Caravaggio looks like being the best backed horse on a busy day of racing on Saturday and the Aidan O’Brien runner cannot be ignored for the July Cup at Newmarket. The race identifies the best sprinter in Europe and brings together the Classic generation and older horses over six furlongs at Flat racing’s headquarters. It is one of Britain’s most valuable and prestigious sprint races.
The race is part of the British Champions Series and the Global Sprint Challenge. Three-year-old colts and geldings carry nine stone, fillies of that age are allocated three pounds less and older male horse race under a burden of nine stone six pounds while the older female horses run with nine stone on their back. The race is run over the straight July Course at the home of Flat racing. The key form guide is often the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot won this year by The Tin Man.
The July Cup was first run in 1876, was given Group 2 status in 1971 and became a Group 1 race in 1978. The only three times winner called Sundridge prevailed at the start of the last century and Lester Piggott is the leading jockey with 10 wins between 1957 and 1992. Sunridge represented the leading owner and joint leading trainer who both had five wins with Vincent O’Brien also training the winner five times.
Since 2000 there has been one winner aged six, 10 winners aged 4 and 5 and four three-year-olds have won the race. The last 10 winners were in the care of different trainers while Paul Hanagan is the only two times wining rider over that spell. Frankie Dettori has never won the July Cup while Aidan O’Brien’s only success was with Starspangledbanner in 2010 but he trains Caravaggio.
The average starting price of the winners since 2007 is about 6/1 in a range from 7/4 to 20/1. Seven winners have started as favourite or joint favourite and one winner was the SP second favourite. The last four winners were returned at less than 5/1 so punters should focus on the first three in the betting which brings in Caravaggio, Limato and The Tin Man. Limato won the race last year so is trying to become the first back-to-back winner since Right Boy won the race in 1958 and 1959.
Caravaggio has been the horse for money this week. By Wednesday there was not much odds against about and the horse could start odds-on. A spokesman for Paddy Power summed up the feelings of the bookmakers in the Racing Post when quoted as saying:
“Caravaggio will be the best backed horse of the week come Saturday, and on what is one of the busiest days of the year, he’ll definitely be bookmakers’ biggest headache”.
O’Brien does like to hype his horses but he is suggesting Caravaggio is one of the best he has trained. The horse was an impressive winner of the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot but only three-year-olds were eligible. The fastest horse O’Brien has trained is a popular choice to make it seven wins from seven runs on Saturday. He would be the second three-year-old colt to win the race in the last three years and eighth from the last nine from the top three in the betting.
Limato is trained by Henry Candy who believes there is a weakness in Caravaggio’s profile but he is not saying much on the subject. The 2016 winner had the lowest rating of the last four winners and this year the field looks stronger. Limato was a slightly unlucky third behind The Tin Man at Royal Ascot and there is little to choose on ratings between the two horses. Limato could reverse the form but beating Caravaggio looks beyond him. The Tin Man seems booked for the payout places behind the favourite. Harry Angel has something to find on past form.
Caravaggio is taking on older horses for the first time but gets the handy weight allowance which could be crucial. He is reported to be in great form at home and mentally very laid back until racing. The horse becomes totally motivated to win races which he has never failed to do during a two season racing career. Caravaggio is facing his biggest challenge on Saturday but carries six pounds less than Limato and The Tin Man. It would take an exceptional horse to beat Caravaggio on these terms and the horse is the tip to win one of the most important sprints of the season.