Hills fears ‘bounce’ factor

Charlie Hills has voiced concerns over whether Muhaarar can reproduce his stunning Royal Ascot display in today’s Darley July Cup at Newmarket.

Hills fears ‘bounce’ factor

A high-class juvenile last season, the Oasis Dream colt’s comeback victory in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury unsurprisingly had Hills dreaming of Classic glory, but those ambitions went up in smoke after being stuck wide in the French 2000 Guineas.

However, his luckless trip to Paris may have been a blessing in disguise as it left connections favouring a return to sprinting at the Royal meeting and the move had the perfect outcome as Muhaarar left what looked a strong field trailing in his wake in the inaugural Commonwealth Cup.

The three-year-old is now preparing to engage in a mouthwatering clash with Australian challenger Brazen Beau on the July Course and while Hills feels his charge is not yet at his peak, he admits only the race will tell him for sure whether his Ascot exertions have left a mark.

“I’m delighted with the horse. He’s done well since Ascot and his weight is good and he’s showing all the right signs,” said the trainer.

“The only slight reservation I have is the ‘Ascot bounce’. A lot of horses who ran at Ascot haven’t run up to form since. It does take a lot out of them.

“He seems in good form, but you never really know until they go to war again.”

Muhaarar is one of two runners fielded by owner Sheikh Hamdan, with the William Haggas-trained Muthmir also meriting respect after finishing a close third in Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand.

Haggas said: “Muthmir has been very well since Royal Ascot and is not the kind of horse that needs a lot of work.

“I am not sure that he would have won the King’s Stand Stakes with a clear run, but he was not beaten far and was staying on well at the end, so my first impression after the race was that maybe he needed a step back up in trip.

“I do have some reservations about the undulations of the July Course as all his best form has come on flat tracks.”

Trainer Chris Waller will achieve a “life highlight” if Brazen Beau can become the first Australian-trained winner of the famous sprint.

Narrowly beaten in the Diamond Jubilee, the star sprinter is aiming to succeed where esteemed compatriots Choisir and Takeover Target failed.

Brazen Beau carries the Godolphin blue for the first time in the hands of James Doyle.

“I’ve been privileged to train a few nice horses over the years, but he is right up there with the best of them. Winning the July Cup would not just be a career highlight, but a life highlight,” said Waller.

“He is up there with the best sprinters in Australia and as you have seen on the world stage, they perform well every year.

“I would not be swapping him for any other horse.”

Ireland’s ’sprint king’ Eddie Lynam fires a formidable twin assault, with multiple Group One winner Sole Power joined by young stable companion Anthem Alexander.

Sole Power was last seen finishing fifth when bidding for an historic King’s Stand hat-trick, while Anthem Alexander was third in the Commonwealth Cup.

“I have not done much with either of them since Ascot and have just tried to freshen them up, but they both seem very well,” said Lynam.

“Sole Power ran well in a very good July Cup two years ago, finishing fifth, beaten in a photo for third, and though he has never won over six furlongs, he’s finished in the frame in a Haydock Sprint Cup and been second in a Group One in Hong Kong over this trip.

“They just didn’t go the end-to-end gallop that he needs at Ascot. He owes us nothing and we are not afraid to lose.

“Anthem Alexander is trying to become the first three-year-old filly to win this race since Habibti (1983) so it’s a big ask for her and it looks hard for her to reverse Ascot form with Muhaarar.”

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