Starspangledbanner is flying aloft in both the Cartier Sprinter and Cartier Older Horse divisions after a thrilling victory under Johnny Murtagh in one of Europe’s premier races, the Group One Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Friday, 9 July, and enters Cartier Horse Of The Year calculations.

 

The former Australian-trained speedster, now in the care of Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien, added the six-furlong showpiece to a previous Group One victory in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.

 

The Choisir four-year-old’s neck victory over Group One King’s Stand Stakes hero Equiano sees him leap to 96 points, 24 points clear of that rival in the Cartier Sprinter category.

The Cartier Racing Awards recognise excellence in horseracing and the awards are the sport’s equivalent of the Oscars. Split into eight categories, including the coveted Cartier Horse Of The Year, the awards are determined by points earned in Pattern races combined at the end of the season with the opinions of a panel of racing journalists, as well as votes from readers of the Racing Post and The Daily Telegraph. This is a system which has accurately rewarded supreme excellence over the years.

European horseracing’s most prestigious accolades will be presented for the 20th time on 16 November, during a glittering ceremony before an invited audience in the ballroom of London’s Dorchester Hotel.

The Cartier Racing Awards were established in 1991 to recognise the achievements of racehorses in Europe. There is also the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award Of Merit for the person or persons who, in the opinion of the special 18-strong Cartier Jury, has/have done most for European racing and/or breeding either over their lifetime or within the past 12 months.

Starspangledbanner’s lead in the Cartier Older Horse category stands at 16 points, with the Andre Fabre-trained Group One Prince Of Wales’s Stakes victor Byword (80 points) currently in second-place ahead of Equiano, with the great mare Goldikova and crack miler Paco Boy still level on 64 points.

With plans to retire the colt ahead of the imminent Australian breeding season having been scrapped, Starspangledbanner has the opportunity to confirm his superiority in the season’s remaining premier sprints and make an even stronger bid for Cartier Racing Awards’ honours.

Group One St James’s Palace Stakes hero Canford Cliffs (108) remains at the head of the Cartier Three-Year-Old Colt division but his Richard Hannon-trained stablemate Dick Turpin is breathing down his neck on 104 points following a stunning four-length triumph in the Group One Prix Jean Prat over a mile at Chantilly on 4 July.

Lope De Vega (98), who had seen off Dick Turpin when winning the Group One Poule d’Essai des Poulains was a below-par eighth at Chantilly but Andre Fabre’s charge had previously stormed to victory in the Group One Prix du Jockey Club there in June.

Cape Blanco, so impressive when winning the Group Two totesport Dante Stakes at York in May, had disappointed in the Prix du Jockey Club but returned revitalised at the Curragh in Ireland on 27 June. The O’Brien-trained colt made it six wins from five career starts when defeating stable companion Midas Touch by half a length to capture the Group One Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and take his Cartier points tally to 64.

StanJames.com 2,000 Guineas winner Makfi and record-breaking Investec Derby hero Workforce remain on 56 points, although the latter will attempt to enhance his claims for Cartier recognition when he lines up for his intended target, the Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes sponsored by Betfair at Ascot on 24 July.

Music Show emerged from the wings to clinch a deserved first Group One success at Newmarket’s Champagne Lanson July Festival on 7 July. The Mick Channon-trained filly had not enjoyed much fortune in the StanJames.com 1,000 Guineas, Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas or Coronation Stakes but unleashed a scintillating burst of speed to take the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes by two lengths from Spacious.

Music Show now has 58 points and sits third in the Cartier Three-Year-Old Filly division behind the Aga Khan’s unbeaten Group One Prix de Diane heroine Sarafina (64) and the Criquette Head-Maarek-trained dual Classic winner Special Duty (98), who was a disappointing seventh in the Falmouth Stakes.

Approve, successful in the Group Two Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, is at the head of the Cartier Two-Year-Old category with 18 points but the pack is closing in after events at the Champagne Lanson July Festival.

The William Haggas-trained colt was no match for the Hannon-trained Libranno (16) in the Group Two TNT July Stakes over six furlongs at the July Course on 8 July. The Librettist colt has the same points total as stablemates Strong Suit (Group Two Coventry Stakes victor) and King Torus. The last-named narrowly landed the Group Two 32Red.com Superlative Stakes at Newmarket on 9 July.

Hannon is enjoying a fantastic season and another of his two-year-old’s, the unbeaten Memory, heads the Cartier Two-Year-Old Filly division following an impressive victory over Soraaya (8) in the Group Two Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket on 7 July.

Memory, owned by a syndicate of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, was held up at the rear under Richard Hughes, who unleashed his mount with a conclusive turn of foot deep inside the distance. Her 24 points place her eight ahead of Group Two Queen Mary Stakes heroine Maqaasid, while Meow has eight points as does the Jean-Claude Rouget-trained Keratiya, who took the Group Three Prix du Bois at Chantilly on 4 July.

There is no change among the Cartier Stayers with Group One Gold Cup hero Rite Of Passage still basking in his Royal Ascot glory with 48 points. Dermot Weld’s charge is clear of Gold Cup runner-up Age Of Aquarius (28), Manifest (20) and Purple Moon (20).

In the overall Cartier Horse Of The Year standings, Canford Cliffs has amassed the most points with 108, four more than Dick Turpin, while Lope De Vega and Special Duty have 98. The big mover however is Starspangledbanner with the crack sprinter on 96 points.

Harry Herbert, Cartier’s racing consultant, commented today: “The excitement has come at us thick and fast in recent weeks as the season’s leading performers have begun to reinforce their claims for Cartier Racing Awards honours.

“Starspangledbanner matched the soaring temperatures at Newmarket’s Champagne Lanson July Festival with a scorching victory in a hot renewal of the Darley July Cup. With news of his retirement to stud being put on hold, we can all look forward to seeing him attempt to cement his position as Europe’s top sprinter in the coming months.

“The Cartier Racing Awards reward excellence and there have certainly been plenty of excellent performances this season already within all Cartier Awards categories.

“But there is still a long way to go and the upcoming Irish Oaks fixture at the Curragh this weekend, the King George meeting at Ascot and Glorious Goodwood will no doubt reveal more clues as to which horses are likely to ultimately emerge as the exceptional stars of the 2010 season.”