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.