Alcohol Free claimed her fourth Group 1 win when running away with the July Cup at Newmarket on Saturday. Andrew Balding's filly won the Coronation Stakes and Sussex Stakes over a mile last summer and began her four year old campaign over the same distance at Sandown and Newbury during the spring. However, her connections have been keen to drop her back to sprint distances for some time and she tackled six furlongs in the Platinum Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot but couldn't only finish ninth behind Naval Crown. The daughter of No Nay Never turned the tables on the same rival in no uncertain terms on the July course though staying on strongly on the far side to win going away by a length and a half from the Godolphin owned runner-up. She will presumably head to Haydock for the Betfair Sprint Cup (3rd September), although she is likely be considered for the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville (7th August) in the meantime. Any ease in the ground in France wouldn't be a hindrance.
Indeed the underfoot conditions on the July course were almost certainly responsible for a number of runners underperforming, including the favourite Perfect Power. Richard Fahey's dual Royal Ascot winner was in rear throughout and never threatened to trouble the principals. Beaten around five lengths in seventh, we know he is much better than he showed here. Don't be surprised if the three year old bounces back next time in the aforementioned Prix Maurice De Gheest - successful at Deauville in the Prix Morny last term, he will relish the likely ease underfoot and all eyes will be on Christophe Soumillon's mount. The six and a half furlongs will be ideal, too.
Last year's Haydock Sprint Cup winner Emaraaty Ana showed precious little in his first three runs earlier this year but Kevin Ryan's six year old showed much more spark in sixth. Less than four and a half lengths behind Alcohol Free, he showed plenty of speed throughout and will be more at home on a flatter track. Runner-up in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in 2021, he shouldn't be discounted this time around either with his end of season target being the Breeders' Cup Sprint over five and a half furlongs (see page 95 in Ahead On The Flat) at Keeneland- he could be a leading player in that, too.
Unfortunately, Out From Under found one too good having attempted to make all in the concluding seven furlongs handicap at Ascot on Saturday. Roger and Harry Charlton's three year old was a shade keen early on which didn't help his cause but ultimately he wasn't good enough to see off the late challenge of the progressive Tarrabb. I think time may show he faced an impossible task because Owen Burrows' filly is capable of climbing the ladder and going on to better things.
The Top 40 in AOTF were amongst the winners (30th of the season) at Newmarket on Friday though with New London returning from a 65 days break to win a ten furlongs three year old handicap by three lengths off a mark of 99. Not seen since finishing a well beaten second in the Group 3 Chester Vase in early May, the Dubawi colt had no difficulty dropping back in distance on the July course making a mockery of his rating as he bounded clear inside the final furlong. A return to Pattern company will be next and hopefully Charlie Appleby's colt will enjoy a fruitful late summer/Autumn campaign. The fact he handles all types of ground is a major positive to his long-term future.
On Friday evening, I was lucky enough to be invited to Brian Hughes championship winning party - it was a superb night. My press room colleagues included Darren Owen and Niall Hannity and there were a whole array of people from Flat and National Hunt racing. The likes of A.P.McCoy and another former champion Harry Skelton made the long journey from the south. It was great to catch up some many people - one particular highlight was talking to Chris Grant and him telling us how he advised the late Gordon Richards to buy One Man having ridden him over hurdles. It was a memorable evening and I felt honoured to have been invited. Brian is a credit to himself, his family and his profession.
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