Limato is on target to defend his Darley July Cup title over a straight six furlongs of Newmarket’s Adnams July Course on Saturday, 15th July after his name appeared among a top class 59-strong initial entry for this £500,000 event, which is a leg of both the QIPCO British Champions Series and the Global Sprint Challenge.
The Group 1 Darley July Cup was in 2016 rated as Europe’s top sprint by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (the second time that it has achieved that feat in the last three years) and each of its last four winners have gone on to be crowned the top European-trained sprinter in the World Thoroughbred Rankings.
The latest of those is Limato, who notched a smooth two-length success in last year’s Darley July Cup and went on to prove his effectiveness over a slightly longer distance by lifting another top level contest, the Prix de la Foret, over seven furlongs in France in October.
Limato has not enjoyed himself in two subsequent intercontinental starts, finishing sixth when stepping up further in trip in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile in California in November and tenth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, run on unsuitably soft ground in Dubai on his latest outing, on 25th March.
Additional Group 1 winners among the entries are the unbeaten three-year-old, Caravaggio, one of no less than 11 representatives for the Irish Champion Trainer Aidan O’Brien; last year’s Commonwealth Cup and 32Red Sprint Cup heroine, Quiet Reflection; and The Tin Man, successful in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes last October.
Other interesting candidates are the 2015 Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes winner and Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes runner-up, Acapulco, who has recently crossed the Atlantic to join O’Brien; and, Blue Point, who followed up last term’s Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes triumph on his three-year-old debut in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot last week.
Suedois and Tropics are entries with superb Darley July Cup performances already under their belts. Suedois was second to Limato last year, while Tropics was the Darley July Cup runner-up in each of the two previous seasons but has not been seen on a racecourse since August 2015.
Henry Candy, trainer of Limato, said:
“Limato had his first leg stretch on the grass since he travelled back from Dubai yesterday (Monday) morning. To be honest, he was in a bit of a mess with pulled muscles when we got him back home and it has been a long process putting him back together.”
“I have just given him plenty of rest and he looks back to his old self now. He did not work with anything at all special yesterday but the manner that he did it, and his general attitude, made me think that he is back in good form.”
“I plan to run him next in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and, unless anything goes wrong, the Darley July Cup is where we will then be heading.”
“I think that he put up a career best when he won the race last year. It’s a very important race - any Group 1 is fantastic, but the July Cup is one of the best, if not the best, sprints of the year, and it’s a wonderful race to win.”