Overnight rain will guarantee a very wet racing surface at Newmarket tomorrow but trainer Paul Messara is committed to start his stable star Ortensia in the Group 1 £400,000 Darley July Cup (1200m).


Ortensia will run in the July Cup - photo © Taron Clarke

While Messara is prepared to accept that Ortensia isn’t at her best in rain affected ground, he knows the chances of a few of the other runners will be affected as well.

“It’s mid-range slow by Australian standards,” Messara said.

“If the weather forecast is right, with two days racing prior to our race it could end up more like a heavy.”

“She gets through it but she doesn’t thrive.”

“But quite a few of the fancied runners don’t like it so the field could drop away a bit.”

“Bated Breath doesn’t want it wet at all.”

Newmarket director of racing Michael Prosser expects the ground to remain soft even with the continuing forecast rain.

“I’ve had an update from John Kettley and the rain has reached Oxford. The forecast is for quarter of an inch of rain with further showers tomorrow,” Prosser said.

“Saturday is a forecast of sunshine and showers.”

“I think the ground has improved as the day has gone on and the last race time was good which was nice to see.”

“If there was no rain, I’d be looking at good to soft by race time but with the rain forecast it is likely to keep the status quo of soft ground.”

With the starting stalls being set up on the far side of the track for straight course races, Prosser said the decision to canter the horses down the stands side half of the track on the way to starting gates had helped maintain the racing surface on the far-side half which had been unraced on this year.

Ortensia with new jockey William Buick has drawn midfield at eight in the fifteen horse field while former Australian trained sprinter Sepoy has drawn at barrier four with Frankie Dettori to ride.

But the Godolphin stable has already stated that Sepoy was a very unlikely runner in the July Cup if the rain continued and the track became too heavy.

“Newmarket is a good draining track, but if it rains … it could be heavy and Sepoy would not run,” said Henry Plumptre, manager for Darley, the Australian based arm of the Godolphin operation.

“It’s all doom and gloom, but hopefully the weather men are as bad at tipping as ours are.”

The Roger Charlton trained Bated Breath, who is not at his best on soft ground is the reigning 7-2 favourite ahead of Society Rock at 5-1 with Ortensia the next in betting at 8-1.

Top rider Ryan Moore is having a rare ride for the James Fanshawe stable when he picked up the mount on Society Rock replacing Johnny Murtagh who was aboard the five year old when fifth to Black Caviar in the Group 1 £500,000 The Diamond Jubilee Stakes (6 furlongs) at Royal Ascot on June 23.

“Ryan Moore will be on Society Rock when he runs in the July Cup on Saturday. James happy he wants to ride him and he seems in good form,” Fanshawe’s wife Jacko tweeted.

Krypton Factor, a 20-1 chance, is another who is looking for a drying track according to his new rider Luke Morris who is replacing Kierron Fallon.

“Fingers crossed the rain stays away for him. He likes decent ground and I hope it will dry out for Saturday,” Morris said.

“It was a bit of a surprise. He is Kieren Fallon’s ride and he’s off to York to ride for Mr Cumani, so it’s nice to get the opportunity to ride him.”

“He beat Rocket Man in Meydan and any horse that can do that is special. He’s rated 124 and those are the horses you want to be getting on.”

Blewbury trainer Eve Johnson Houghton concedes that 33-1 chance The Cheka had an off day at Royal Ascot when twelfth to Black Caviar and expects a better showing at Newmarket.

“He seems in really good form after Ascot. I thought he ran below par there but I can’t find a reason for it,” Johnson Houghton.

“We did some tests and he’s absolutely tickety boo, so I’m hoping it’s just one of those things.”

“Unfortunately Neil (Callan) has been claimed to go to York, so Jimmy Fortune is going to ride him. This horse doesn’t mind any ground and we are hopeful of a big run from him.”

“It looks an open race, though if Bated Breath runs he’s a big danger.”

About The Author

Mark Mazzaglia

Mark is a passionate journalist with a life-time involvement in the racing industry. He spent many years as an analyst and form expert at the Courier Mail and also has hands-on experience working with some of Queensland’s top trainers.