veteran trainer Henry Candy has expressed his delight that Limato will be reunited with regular rider Harry Bentley for today’s Darley July Cup at Newmarket, the most anticipated sprint of 2017.
Even though Bentley recorded the biggest win of his burgeoning career when landing this celebrated Group One race over six furlongs 12 months ago, he’s enjoyed a roller-coaster ride in subsequent races.
Second spot in York’s Nunthorpe Stakes behind the now retired Mecca’s Angel was followed by further success at the highest level in the Prix de la Foret on Arc day in Chantilly.
Yet, unplaced runs in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night, saw Bentley replaced by Ryan Moore for last month’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
There, Candy’s charge could only finish third behind The Tin Man and Tasleet who reoppose in a fascinating race which has been given added frisson by the presence in the field of Aidan O’Brien’s unbeaten three-year-old Caravaggio who will be receiving weight allowances from his elders.
However, this does not perturb the trainer as Limato, whose temperamental owner Paul Jacobs ‘sacked’ 24-year-old Bentley because he did not want his horse to have bad memories of his experience on quagmire-like ground in Dubai, bids to become just the third sprinter to win back-to-back renewals of this race following Abernant (1949 and 1950) and Right Boy (1958 and 1959). Candy said: “I’m very happy with him and he seems in very good form. The ground is drying out and that should suit him.
“The opposition is incredible and without doubt it is a stronger race than last year.
“I was very happy with the run at Ascot. Things didn’t quite go his way, but that should have brought him on a bit more.
“I thought his attitude was right and he seems to be a happy horse again. He seems to be back to himself.
“I am delighted Harry Bentley is back on him. He is quite a straightforward ride, but it is nice to have the guy who won on him last year back.
“He has not sat on him since being given the ride back, but he knows him best having ridden him six times before.”
Richard Fahey celebrated his first British Group One winner in the race when Mayson lifted the prize in 2012 and will be double handed with Growl, who unseated in the stalls last time, and Mr Lupton in his bid to win it again.
He said: “Both Growl and Mr Lupton will need to step right up to the mark if they are to make much impact in the July Cup, as it looks like it could be a vintage renewal of the race.
“I’m not worried about a repeat of the stalls problem for Growl, though he will use a rug in the stalls to keep him calm, just as he used to before he came to me. I would prefer slower ground for Growl as they are sure to go incredibly quick. Both my runners have small chances.”
The field is completed by the Kevin Ryan-trained Brando and Intisaab from the yard of David O’Meara.
However all eyes will be on Caravaggio who blew away the opposition in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. The three-year-old, the mount of the aforementioned Moore in his role as first jockey to O’Brien, bids to make it seven wins from as many starts.
The poker-faced O’Brien said: “He seems to be fine. He hasn’t done a lot since Ascot but seems to be in good form.”