Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ballydoyle bid for July Cup

Ballydoyle bid for July Cup

By Stephen Dwyer

The July Cup is one of the most valuable and important sprint races in Europe. 

Run at Newmarket over the July course this Saturday, the 6f sprint Group 1 is part of the Global Sprint Challenge which aims to find the world’s greatest sprinter. Aidan O’ Brien is bidding to turn out his fourth winner in the race since Stravinsky in 1999, the ill-fated Mozart in 2001 and the classy Starspangledbanner in 2010. This year Ballydoyle saddle their newly acquired colt, Excelebration. A winner of 6 of his 12 starts, Excelbration has finished either second or third to Frankel no less than five times. Trained at Newmarket by Marco Botti last season, Excelebration won the German 2000 Guineas and the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp.  Coolmore bought Excelebration midway through the season and he is now the 6/1 second favourite for The July Cup on Saturday.

Excelebration was bred in Maynooth by the Owenstown Stud. He was put up for sale at Goffs in November 2008 and was subsequently sold to John Walsh Bloodstock for €15,000. The colt was then sold at the Doncaster St Leger Yearling Sale in August 2009 for £20,000 to Guiliano Manfredini. After winning the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes, Coolmore parted with a figure believed to be in the region of £1.5 million for a controlling interest in the colt. They believe that he is an improving, classy sort who will train on further.

O’ Brien also believes that Excelebration will drop back in distance without much difficulty. Although he has primarily won over 7f and a mile, Excelebration has won twice over 6f including an impressive performance at Newmarket’s July meeting. By top-class Australian sprinter; Exceed And Excel, Excelebration is destined for a stud career at Coolmore and connections will be very keen to ensure he takes the July Cup. 

In recent years The July Cup has thrown up sporadic results for Ballydoyle. Oracle was O’ Brien’s sole runner last year, finishing well down the field as his odds of 18/1 suggested. Starspangledbanner pipped Equiano by a neck in 2010 and the O’ Brien team were second to Marchand d'Or in 2008 with US Ranger. With the likes of dual-derby winning Camelot in the yard, a top class sprinter is perhaps the one class of horse missing in the Ballydoyle armoury. It is a small complaint of course; Ballydoyle has won a total of 18 Group races this season including nine Group 1’s. It is hoped Excelebration will add to that tally.

Excelebration is very well regarded by Aidan O’ Brien. Now a 4yo, he easily won his first start in Ireland when coasting home in a 7f Group 3 at the Curragh. Pitted, some would say out of his depth, against Frankel in the Lockinge and the Queen Anne Stakes, Excelebration finished second on both occasion, beaten by a total of 16 lengths. Excelebration will not have to face Frankel this time around and his greatest challenge will come from the Roger Charlton-trained Bated Breath and Society Rock, trained by James Fanshawe.

Bated Breath is a very resolute five year old. He beat Eddie Lynam’s teak tough Sole Power by a neck in the 5f Temple Stakes in May at Haydock and has also won five times over 6f. Society Rock was second to Black Caviar last time out and is also a previous course and distance winner at Newmarket. 

Aside from The July Cup, Ballydoyle appear to be mapping out a sprint future for Excelebration. He is entered in the 5f Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August. This is a race sponsored by Coolmore and would be an ideal way to finish his racing career. Going into The July Cup with an official mark of 126, Excelebration is the highest rated entry in the field and with the likely Ballydoyle pacemakers in place, he could be set up for what will be a famous victory for the all conquering Aidan O’ Brien camp.

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