Tony Calvin takes an early look at the runners and riders for Saturday's July Cup, with the market looking wide open following the withdrawal of Harry's Angel...
"The four-year-old clearly loves the course and the expected quick ground, is improving and is only 6lb shy of the favourite on official ratings now."
Blue Point looks the standard bearer
We lost the second-favourite and last year's winner Harry Angel from the July Cup on Monday morning he simply wasn't ready in time after his mishap in the stalls at Royal Ascot - and, in truth, this now looks an increasingly winnable renewal.
Admittedly, it may have to be for the horses that I am leaning towards at the current prices to oblige, but more of those in a bit!
Blue Point started Monday as 9/2 in places for the Group 1 6f sprint at Newmarket on Saturday, but he has settled at around the 3/1 mark now and it is hard to quibble with that market assessment, even if Godolphin must be slightly concerned by the fact that Aidan O'Brien has 10 of the 19 left in the race at the five-day stage.
On recent form, Blue Point is the stand-out in the race. He was a high-class operator at this trip last season but he seemed to take it up another notch when beating Battaash in the King's Stand in a very quick time at Royal Ascot.
The pace of the race suited him ideally over the minimum trip there, and you would have thought this extra furlong would suit him down to the ground.
I suppose one area of possible concern is that he has put up all his best efforts at Ascot - and that track does throw up some specialist performers - but nothing in this field has the form to match him on the evidence of recent months.
Plenty in with a chance
Of course, US Navy Flag and Limato have the back-form to give him a race, though the Middle Park and Dewhurst winner has yet to convince me this season, for all that he finished second in an Irish 2,000 Guineas. Perhaps the step back in trip will revitalise him after a blow-out run at Ascot but I would want a fair bit more than 11/2 to get me even half-interested.
Limato has a more obvious chance, not least because connections have finally abandoned their questionable miling mission and he has a third crack at a race that he won in 2016 and finished second to Harry Angel last year.
If Henry Candy has successfully sweetened him up since the Queen Anne then it has to remembered that this triple Group 1 winner was rated 2lb superior to Blue Point in his pomp, and he will love it - absolutely love it - if the ground remains on the quick side.
We also have the improvers in here, like Commonwealth Cup 1-2 Eqtidaar and Sands Of Mali, and Wokingham runner-up Dreamfield, but the real "floater" in the pack is Redkirk Warrior.
He is one of the leading top dogs of the sprinting scene back in Australia, as evidenced by the fact that he gave the Diamond Jubilee winner Merchant Navy 12lb and a beating at Flemington in March, but he clearly ran well below expectations at Royal Ascot.
He travelled well into the race before dropping out very tamely there. It is entirely plausible that we will see a more acclimatised and sharper horse here, but he will need to leave that Ascot run well behind to trouble the judge (I'll resist the opportunity to have a cheap jibe after Sandown last Friday, mainly because I couldn't think of a funny one).
Sir Dancealot and Washington DC catch the eye
Despite the numbers, I don't think this is a great renewal and - stop laughing at the back - Sir Dancealot and Washington DC interest me most at the current prices.
Sir Dancealot could well find the pace a bit too hot over 6f in this grade but, if there is a burn-up up front, it will certainly play to his strengths.
He was soundly beaten over 6f on his first venture into Group 1 company in the Diamond Jubilee last time but he walked out of the stalls there, whether by accident or design, and could never land a blow.
But he didn't run badly in seventh and the handicapper had him improving by 3lb and running a career-best when beating So Beloved over 7f here last time.
His only other start on the July course saw him finish ½ length second off 106 to Above The Rest in the Bunbury Cup at this meeting last year - he was giving the now 111-rated winner Above The Rest 7lb there - and he could prove very dangerous to all if on the premises 1f out, and his price of around 33/1 doesn't accurately reflect his each-way claims if you ask me.
The four-year-old clearly loves the course and the expected quick ground, is improving and is only 6lb shy of the favourite on official ratings now.
Given that the stable have 10 of the field, I am not sure if Washington DC is even an intended starter at the weekend, and he did give this race a swerve last season after Royal Ascot.
But I do like the angle of him stepping back up to 6f after he was taken off his feet in the King's Stand last time, if he does get the green light.
Okay, he is very much a "nearly horse" in this grade, having finished second in the 2016 l'Abbaye and third in the Commonwealth Cup that year, as well as coming up short in Group 2 company, too (albeit very narrowly on occasions).
But his form figures over 6f read a healthy 2712357174, and that fifth came in this race two years ago, when just under four lengths behind Limato.
It is stretching it to think he can break his Group 1 duck now but, then again, he only just failed to reel in Battaash over 5f in the Temple Stakes at Haydock in May, and you can argue that performance was as good as any he has put up in his career.
If he gets a fast pace to aim at and plenty of cover, then this habitual late-closer could well net a place, if not the jackpot of a win. Certainly, at 50/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, he is tempting each-way.
However, it has to be powder dry for the moment with nine other stablemates in the race. No bet for now.