Star Witness can finish with a bang

NO Australian-trained horse has ever won tomorrow’s Group One Darley July Cup (3.35pm), but I expect that to change thanks to Aussie raider STAR WITNESS. Danny O’Brien’s four-year-old ran two absolute crackers at Royal Ascot and this will be his last ever race, as he is due to go back to stud in his homeland.

The worry is that he had two hard battles at Ascot, but neither contest panned out how he would have wanted and jockey Steven Arnold will be biding his time tomorrow. It is crucial that the jockey gets the horse settled amongst the field and his draw in stall 10 is perfect for him to track the leaders and pounce late on.

Delegator is a worthy favourite and is completely unexposed at the trip. The near two-month break since his last run is a positive and he was only beaten a length and a half by Sea The Stars in the 2009 Guineas. He has a decent draw against the far rail in stall 17 and the ground should be perfect, but he’s a touch too short for me at 7/2 on Betdaq.

There are plenty of dangers in the line-up, but the two who interest me most are both three-year-old outsiders. Libranno is two from two at the track – winning a Group Three here a fortnight ago – but is badly drawn in stall one. That said, he could well outrun his 33/1 quote. Aidan O’Brien’s Oracle has a similar profile to the stable’s Stravinsky and Mozart that won this race in 1999 and 2001 respectively and he is certainly no forelorn hope at 33/1 with William Hill.

The big betting race of the day is the John Smith’s Cup at York (3.15pm) and this has always been the plan for the in-form Roger Varian’s PEKAN STAR. He was a very impressive winner of a hot course and distance handicap in May and a mark of 95 surely underestimates him. He will appreciate any softening of the ground, so the forecast rain holds no concerns, and he should be backed at 4/1 with William Hill.

Richard Hannon won last year’s Superlative Stakes (2.20pm) with King Torus and he can make it back-to-back victories thanks to FORT BASTION. Unlucky to run into a decent one of Barry Hills on debut, he pushed Aidan O’Brien’s Maybe all the way at Ascot last time. That’s easily the best piece of form on offer here and he should be hard to beat.

I said to myself after TROPICAL BEAT’S unlucky run in the Britannia last time that I would back him next time up wherever he ran. He found all sorts of trouble that day and John Gosden has now reached for the first-time visor. He is well-handicapped and must have a great each-way shout in the 4.10pm. The closing handicap (5.55pm) can go to Ed Dunlop’s TANFEETH who clearly didn’t handle the track at Epsom last time and should be much more at home here.

There is some terrific action at HQ this afternoon and I’m going to give another chance to SHUMOOS in the Cherry Hinton (2.25pm). She had a terrible draw in the Queen Mary, but only lost out to Best Terms by a short-head and compensation awaits here.

The French fillies dominated the Coronation Stakes at Ascot and I expect the same to happen in this afternoon’s Falmouth (3.00pm). Rod Collet’s SAHPRESA is a proper Group One mare and has won the last two runnings of Newmarket’s Sun Chariot Stakes. She won impressively on her seasonal reappearance at Longchamp last month and should be too good for this lot. Jean-Claude Rouget’s Lily Of The Valley is possibly the biggest threat, while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Memory run well back at this track.

We were out of luck last week in the column, but I put up one horse on Twitter, Halicarnassus at 25/1 who won the Old Newton Cup. Things can change dramatically in the 48 hours leading up to a race, so follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my latest advice.

l City AM is proud to announce that after an incredibly successful first year as the Official Newspaper of the Investec Derby Festival, we have reached an agreement to extend the partnership further. To mark this occasion, City AM readers can purchase two for one tickets for any of the racecourse’s Epsom Live! music evenings.

Upcoming events include Scouting for Girls (14th July), The Wanted (21st July) or Blondie on 28th July. Just go to, click on the "Buy Tickets Now" button and choose the event you want to attend. Select "The Stand" and input ELCITY241 on the code box.

Next year will be even better as the 2012 Investec Derby Day marks the first official engagement for HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.


SHUMOOS 2.25pm Newmarket (today)

SAHPRESA 3.00pm Newmarket (today)

FORT BASTION 2.20pm Newmarket (Sat)

PEKAN STAR 3.15pm York (Sat)

STAR WITNESS e/w 3.35pm Newmarket (Sat)

TROPICAL BEAT e/w 4.10pm Newmarket (Sat)

TANFEETH e/w 5.55pm Newmarket (Sat)