July Cup

The July Cup is a Group One race run over a straight 6 furlongs on the July Course at Newmarket Racecourse, currently on the third and final day of the so-called ‘July Festival’ at the Suffolk venue.The race is open to colts, fillies and geldings aged three years and upwards and, with total prize money of £500,000 in 2019, is one of the most valuable, and prestigious, sprint races in the country. Indeed, since the Cartier Champion Sprinter award was established in 1991, no fewer than 13 winners of the July Cup have also been acknowledged as the champion sprinter in Europe in the same year.

The July Cup was inaugurated in 1876 and the first two runnings were won Springfield, a prolific son of St. Leger winner St. Albans, whose dam, Virilis, was owned by the reigning monarch, Queen Victoria. Following the introduction of the European Pattern in 1971, the July Cup was assigned Group Two status, but subsequently upgraded to Group One status in 1978. Since 1996, the July Cup has been sponsored by Darley Stud, the global breeding operation owned by Sheikh Mohammed, which has its headquarters at Dalham Hall, on the outskirts of Newmarket.

Historically, three trainers – namely Charles Morton, Vincent O’Brien and his namesake, Aidan O’Brien, who saddled the 2019 winner, Ten Sovereigns – have won the July Cup five times. The leading jockey in the history of the July Cup, though, is the incomparable Lester Piggott who, between 1957 and 1992, rode ten winners, including dual scorer Right Boy in 1958 and 1959.

The fastest time in the history of the July Cup was the 1 minute 9.11 seconds recorded by the four-year-old Lethal Force, trained by Clive Cox and ridden by Adam Kirby, who made all the running to win, readily, by 1½ lengths in 2013. In so doing, the son of Dark Angel not only supplemented his previous Group One win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot the previous month, but also shaved four-tenths of a second off the previous record for 6 furlongs on the July Course, set by Stravinsky in the same race in 1999.

Eclipse Stakes

The Eclipse Stakes is a Group One race run over 1 mile, 1 furlong and 209 yards at Sandown Park Racecourse, in Esher, Surrey, in early July. The race is open to colts, fillies and geldings aged three years and upwards an, as such, provides the first major opportunity for three-year-olds of the so-called ‘Classic generation’ to race against older rivals. The Eclipse Stakes was established in 1886, under the auspices of Leopold de Rothschild, proprietor of the Southcourt Stud, near Leighton Buzzard and, at the time of its inauguration, was the most valuable race in the country.

The Eclipse Stakes is named after Eclipse, a champion racehorse who, in 1771, retired from racing undefeated in all 18 starts – albeit including eight walkovers – and was declared the greatest thoroughbred since the celebrated Flying Childers, nearly five decades earlier. However, since 1976, the Eclipse Stakes has been sponsored by Coral, nowadays part of GVC Holdings plc, and is often referred to as the ‘Coral-Eclipse’.

The roll of honour for the Eclipse Stakes reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of middle-distance talent throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and, since 1970, includes the likes of Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Sea The Stars, Golden Horn and Enable. Five horses, including Mtoto in 1987 and 1988 and Halling in 1995 and 1996, have recorded back-to-back victories in the Eclipse Stakes.

Lester Piggott is the leading jockey in the history of the Eclipse Stakes with sevens wins, including on St. Paddy – erstwhile winner of the Derby and St. Leger – in 1961. The so-called ‘Wizard of Manton’, Alec Taylor Jr., saddled six winners of the Eclipse Stakes between 1903 and 1923, including Lemberg, who dead-heated for first place in 1910, and Buchan, who won the race twice, in 1919 and 1920. Much more recently, veteran Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute saddled the latest of his six winners, Ulysses, as recently as 2017 and shares the position of most successful trainer in the history of the Eclipse Stakes.

Dewhurst Stakes

Established in 1875 and originally financed by Thomas Gee of the Dewhurst Stud in Wadhurst, East Sussex, the Dewhurst Stakes is a Group One race run over a straight 7 furlongs on the Rowley Mile Course at Newmarket. The race is open to two-year-old colts and fillies, but not geldings and, since 2015, has been staged on the second day of the Future Champions Festival in October. Indeed, with total prize money of £533,750 in 2019, the Dewhurst Stakes is the most prestigious juvenile race of the season. Almost invariably, the result of the Dewhurst Stakes has a marked effect on the ante-post for the Classics; the roll of honour includes such luminaries as Nijinsky, Mill Reef and, of course, Frankel, to name but three of the illustrious winners down the years.

Too Darn Hot, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes in 2018, went into winter quarters as favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, but missed the race after developing a leg problem. He was beaten of the first three starts of his three-year-old campaign, but won two Group One races – the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood – before being retired from racing after sustaining a further injury. The 2019 winner, Pinatubo, remains unbeaten in six starts as a juvenile and, officially rated 2lb higher than Frankel at the same stage of his career, is favourite, at just 5/4, for the 2,000 Guineas.

Legendary jockey Lester Piggott won the Dewhurst Stakes ten times between 1956 and 1982, including on three subsequent Derby winners – Crepello in 1956, Nijinsky in 1969 and The Minstrel in 1976 – and is the leading rider in the history of the race. John Porter, the most successful trainer of the Victorian era, won the Dewhurst Stakes eight times between 1884 and 1898 including with Ormonde, who subsequently won the Triple Crown and retired undefeated after 16 races. In the first half the twentieth century, Austrian-born Frank Butters also saddled eight winners of the Dewhurst Stakes, including Toboggan, who subsequently won the Oaks; he and Porter are, jointly, the most successful trainers in the history of the race.

Arkle Challenge Trophy

Named after Arkle, arguably the finest steeplechaser in the history of National Hunt racing, the Arkle Challenge Trophy is a Grade One steeplechase run over approximately 2 miles – 1 mile, 7 furlongs and 199 yards, to be exact – on the Old Course at Cheltenham Racecourse. Established in 1969, the race is open to horses aged five years and upwards that, at the start of the current season, had yet to win a race over regulation fences, a.k.a. ‘novice chasers’, and is the leading event of its kind in the National Hunt calendar.

Granted the nature of the race, the Arkle Challenge Trophy often serves as a ‘stepping stone’ to the two-mile championship race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, when participants step out of novice company the following season. Indeed, in recent years, Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, Voy Por Ustedes, Sprinter Sacre and Altior have all completed the Arkle Challenge Trophy – Queen Mother Champion Chase double.

Veteran Lambourn handler Nicky Henderson has won the Arkle Challenge Trophy six times, with Remittance Man, Travado, Tiutchev, Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig and, most recently, Altior, and is the most successful trainer since World War II. Barry Geraghty, stable jockey at Seven Barrows since the retirement of Mick Fitzgerald in 2008, was aboard Sprinter Sacre and Sprinter Sacre; he also won the Arkle Challenge Trophy on Moscow Flyer, trained by Jessica Harrington, and Forpadydeplaster, trained by Tom Cooper, for a total of victories, which makes him the joint-most successful jockey in the same period. Sharing that position, though, is the recently-retired Ruby Walsh, who won the race on Azertyuiop, trained by Paul Nicholls and Un de Sceaux , Douvan and, Footpad, all trained by Willie Mullins.

Indeed, Mullins, perennial champion jumps trainer in his native Ireland, has dominated the Arkle Challenge Trophy in recent seasons. The Co. Carlow handler has won four of the last five renewals, with Un De Sceaux in 2015, Douvan in 2016, Footpad in 2018 and Duc Des Genievres, ridden by Paul Townend, in 2019. Mullins’ winning streak was interrupted only by Altior, trained by Henderson, who subsequently won back-to-back renewals of the Queen Mother Champion Chase 2018 and 2019 and, at the time of writing, is 14-14 over fences and is rated 180p by Timeform.