Newmarket July Festival: Day One Selections

The opening Classics of the season and Royal Ascot may be in the books for another year, but the racing season shows no sign of slowing down. Newmarket keeps up the gallop as we move deeper into the summer months with the annual edition of the excellent July Festival.

Kicking off on Thursday, 11th of July and running through to Saturday, 13th of July, the headquarters of the flat racing game lays on 21 cracking contests for our punting pleasure. Here, we pick out our best bets in each of the seven events on Day 1, including in the Group 2 double act of the July Stakes and Princess Of Wales’s Stakes.

1:50 Bahrain Trophy Stakes – Group 3, 1m5f

A small but select field goes to post in the opener, with the Charlie Appleby-trained Ancient Wisdom the clear market leader at 11/8 with QuinnBet. 6lb clear of the field on ratings, he will be the choice of many. However, his current rating is largely a result of his efforts from last season – including a win in the Group 1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. So far this term, he has been thrashed by Economics in the Dante and finished 16 lengths adrift in the Derby. A failure to handle the undulations was a possible excuse for that Epsom flop, but at the prices, we will look elsewhere.

Space Legend is next in line following a six-length second in the Hampton Court Stakes but looks short enough at around the 5/2 mark. The key form line here may be the Listed King George V Cup at Leopardstown on the 6th of June. Portland (7/1 with bet365) and Kinesiology (16/1 with bet365) finished first and second that day – separated by just a neck at the line. Given that narrow margin, the discrepancy between their prices looks too big, particularly as, being sired by Study Of Man, Kinesiology should improve for this switch to a slower surface (ground currently good to soft with rain in the area). Take a small each-way chance on the Jessica Harrington runner in the opener.

Recommended Bet: Kinesiology each way at 16/1 with bet365

2:25 Kingdom Of Bahrain July Stakes – Group 2, 6f

The juvenile sprinters are up next in the first of the Group 2 events, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Whistlejacket out on his own at the head of the market at 7/4 with bet365. Sent off the red-hot 10/11 favourite for the Norfolk Stakes last time, he managed only fourth that day but finished first in his group and brings rock-solid form to the table. Whether he deserves to be so short here, we aren’t so sure.

Aomori City (7/1 with BetFred) looks dangerous on only his second start for Godolphin, but the two we like best are Kevin Ryan’s Ain’t Nobody (5/1 with bet365) and Archie Watson’s Electrolyte (11/4 with QuinnBet), both of whom ran at Royal Ascot last time. 

Ain’t Nobody came out on top in the Windsor Castle Stakes in a time of 59.32s, which compares favourably with the 59.77s of the Norfolk Stakes in which Whistlejacket finished fourth - particularly as Ain’t Nobody carried 2lb more than the O’Brien runner. Electrolyte, meanwhile, is proven over this trip, having lost out by just a nose in the Coventry Stakes. There is not much between the two for our money, but at almost double the odds of Electrolyte, Ain’t Nobody is the value call.

Recommended Bet: Ain’t Nobody to win at 5/1 with bet365

Kingdom Of Bahrain July Stakes – Group 2, 6f

3:00 Bet Boost At bet365 Handicap – Heritage Handicap, 6f

Moving away from the Group class action, race 3 provides the first of the big field handicap puzzles as 16 three-year-olds line up for this hugely competitive affair. 

The William Haggas-trained Elmonjed and Tom Ward’s Woodhay Wonder head the betting in most lists at around the 5/1 mark. Elmonjed needs to improve on a third-place effort at York last time, but that is by no means impossible in his third start in a handicap. Having won five of six starts over this trip, Woodhay Wonder is rock solid but is now 10lb higher than at the start of that winning run.

With four places up for grabs, we prefer an each-way punt in a race which is no stranger to a shock result (three winners at 25/1 or bigger in the past ten years and only one winning favourite). 

Two Tribes (14/1 with Quinnbet) makes the shortlist, having finished second off 1lb lower on his most recent outing over this trip, but the one to be on is the Ralph Beckett-trained Palmar Bay (25/1 with bet365). A Class 2 winner over this trip last season, he had previously beaten the now 110-rated Jasour in a Novice event at Salisbury. Getting in here of 85, he looks like a cracking each-way bet on his second start following a gelding operation, with a recent spin around Sandown likely to have teed him up nicely for this.

Recommended Bet: Palmar Bay each way at 25/1 with bet365

3:35 Princess Of Wales’s Stakes – Group 2, 1m4f

1m4f is the trip for the second Group 2 affair, but many of these are more associated with their exploits over further; Hamish is a three-time Group 3 winner over 1m5½f+; Giavellotti is a dual winner of the Group 2 Yorkshire Cup over 1m6f, and Arrest finished second in the 2023 St. Leger. 

With the outsiders Outbox and Maxi King having a mountain to climb on recent form, this may be the least inspiring betting heat of the day. Arrest ought to be up to a better performance than we have seen in his two starts this season; Time Lock is capable but inconsistent, whilst Giavellotto has yet to run over this trip. All of which leads us to the current market leader, Hamish. Now eight years old, he’s yet to score in Group 2 company but is a five-time Group 3 winner over this distance and finished an excellent second to Luxembourg in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom last time. He’s priced accordingly but looks the most likely winner.

Recommended Bet: Hamish to win at 6/4 with BetFred

4:10 British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes – Class 2, 6f

As is generally the case, the Maiden on the card presents a tricky puzzle for punters to solve, with five of the nine runners having run to only once and three making their debut.

Of those with a run under their belts, Miss Fascinator and Valentia Island appeal most, having finished second and fifth over this track and trip at the back end of June. Miss Fascinator can be expected to step forward on that and seems likely to start favourite, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see Valentia Island close the gap, having raced away from the main action last time.

In a tricky betting heat, one of the newcomers looks worthy of support – namely, the Hugo Palmer-trained Dream Voyage. By Kingman and out of a mare in Butterscotch who finished second at Group 2 level over this trip, this 150,000 Guineas purchase makes plenty of appeal on pedigree. The booking of Oisin Murphy also catches the eye. The former Champion jockey has ridden 35 two-year-olds for Palmer, 20 of whom have finished in the first three.

Recommended Bet: Dream Voyage each way at Morning Price

British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes – Class 2, 6f

4:45 Edmondson Hall Solicitors Henry Cecil Stakes – Listed, 1m

Several smart performers have won this in recent years – most notably the sensational Baeed, who came home in front in 2021. Whether there is anything approaching that level of ability in this year’s line-up remains to be seen, but we do look to have a field stacked with promise.

Roger Varian’s Al Musmaak has failed to stay 1m2f in two starts this term but looks interesting dropping back in trip, having finished second to Ghostwriter in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes last season. The beautifully bred Lead Artist is sure to prove popular, having hacked up in Novice company last time, whilst the US filly Kitty Rose adds further intrigue.

All have chances, but the one who looks overpriced to our eyes is the Charles Hills runner Socialite. A perfect two from two in his career to date, his form looks rock-solid. Too good for Fair Point on debut, that horse scored by 20 lengths on her next start, whilst King’s Gamble – who Socialite comfortably dispatched last time – finished fifth in the 29-runner Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot. If Lead Artist is all he is cracked up to be, he may take some stopping, but we will take him on with this impressive son of Too Darn Hot.

Recommended Bet: Socialite each way at 15/2 (generally available)

5:20 National Stud Handicap – Class 3, 1m

This ten-runner handicap affair provides one last chance to back a winner on the opening day, with the market currently headed by the Tom Clover-trained Fifty Nifty. An impressive winner on good-to-firm ground at Yarmouth on debut, he wasn’t as good next time out on good-to-soft, which is a slight concern given the rain in the area.

Twirling and Sterling Knight have the form to take a hand but need to bounce back from below-par efforts at Royal Ascot, whilst Repertoire is consistent and on a fair mark but, as an eight-year-old, has a strong age trend to defy (each of the past ten winners aged four or younger).

Our pin has come down on the Ralph Beckett runner, Safwan. Successful twice in France at trips of 1m1f and 1m3f, he handles cut underfoot and should be well suited by a strongly run straight mile. Ignore his last outing in the Britannia Stakes, as that was his first outing since joining the Beckett yard and odds of 100/1 suggest little was expected. Towards the foot of the weights, he can at least hit the frame with that run under his belt.

Recommended Bet: Safwan each way at 10/1 (generally available)