Cieren Fallon Jr. is hoping Oxted can provide him with a dream first Group 1 triumph by landing the Darley July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday 11th July.
Last year’s champion apprentice, 21, is still able to claim 3lb in the majority of races but the status of the showpiece sprint, which forms part of the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series, means he has to compete on level terms. The rider is grateful that the connections of the Roger Teal-trained four-year-old have stayed loyal to him instead of opting for a more senior rider.
Fallon Jr. guided Oxted to victory in the William Hill Portland Handicap at Doncaster in September and was also on board him when he won the Group 3 Betway Abernant Stakes on his return at Newmarket last month. Having had only eight races, it is unlikely he has reached the ceiling of his ability.
“It’s going to be a big day, my first ride in a Group 1,” Fallon Jr. said. “He’s been a real good horse to me and obviously Mr Teal and the owners have been very kind to allow me to keep the ride. I’m overwhelmed with the support they have given me and hopefully I can repay them with a big run. Oxted’s done wonders for me already and it would be a dream to win.
“He’s a young sprinter who is still learning and his best days are yet to come. It’s a big step up in class but he’s wintered well and is progressive. If it’s not his day on Saturday, then it will be in the future. He’s definitely a Group 1 horse and it’s only a matter of time before he proves it.
“He’s got really good gate speed and the stiff finish shouldn’t be an issue as he’s won over seven furlongs. He handled the undulations well [on the July Course] when running there last summer, he finishes strongly and we’ve got a nice draw. I don’t see any chinks.
“He showed his class in the Portland but there was a real difference in him when I rode him in the Abernant. He’s strengthened up a lot, he’s got bigger shoulders, and he travels a lot better. He had more natural speed and is getting faster. He ticks all the boxes you need to be a Group 1 sprinter and Saturday will tell us where he fits in with the others.”
Fallon Jr. believes the absence of any spectators will also be a bonus: “He has his quirks and we have the hood on him in the parade ring. The crowd not being there is a big help to him as he can get a little worked up beforehand.”
Fallon Jr.’s father, Kieren, the former multiple champion jockey, never won the July Cup. Fallon Jr. observed: “I’ve already got the bragging rights as I was a champion apprentice, plus I won a Group 3 as an apprentice – that’s another one! This would be something else. He’s going to walk the course with me today and Saturday and wants this as much as I do. In my opinion, he’s the best jockey ever and he rode the track brilliantly.”
Trainer Teal reports Oxted to be in peak shape. He said: “Winning the Abernant the way he did justified his entry. He’s been working really well and is pretty easy to train. He can get a little excited on race days but that’s the way with all sprinters – it goes with the territory.”
“We talked about running him at Royal Ascot, but when he ran at Newmarket the last day it was quite quick and he was a little bit stiff afterwards. Our main aim was always the July Cup so we made the decision to keep his powder dry, and let any soreness get out of his muscles. We wanted to give him every chance to turn up fighting fit for the Darley July Cup and he’s bounced back really well.”
Teal is himself seeking a first Group 1 success and added: “We’ve been threatening for a while but the big boys always seem to have one. It would be brilliant to come home with the pot. We are in it to win so we’ve got a chance. If you are not in it for that reason, you’ve got no chance.”
Standing in Oxted’s way is the exciting Golden Horde. Clive Cox believes the three-year-old has all the attributes required to provide him, plus jockey Adam Kirby, with a third triumph in the sprint showpiece, which takes place on the final day of the Moët & Chandon July Festival.
The past three runnings of the Darley July Cup have been won by three-year-olds and last year the Classic generation were responsible for the first five home. Golden Horde, a striking chestnut colt, heads the three-year-old runners this year and has been at the head of the betting since his decisive victory in the Commonwealth Cup on his return at Royal Ascot last month, when he had last year’s Windsor Castle winner Southern Hills well adrift in seventh.
He is seeking to emulate his sire, Lethal Force, who won the July Cup in a record time for Cox and Kirby in 2013, and Harry Angel, who struck for the pair in 2017.
Cox spoke to the media in a Zoom conference organised by QIPCO British Champions Series yesterday (Wednesday) and said: “It’s all about being in the right races with the right horses and I’m thrilled we have a horse of this calibre to follow in the same footsteps as the likes of Harry Angel and Lethal Force.
“He really grew into his frame and strengthened from two to three and has been in great nick since Ascot. The fact we’ve got the Commonwealth Cup now is a huge plus as we didn’t really have any stepping stones for the three-year-old generation prior to this. It shows Golden Horde is at the top of the tree as far as the three-year-old generation is concerned and I think the helpfulness of the weight-for-age scale, which is a tried and tested formula, is proving that they are a potent force at this particular stage.”
Golden Horde made almost all the running in the Commonwealth Cup but Cox says that, tactically, he is versatile. “He’s pretty uncomplicated. He can make his own running or take a lead. I don’t have any particular concerns on that score. The draw is always important wherever you are, but I would hope we could fathom our tactics out quite simply. I hope we don’t get too much rain, although he’s shown he can cope with ease in the ground.”
There is a second Royal Ascot winner in the line-up in the shape of the Kevin Ryan-trained four-year-old Hello Youmzain, who had Sceptical (third), Khadeem (fourth) and Shine So Bright (tenth) behind when winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. It was the second Group 1 win of his career, as he also landed last year’s Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.
Sceptical, trained by Denis Hogan in Ireland, changed hands for just 2,800gns last year as an unraced three-year-old and has already proved a lucrative purchase. He will again be ridden by Frankie Dettori, still searching for an elusive first win in the July Cup.
Ryan will also be represented by stable stalwart Brando, the 2017 Prix Maurice De Gheest winner, who will be running in his fourth July Cup. He beat all bar U S Navy Flag in the 2018 renewal and chased home Judicial at Newcastle last time out.
Threat scooped two Group 2 prizes as a juvenile last year – including when beating Lord Of The Lodge in the Al Basti equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes at York – and drops back in distance after finishing fifth on his return over a. mile in the St James’s Palace Stakes. Conversely, Equilateral moves up in distance after chasing home Battaash, his brilliant stablemate, in the King’s Stand Stakes.
German-trained challenger Namos, winner of two pattern races in his native country this year, adds international flavour, while Sir Dancealot gets the opportunity to try and improve on the fourth place he managed in the 2018 July Cup.
Article and video courtesy of QIPCO British Champions Series.