Winker Watson and War Artist have their respective connections dreaming of Group One glory ahead of the £400,000 Darley July Cup (3.35pm) at Newmarket on Saturday 9th July.
The pair are among 19 going forward for the six-furlong contest at the confirmation stage today, Monday 4th July. The prestigious race, the feature event at the three-day Piper Heidsieck July Festival (7th July–9th July), is part of both the QIPCO British Champions Series and the Global Sprint Challenge
War Artist, a close third to Marchand D’Or in the 2008 Darley July Cup, will be a first runner at Newmarket for trainer Markus Klug, who trains at Iffezheim, Germany.
The Rupert Plersch-owned eight-year-old arrived at Klug’s yard in the spring after running second to J J The Jet Plane in the Group Two Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, Dubai, and had his first start for the handler when fifth to Prohibit in the five-furlong Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot on 14th June.
Klug, who started training in 2003 and has 45 horses in his care, revealed today: “War Artist will run in Newmarket, that is the plan. He was fifth at Royal Ascot and that was a good run. He had a long break after Dubai in March; that’s a long time to the King’s Stand Stakes, so he did well.
“We hope that he can win the Darley July Cup but he is eight years old. We are hoping for fast ground; we don’t want any soft ground, so no rain between now and Saturday would be perfect.
“Mr Plersch sent the horse to me in April and I have been very happy with him. He will be my first runner at Newmarket and we are hopeful that he will run very well.”
Winker Watson was a high-class two-year-old, winning the Group Two Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Group Two TNT July Stakes over the course and distance at the 2007 July Festival.
The six-year-old retired to stud at the end of 2009 but returned to racecourse action on 25th June in the care of trainer Mick Channon, finishing a good sixth behind Genki in the Group Three Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs at Newcastle.
Channon said today: “I was thrilled with Winker Watson at Newcastle, we were all absolutely chuffed with the horse. He ran a cracker and the jockey, (Hugh) Bowman, said he only took a blow in the last half-furlong otherwise he would have been thereabouts.
“He seems to have come out of that race nicely. He’s very fresh and well so I’m hoping he will be spot on for Saturday. He’s done it on the track before but he has to do it again now.
“He may have been off to stud but I haven’t trained him any differently, I only know one way to train them. Peter Chapple-Hyam had him before and they all seemed to love him there. He’s such a smashing horse to deal with; great temperament and just a great horse to have around.
“He has got to step up again but he’ll strip fitter, that’s for sure. He would certainly have been a Group One horse as a two-year-old, so why not now? He’s as good as we could possibly have him and I’m hoping he will be good enough to win, but we will take whatever comes along. Some people complained that he didn’t look right in his back but we have never had a problem with him, he’s never been lame while we have had him and we will get on and train him. He’s a racehorse and we will try to win races with him.”
Also among the confirmations are Australian speedster Star Witness, runner-up in the King’s Stand Stakes and third in the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot for trainer Danny O’Brien.
Dream Ahead, joint champion juvenile last term alongside Frankel, could also line up for trainer David Simcock, while Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor is aiming Group Two Duke of York Stakes hero Delegator, the ante-post favourite, at the race.
Aidan O’Brien took the prize last year with Starspangledbanner and could seek a fourth victory in the Darley July Cup with Oracle and Group One winner Zoffany. The latter was a close second to Frankel in the mile Group One St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and narrowly went down to Mutual Trust in the Prix Jean Prat over the same distance at Chantilly yesterday.
The Richard Hannon-trained Monsieur Chevalier was runner-up in the Golden Jubilee Stakes, while Elzaam ran on to take fourth that day for trainer Roger Varian. Hannon could also saddle Libranno, while Roger Charlton has the progressive Golden Jubilee Stakes fifth Bated Breath alongside Genki. Dual Group One winner Regal Parade represents trainer Dandy Nicholls, while the Henri-Alex Pantall-trained Amico Fritz fared best of those that raced on the stands’ side to take sixth in the Golden Jubilee Stakes.
The remainder of those going forward consist of Dalghar, Hitchens, Jimmy Styles, Royal Rock and Swiss Diva.
One of the world’s premier sprints, 25 of the past 34 Darley July Cup winners have been crowned champion European sprinter in the World Thoroughbred Rankings (previously International Classifications).