Sir John Hawkwood
Had shown us ability at home prior to his debut at Windsor in May but, even so, you had to be impressed by his 5 length win there over 1m2f in the soft. However, while the second has subsequently run two fair races in defeat, he arguably hasn't boosted the form, so I think a mark of 92 is hardly generous for my horse. Also, the step back to 1m is not ideal, but this has been a very difficult horse to place because, as a once-raced maiden winner, he doesn't qualify for heritage handicaps or for the bigger races.
But he is a horse I like for all the negatives, and hopefully he will go well. He only gets 3lb from Bronze Angel, who was unlucky not to finish closer than a 3 length third in the Britannia, so he certainly doesn't look well treated to me on the evidence of the Windsor win alone. And there are equally unexposed horses in here like Asatir and Fluctuate to contend with. But he goes well at home, and is proven in testing conditions.
I haven't got a ride in this, but I really liked Lines Of Battle when I rode him in the Coventry. He was drawn on the wrong side there but he pleased me in finishing sixth and is a gorgeous horse. The soft ground would be a worry but today's 7f is what he needs, and he will run well if handling the conditions. Olympic Glory, second in the Coventry, is the obvious favourite.
Didn't run up to her best for me in the Hunt Cup but 7f on soft ground is what she wants, and she has that here. Granted she may not be the best handicapped horse in the race - she is 9lb higher than when winning at Doncaster last season and 3lb higher than when a good second for me at Ascot in May - but she will handle the conditions, and that means more than a pound or two either way. I can see her going well but this is a 20-runner Bunbury Cup, so you cannot be confident.
Let's just say that I am very happy to have got the ride on Society Rock. I think Strong Suit and Bated Breath are probably the best horses in the race but neither will be suited by the soft ground, if indeed they take their chances. The draw could be important here, so I don't know if I am ideally drawn in 12 of 15.
But, apart from that unknown, I have a lot going for me. A lot of people may have the horse down as an Ascot specialist and it is clear he has an excellent record there. But I just think that has a lot to do with James having him primed him for those races. And the horse was clearly unlucky in the Diamond Jubilee last time, as indeed he was at York first time up. He fell out of the stalls at Ascot and did well to be beaten by just 2 lengths into 5th behind Black Caviar. In fact, he ran a similar kind of race to that when he was beaten around 5 lengths by Starspangledbanner in this race two years ago. If he gets off on level terms, you have to think he will play a leading role in the finish on ground that suits.
This doesn't look to be a strong July Cup so the likes of Libranno, tough, fourth in this last season and in good form coming into the race, could be a danger if getting an easy lead. He looks a decent win and place bet at around 17.016/1, with no real pace in the race.
Ortensia probably won't find the ground to her liking, but Fire Lily is interesting. I rode her to finish fourth in the Queen Mary and there probably isn't a more honest horse in the race. She is fast, in form, goes in the soft and gets all the allowances here. She would normally lack the class to win a July Cup but, as I said, this isn't the strongest one I have seen.
I was taken by Rocky Ground's Yarmouth win and I suspect we all have that horse to beat, though Bircham won well at Ripon and The Taj has his sights lowered after running in the Coventry last time. In fact, The Taj beat Hasopop by 2 1/4 lengths at Doncaster last month and we meet on the same terms here. That suggests we are up against it but Hasopop looked to improve when winning a fair maiden at Yarmouth last time and hopefully is on the upgrade. He probably needs to improve a fair bit again to win this, though.
On what he has shown to date, I think he could have a few pounds too much here on a mark of 75. I rode him when he finished second in the soft at Leicester, and he went on to run another decent race at Salisbury. In his favour, he is a tough horse who handles soft ground and whose pedigree suggests the step up to 7f will suit. But it could be that there are one or two better handicapped horses in here.
Won well in the soft at Sandown last July, so I suppose it was slightly disappointing that he couldn't get closer than he did in the same conditions over the same course and distance last time, and has to prove his effectiveness over this longer trip. But he is at least slipping down the handicap, and could go well if returning to his best.
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