Newmarket’s excellent July Meeting draws to a close on the Saturday, and good as the action is on the opening two days, the track really saves the best until last with this highly coveted Group 1 contest, the July Cup.
One of the main attractions of this race is the clash of the generations it represents. With the rejigging of the Royal Ascot sprints, this is really the first time the three year olds get to lock horns with their elders over this trip at the top level. First run back in 1876 this is now one of the most prestigious six furlong events in the world.
In 2011 Hayley Turner made history when winning this race onboard David Simcock’s Dream Ahead. In doing so she became the first female jockey to win a Group 1 outright after Alex Greaves dead-heated in the Nunthorpe Stakes way back in 1987.
July Cup Stakes Past Winners
|2020||Oxted||12/1||Roger Teal||Cieren Fallon|
|2019||Ten Sovereigns||9/2||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2018||U S Navy Flag||8/1||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2017||Harry Angel||9/2||Clive Cox||Adam Kirby|
|2016||Limato||9/2||Henry Candy||Harry Bentley|
|2015||Muhaarar||2/1||Charles Hills||Paul Hanagan|
|2014||Slade Power||7/4||Edward Lynam||Wayne Lordan|
|2013||Lethal Force||9/2||Clive Cox||Adam Kirby|
|2012||Mayson||20/1||Richard Fahey||Paul Hanagan|
|2011||Dream Ahead||7/1||David Simcock||Hayley Turner|
|2010||Starspangledbanner||2/1||Aidan O'Brien||Johnny Murtagh|
|2009||Fleeting Spirit||12/1||Jeremy Noseda||Tom Queally|
|2008||Marchand d'Or||5/2||Freddy Head||Davy Bonilla|
|2007||Sakhee's Secret||9/2||Hughie Morrison||Steve Drowne|
|2006||Les Arcs||10/1||Tim Pitt||John Egan|
|2005||Pastoral Pursuits||22/1||Hughie Morrison||John Egan|
|2004||Frizzante||14/1||James Fanshawe||Johnny Murtagh|
|2003||Oasis Dream||9/2||John Gosden||Richard Hughes|
|2002||Continent||12/1||David Nicholls||Darryll Holland|
|2001||Mozart||4/1||Aidan O'Brien||Michael Kinane|
About the July Cup: A World Class Sprint
Newmarket’s three-day July Meeting is always one of the real summertime treats for racing fans, with each of the days having its high points in terms of a feature contest or two. For many though, this meeting really reaches its climax on the closing Saturday, with the full throttle six furlong contest that is the July Cup.
It is a Group 1 event open to all runners aged three and older, be they fillies, mares, geldings or colts. The race offers the opportunity to determine who really is the fastest of them all.
Offering excellent prize money – rising to £500,000 in 2019 (£250,000 in 2020) – the contest never fails to attract the best of the best, and has been won by many a sprinting superstar over the years, including the likes of Abernant, Oasis Dream and Muhaarar.
Afforded Group 2 status upon the introduction of the modern classification system in 1971, it took only seven years for the race to recognised for what it was: one of the classiest sprint contests of the season. Upgraded to a Group 1 in 1978, it has remained that way ever since.
The Global Sprint Challenge (2005 – 2017)
The Global Sprint Challenge was a series of horse races from across the globe. Horses that competed in the races would gain points based on their performance in these contests, with the winner at the end of the season awarded the Champion Sprint Trophy. Not only that, connections of any horse winning three or more of the races in the series outside of their home country would be handed a $1,000,000 bonus.
Not only is the July Cup one of the top domestic sprint events, it’s inclusion in the Global Sprint Challenge initiative recognised it as one of the very best races of its type run anywhere in the world.
GLOBAL SPRINT CHALLENGE RACES
|March||Al Quoz Sprint||Dubai||Meydan|
|April||The Chairman’s Sprint Prize||Hong Kong||Sha Tin|
|June||King’s Stand Stakes||United Kingdom||Ascot|
|June||Diamond Jubilee Stakes||United Kingdom||Ascot|
|July||July Cup||United Kingdom||Newmarket (July)|
|November||VRC Sprint Classic||Australia||Flemington|
|December||Hong Kong Sprint||Hong Kong||Sha Tin|
With top tier sprint contests from England, Australia, Japan and Singapore included in the challenge – and that huge bonus on offer for winning races in multiple jurisdictions – there was plenty of incentive for the owners of the top sprinting talent in the world to come together and lock horns.
The series was however fairly short lived. A dispute between Australia and Hong Kong regarding quarantine rules for travelling thoroughbreds led to the challenge being scrapped from 2018. The two have since resolved the issue, so the series could return in the future.
YOUTH HOLDS THE EDGE
Whilst this race annually attracts runners of both sexes, and from the classic generation and above, they don’t quite compete on even playing field. The fillies and mares receive a three pound allowance, whilst the older runners concede six pounds to their younger rivals. As such the race – and almost all of the open-age races – does have its detractors as to how valuable it is in deciding who actually the quickest horse is, with many believing the younger performers in particular are offered an unfair advantage.
A look at the above chart – which shows the breakdown of winners by age since 1939 – would certainly seem to bear that theory out, with the three year olds having by far the biggest slice of the pie.
It certainly seems relatively safe to draw a line through any runner older than five years of age, with 2006 winner Les Arcs, being the only six year old to come home in front in the past eighty years (as of 2020).
ALL-TIME GREATS LEAD THE WAY
The man who is viewed by many as the greatest trainer in the history of the game shares top billing in the all-time list here, as the legendary Vincent O’Brien sits alongside Aidan O’Brien and Charles Morton on five wins in the race.
In the early part of the 20th century, Charles Morton dominated, with his five wins coming in 12 editions of the July Cup between 1903 and 1914. Morton sent out both Sunridge and Spanish Prince to claim top spot on two separate occasions. Having also won the race for his previous handler, it is the aforementioned, Sunridge, who is the only three-time winner of this since they first went under starters orders back in 1876.
In the post-war era, the stand out trainers have been two unrelated Irishmen, Vincent O’Brien and Aidan O’Brien.
Unlike Morton, Vincent O’Brien achieved his success with five different horses. His first four came in just seven years between 1973 and 1979. It was then a 21 year wait before his fifth victory with Royal Academy in 1990.
Aidan O’Brien is perhaps more associated with runners over a mile and further, but his record with sprinters certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. Already sitting on five wins, and with a good few years likely left ahead of him, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him overhaul his namesake to become the outright top trainer here.
Whilst Morton and Vincent O’Brien are in danger of being left behind at the top of the trainer’s tree, it may be quite some time before anyone gets anywhere the all-time most successful jockey in the race. That man is of course Lester Piggott, who is way out in front on his own with a phenomenal 10 wins to his name.