Aidan O’Brien senses Ten Sovereigns can make his presence felt in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
The No Nay Never colt looked a potential superstar after rounding off an unbeaten juvenile campaign with victory in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket last September – but he has finished unplaced in the 2000 Guineas and the Commonwealth Cup so far this term.
He has two and a half lengths to find on Saturday with Martyn Meade’s Advertise, on that most recent run at Royal Ascot, but O’Brien believes his charge is capable of improvement.
“We were very happy with his run at Ascot. It was his first run back, after running over a mile,” said the Ballydoyle maestro.
“He was a little bit rusty, coming back sprinting. He travelled, though, and kept going very well. We thought he would come forward for the run.”
O’Brien also runs the fillies Fairyland and So Perfect.
Meade admits Advertise faces the toughest race of his career this weekend – taking on the older horses for the first time.
He said: “Three-year-olds do have a good record in this, but it is a tough ask, by far the toughest race of his career so far. He’s going into unknown territory, taking on the older horses.
“Some of the older ones can be in and out of form, but when they are on-song they take a bit of beating. It’s a big step we’ve got to take.
“On balance we’ve just got to throw him in and hope he puts his best foot forward. He’s won on the track last year (in the July Stakes); he’s come on since then, so I hope he can pull it off.
“He’s joint-highest rated with Dream Of Dreams – they look evenly matched – and there’s the (Aidan) O’Brien horses as well, although we held Ten Sovereigns at Ascot and beat So Perfect at the Curragh.
“It’s the July Cup, they’ve all got a chance, so we’ll just hope for the best. It’s about how you perform on the day.”
Sir Michael Stoute’s Dream Of Dreams came within a whisker of denying Blue Point his famous Ascot double, and a re-production of that effort will surely see him go close.
Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Saeed Suhail, said: “I wasn’t expecting him to run so well at Ascot, but I think Sir Michael was – he had every confidence in the horse.
“Obviously he finished the race off very well. Sir Michael was expecting a very prominent run and thought he’d go close.
“I’m not so sure about the track. He made his debut on the Rowley Mile and was only just beaten. It was soft ground that day and led us into thinking for a while that he needed it, but he doesn’t.
“This season he’s worked like a different horse – he only works on his own but he’s moving beautifully. He looks like a winner going up the gallops – but whether he can win this, I don’t know.
“He used to be keen early, but he’s not now. He’s a relaxed horse, and I don’t really need to say what a good job Sir Michael has done with him – his whole demeanour has changed.”
Another Royal Ascot winner was Cape Byron, but he steps up markedly in class from the Wokingham Handicap to the highest level.
Trainer Roger Varian said: “He seems in good form. I thought his Wokingham win was comprehensive in a very competitive handicap carrying a large weight. It was a Group performance in some description.
“Whether it was a Group One performance, he probably needs to improve again to win a July Cup. You could argue he is still unexposed at the trip, but I think a stiff six furlongs like Newmarket should be tailor-made for him.
“If you are looking at Royal Ascot form, I thought Advertise was very impressive – and you give him a lot of respect, because he is a dual Group One winner now and he could bring the classiest form into the race.
“Sir Michael Stoute’s horse (Dream Of Dreams) chased home Blue Point and put in a Group One performance without winning. Ten Sovereigns may yet bounce back.
“There are some nice horses in the race, but you could argue there is not a sprinter stamping his authority on the division at the moment. It is a open year, so you could say it is a nice year to have a runner in the race.”
Michael Bell’s Pretty Pollyanna was a winner at this meeting last year in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes, and went on to beat the boys in the Prix Morny.
She started this season with a meritorious second in the Irish 1000 Guineas, but disappointed in the Coronation Stakes and now drops two furlongs in trip.
“Probably her most impressive performance came at the July meeting in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes, which proves she is very effective on the track,” said Bell.
“I think she is in very good form and I’m expecting a very good run.”