Mastery). Other major Group/Grade One wins include: Dubai World Cup (1999 Almutawakel, 2000 Dubai Millennium, 2002 Street Cry, 2003 Moon Ballad, 2006 Electrocutionist), Irish 2,000 Guineas (2000 Bachir, 2005 Dubawi), French 2,000 Guineas (2000 Bachir, 2005 Shamardal), Irish Derby (1994 Balanchine), Breeders' Cup Turf (1999 Daylami, 2001 Fantastic Light), Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' (2001 Tempera), King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (1997 & 1998 Swain, 1999 Daylami, 2004 Doyen), Irish Champion Stakes (1994 Cezanne, 1998 Swain, 1999 Daylami, 2001 Fantastic Light, 2002 Grandera), Irish St Leger (1998, 1999 Kayf Tara), Arlington Million (2003 Sulamani – Godolphin's 100th G1 winner), Prix du Jockey Club (2005 Shamardal), Breeders' Cup Juvenile (2009 Vale Of York), Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (1998 Faithful Son, 2000 Dubai Millennium, 2001 Fantastic Light, 2002 Grandera, 2011 Rewilding), Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (1995 Lammtarra, 2001 Sakhee and 2002 Marienbard). Leading British Owner: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007. Eclipse Award (USA outstanding owner): 2009 - 16 wins from 67 starts and almost $4 million in prize money.
No previous Darley July Cup winners
Saeed bin Suroor
Former police officer Saeed bin Suroor was born in Dubai on November 16, 1968. He has been champion British trainer four times - in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. Coupled with his phenomenal achievements with Godolphin, bin Suroor trained the unbeaten Lammtarra for Sheikh Mohammed's nephew, Saeed Maktoum Al Maktoum, to win the 1995 Derby, Ascot's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l ‘Arc de Triomphe. That the horse raced only four times in his career and yet was trained by bin Suroor to succeed in those three pre-eminent Group One events is an achievement which cannot be overstated. Bin Suroor is aided by racing manager Simon Crisford and an excellent team of staff. Cape Verdi's 1000 Guineas win in 1998 completed the full set of British Classics for bin Suroor. His domestic Classic winners are QIPCO1000 Guineas (1998 Cape Verdi, 2002 Kazzia), QIPCO 2000 Guineas (1996 Mark Of Esteem, 1999 Island Sands), Investec Derby (1995 Lammtarra), Investec Oaks (1995 Moonshell, 2002 Kazzia) and Ladbrokes St Leger (1995 Classic Cliche, 1998 Nedawi, 1999 Mutafaweq, 2004 Rule Of Law and 2009 Mastery). He has trained the winners of 164 Group/Grade One races all over the world including Dubai, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan Singapore and the USA. His home base is Al Quoz Stables in Dubai while he trains out of Godolphin Stables in Newmarket during the summer. He was the leading trainer at the Dubai International Racing Carnival for the fourth year in succession in 2011.
Darley July Cup Record: 1995-7 So Factual 10/1; 1995-9 Heart Lake 15/2; 1997-4 Bahamian Bounty 9/2; 1998-11 Kahal 10/1; 1999-12 Fa-Eq 14/1; 2000-5 Lend A Hand 6/1; 2000-6 Bertolini 8/1; 2001-4 Three Points 8/1; 2002-6 Three Points 8/1; 2002-13 Meshaheer 14/1; 2004-11 Country Reel 25/1; 2004-14 Kheleyf 8/1; 2006-2 Iffraaj 11/2; 2008-6 Diabolical 33/1; 2009-13 Ancien Regime 25/1
Born in Milan on December 15, 1970, the son of Gianfranco, a multiple champion jockey in Italy, Frankie Dettori arrived from his homeland to join Luca Cumani's Newmarket yard as an apprentice in July, 1985. His first success came on Rif at Turin, Italy, on November 16, 1986, and he rode his first British winner on Lizzy Hare at Goodwood on June 9, 1987. He was champion British apprentice in 1989 and had more than 100 winners for the first time in 1990 when recording 141 successes. He has since captured the hearts of racegoers with his flamboyant style, phenomenal riding successes, and charisma in and out of the saddle. British Champion jockey in 1994, 1995 and 2004, Dettori created history when riding all seven winners on the Saturday at the Ascot Festival in September, 1996. His ground-breaking exertions brought recognition beyond racing's own sphere when he was voted into third place in the 1996 BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards and was a team captain on ‘A Question Of Sport'. He finally captured the Investec Derby in 2007 aboard Authorized and he has tasted success in all four other English Classics at least once, with 14 Classic wins in total. Five of those have come in the Ladbrokes St Leger aboard Classic Cliché (1995), Shantou (1996), Scorpion (2005), Sixties Icon (2006) and Conduit (2008). He has won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas twice (1996 Mark Of Esteem and 1999 Island Sands), the QIPCO 1000 Guineas thrice (Cape Verdi 1998, Kazzia 2002 and Blue Bunting 2011) and the Investec Oaks three times (Balanchine 1994, Moonshell 1995 and Kazzia 2002). Dettori, who is retained by the Godolphin stable, has enjoyed a host of high-profile international successes, including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1995, 2001 and 2002 on Lammtarra, Sakhee and Marienbard respectively, the Japan Cup on Singspiel in 1996, Falbrav in 2002 and Alkaased in 2005, the Dubai World Cup on Dubai Millennium (2000), Moon Ballad (2003) and Electrocutionist (2006), the Breeders' Cup Turf on Daylami (1999), Fantastic Light (2001), Red Rocks (2006) and Dangerous Midge (2010) and the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic on Raven's Pass. Dettori, who survived an horrific plane crash at Newmarket in 2000 in which the pilot was killed, is married to Catherine. They have five children and live near Newmarket.
Darley July Cup Record: 1990-7 Lugana Beach 33/1; 1992-4 Elbio 9/1; 1994-3 Catrail 7/2; 1995-9 Heart Lake 15/2; 1997-4 Bahamian Bounty 9/2; 1998-11 Kahal 10/1; 2001-4 Three Points 8/1; 2002-6 Three Points 8/1; 2003-13 Membership 16/1; 2004-14 Kheleyf 8/1; 2006-2 Iffraaj 11/2; 2008-6 Diabolical 33/1; 2009-13 Ancien Regime 25/1; 2010-5 Fleeting Spirit 7/2
STAR WITNESS (AUS) FACTFILE - DARLEY JULY CUP
4 ch c Starcraft (NZ) - Leone Chiara (AUS) (Lion Hunter (AUS))
Form: 1/1103412-3023 Owner: Widden Stud Trainer: Danny O’Brien AUS
Breeder: Alma Vale Bloodstock Pty Ltd Jockey: Steven Arnold
Star Witness became the first Group One winner for his sire, the 2005 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes victor Starcraft, when posting a head verdict in the six-furlong Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield on February 20, 2010. The four-year-old is the only runner to date for the former top-class sprinting mare Leone Chiara, who was successful in Group Three company and is a full-sister to Group winners Chinchilla Rose and Ferocity. Star Witness was sold to Danny O’Brien for AUS$150,000 at the 2009 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, and he made an impressive start to his career, following up a debut victory at Moonee Valley on November 28, 2009, with a ready success in a Flemington Listed contest in January, 2010. He subsequently registered that first Group One success in the Blue Diamond Stakes but trailed in 12th on his final juvenile appearance in the Group Two Todman Stakes at Rosehill in March, 2010. Star Witness kicked off the 2010/2011 season by taking third in an extended five-furlong Listed contest at Caulfield in August. After finishing fourth behind Black Caviar in the six-furlong Group Two Schillacci Stakes at the same course on October 9, Star Witness registered his second Group One success as he powered clear of his rivals for a two-length success in the Coolmore Stud Stakes over six furlongs at Flemington on October 30. He reopposed Black Caviar in the Patinack Farm Classic, also over six furlongs at Flemington, on November 6 and lost little in defeat by coming home second, four lengths behind the outstanding sprinter. Star Witness was given a break and returned to action when taking third in a Sandown Listed contest over an extended six furlongs on February 9. He was purchased by Widden Stud shortly after that run to stand at their New South Wales operation and finished seventh behind Black Caviar in the six-furlong Group One Newmarket Handicap at Flemington on March 12. He ran on to finish half a length second to Prohibit in the five-furlong King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on Tuesday, June 14 (his UK debut), and turned out again at the meeting just four days later in the six-furlong Group One Golden Jubilee Stakes. The colt took the lead with a furlong remaining and for a moment or two looked destined for victory, but his stride shortened on the soft ground and he came home third, a length and three quarters behind Society Rock.
Race Record: Starts: 12; Wins: 4; 2nd: 2; 3rd: 3; Win & Place Prize Money: £775,378
Star Witness was purchased by Widden Stud in February, 2011, and the four-year-old Starcraft colt will stand at the New South Wales operation after his European engagements this summer. Widden Stud is one of the most successful studs in Australia and has been owned by members of the Thompson family since it was founded in the picturesque Widden Valley in 1867. Current owner Anthony Thompson is a seventh generation descendant of John Thompson, who emigrated from England to Australia in 1832 and originally set up a sheep farm before the family decided to concentrate on breeding horses some 30 years later. Since then Widden Stud has been home to some of the finest stallions and broodmares including Lochiel and Grafton, who were both Australian champion sire on four occasions, and Maltster, a five-time champion sire. The current crop of 10 stallions at Widden includes Golden Slipper winner Stratum, who is on course to become champion first-season sire this season, fellow Golden Slipper victor Sebring as well as top-class sprinters Nicconi, who was fourth in last year’s Golden Jubilee Stakes when part-owned by Widden, and Northern Meteor. In 2010,Widden Stud sold AUS$10.4 million worth of yearlings at the major sales led by an Encosta de Lago colt that fetched AUS$700,000 at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.
No previous Darley July Cup winners
Danny O’Brien AUS
Born on May 13, 1970, Danny O’Brien grew up surrounded by horses at the family home at Kyabram in the Goulburn River Valley, 200 kilometres north of Melbourne. He was educated at Xavier College, Australia’s leading Roman Catholic school, and graduated with a degree in law and economics at Melbourne University. After completing his studies, O’Brien worked for legendary handler Bart Cummings before taking up the foreman’s position with Caulfield trainer James Riley. He took out his own licence at Epsom, Melbourne, in 1995 with just one horse, Mad Hatter, who gave him a first metropolitan meeting success when winning at Sandown on Boxing Day of the same year before finishing sixth in the 1996 Australian Guineas. O’Brien enjoyed his first black-type winner when Kirkberg landed the 1996 Maribyrnong Trial Stakes at Flemington on her debut, and he registered a first Group One success when Porto Roca, dam of last year’s King Edward VII Stakes victor Monterosso, captured the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill in March, 2001. The trainer has since gone on to further Group One victories with horses such as Glamour Puss, who triumphed in the Goodwood Handicap and the Salinger Stakes before becoming O’Brien’s first European runner when the mare contested both the King’s Stand Stakes and the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2006, plus Star Witness. He has also enjoyed success in Dubai with Valedictum, who scored in a handicap at Nad Al Sheba in February, 2009, while Douro Valley was ninth in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in December, 2008. O’Brien’s most notable victory came with Master O’Reilly in the Group One Caulfield Cup in 2007, with stable companion Douro Valley taking second - the first time in 25 years that a trainer had saddled the first two in the prestigious handicap. He sent out the filly Shamrocker to beat the colts in the Australian Guineas and Derby this year. O’Brien trains at Australia’s most famous racecourse, Flemington, as well as having a 160-acre private training complex at Barwon Heads, just outside Melbourne.
No previous Darley July Cup runners
Born and raised in Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia, Steven Arnold, 36, began his riding career as an apprentice to his mother, Sheila, before moving on to the stables of leading Adelaide trainer Ted Cameron. After six months, he was lured to the yard of Lee Freedman, but found it hard to make an impact on the Melbourne scene as a 17-year-old and returned to Adelaide to ride for Cameron’s son Russell. The partnership flourished and Arnold won local jockey premierships as an apprentice and senior rider, before the jockey decided to try his luck riding in Macau. When Cameron decided to move to Melbourne in 1998, Arnold returned to Australia soon after and the pair enjoyed a superb spring campaign in 2000, culminating with victory in the Thousand Guineas with All Time High. Arnold enjoyed success with another Cameron-trained horse, Bomber Bill, who won the Australia Stakes and the Goodwood Handicap and contested the Golden Shaheen in Dubai and the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin. Other horses to have been ridden by Arnold include the Bart Cummings-trained Magical Miss, who won the Thousand Guineas and the VRC Oaks in 2001, and the outstanding sprinter Toledo, who landed the Australia Stakes in 2002. Arnold also struck up a productive partnership with sprinter Scenic Blast, on whom he won the Coolmore Lightning Stakes and the Crown Newmarket Handicap as well as enjoying a first British success (on his first ride in this country) in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, 2009. In 2010, Arnold enjoyed a purple patch of big race wins thanks to the brilliant So You Think as the pair recorded a quartet of Group One wins in the Underwood Stakes, the Yalumba Stakes, the Cox Plate and the Mackinnon Stakes. Arnold was also in the saddle when So You Think finished a heroic third in the Melbourne Cup. As well as being one of Australia’s most successful jockeys, Arnold is also one of the tallest at 5' 9" and he doesn’t ride below 8st 6lb, which has restricted his opportunities in some of the leading handicaps.
Darley July Cup Record: 2009-10 Scenic Blast