Newmarket: “It Will Be A Different Sort of Pressure.” Shaquille the Target in the July Cup

Shaquille | PA Media

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First there was Dettori's ban, meaning that the one missing English group 1 on his palmares was going to stay void. Then the setback to Little Big Bear (Ire) (No Nay Never). Now, the persistent rain that dogged Friday's action at Newmarket's July Festival and has changed the complexion of Saturday's feature G1 Pertemps Network July Cup. Ironically, every bit of that unexpected wet spell acted further to aid the cause of Kinross (GB) (Kingman {GB}) who would have been Frankie's final ride in his last-chance saloon which is now closed for business forever.

Among all those twists and turns, the one imperturbable element has been 2023's shock sensation from Julie Camacho and Steve Brown's North Yorkshire-based stable little-known outside of the UK. What their ludicrously-talented 3-year-old colt Shaquille (GB) (Charm Spirit {Ire}) doesn't know about racing at this stage probably isn't worth labouring over, with his ability to do it any which way offering little hope for his opponents. Showing disdain for some basic universal rules when comfortably overcoming a criminally-slow start in the G1 Commonwealth Cup, he established himself as the sprint division's poster boy and this is his to lose.

“It will be a different sort of pressure, as it looks like we are going to start favourite whereas at Ascot Little Big Bear was a short-priced favourite and we went there slightly under the radar,” Brown said. “So it's different from that perspective, but you've got to deal with it and what a great position to be in–to have a favourite for a group one race. Physically, for all he will probably be a nicer horse next year, he is a big strong fella who holds condition well. We just hope he is maturing as we are going along. It has been a steady progression in the right direction with him and hopefully that will continue on Saturday.”

Camacho added, “We turned him out for three or four days and he started to get a bit fresh. He cantered on the Wednesday after Royal Ascot and he did a nice piece of work last Saturday and everything seems to be good.”

Rain In Time For Kinross…

While Friday's rain was an unwelcome sight for connections of most in this line-up, it was welcomed by Marc Chan and Ralph Beckett as they ponder a second major sprint for TDN Rising Star Kinross. Challenging Shaquille for favouritism on Friday night, last year's G1 Prix de la Foret and G1 British Champions Sprint S. hero looks to have things falling into place at the eleventh hour. That cannot be said for fellow TDN Rising Star, who already had a question mark over him given how readily he was brushed aside late by Shaquille at Royal Ascot before his foot problem. Aidan O'Brien is happy to let him take his chance, but softening ground could add to his woes. “At the moment everything is going well with him. It hasn't been ideal, obviously, but we're happy enough,” he said. “He just missed five or six days last week and we won't know until he runs how much it has affected him.”

Horses For Courses...

If there is one in the field who can be called a track specialist it is Michael Dods's latest sprinting starlet Azure Blue (Ire) (El Kabeir), who is four from five in this town including the Listed Boadicea S. and Listed Kilvington S. Upping her game last time to upset Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) in the G2 1895 Duke of York S. in May, she will be assisted by Paul Mulrennan who is hoping for more of the same. “She wintered very well and is more like a colt–I think she weighs more than 500 kilos and has definitely got better with age,” he said. “She seems to love Newmarket and that's a big thing as the two courses there are unique and test just about everything.”

City Of Troy And Great Truth In TDN Rising Star Superlative Tussle…

Newmarket's G2 Superlative S. has always signalled the beginning of the focus on next year's 2000 Guineas and Saturday's edition is no exception as TDN Rising Stars City Of Troy (Justify) and Great Truth (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) square up after their impressive debuts. While the former excelled in a Curragh maiden that Ballydoyle have turned into a springboard for their Classic prospects down the years, Godolphin's Great Truth was doing his stuff in a Leicester novice that Charlie Appleby used for last year's leading juvenile Naval Power (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}).

Aidan O'Brien was waxing lyrical about City Of Troy and his stride after his debut and said, “We've always thought he was a nice horse. This looks an ideal race for him and hopefully it will do him good long term and it gives him a good education.”

Appleby said of Great Truth, “He was very green that day and hung across to the left, but mentally and physically he's done very well since. When I say physically, he's tightened up, but mentally he galloped on Wednesday, William rode him, and he was very slick. We were second with Victory Dance last year and he didn't quite get to where we hoped he might get. But this year, with Aidan's horse, it will be tough, because he looks decent. But we like our horse. He is slick.”
Charlie Hills has a live contender in Teme Valley and Ballylinch Stud's Iberian (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}), who may not have carried the same gravitas of the big two into his introduction at Newbury but who gave the impression he has a bright future nonetheless. “Charlie is quite bold on him and he shows up quite well in the mornings,” Teme Valley's racing manager Richard Ryan said. “We're hopeful progress can continue to be made, but it is a hell of a race.”

Best Of The Rest…

Ascot's Saturday card sees the G2 Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile, where Shadwell's Aldaary (GB) (Territories {Ire}) looks to build on his solid comeback fourth in Newmarket's G3 Criterion S. at the start of the month. The William Haggas-trained Listed Spring Trophy winner was coming back off a 420-day absence in that seven-furlong contest and has the easing ground to suit, as does the 2021 G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and G1 Criterium International hero Angel Bleu (Fr) (Dark Angel {Ire}) who could make it a big day for Marc Chan and Ralph Beckett. The nationwide rain was also very welcome for another Haggas bigwig in Hamish (GB) (Motivator {GB}) ahead of York's G3 Silver Cup.

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