Johnston: Star Lahib
has leading chance
54th John Smith’s Cup (Heritage Handicap) | 1m2f88y, 3yo+ | C4/RUK
THIS is always one of the most fiercely contested middle-distance handicaps of the entire Flat season, and several of today's runners will have been carefully laid out for the contest.
Lightly raced Stencive, the ante-post favourite, fits the bill, but last month's Duke of Edinburgh Handicap runner-up will have to overcome what is widely perceived to be a poor draw in stall 21 - only one other runner is berthed wider - if he is to justify his market position.
Clon Brulee, hugely progressive in two wins this season, most recently when landing the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar, is in box six and appears to have the right attributes for this race, namely a good cruising speed, the ability to hold a decent early position and a turn of foot.
David Barron trains him and said: "He is a smashing horse and thoroughly progressive. He has a good draw but in an ideal world I'd have preferred some cut in the ground for him. There's only one John Smith's Cup, though, and he'll take his place."
Barron also runs Tres Coronas and added: "He has always appeared better when there's some cut underfoot, too. He's very exposed but is in good form."
King's Warrior, successful 12 months ago, faces very different ground conditions this time and has yet to produce his very best form on a lightning-quick surface.
Mark Johnston is represented by Star Lahib and Fennell Bay.
The trainer's son and assistant Charlie said: "We had reservations about the ground for Star Lahib last week as we thought she needed some cut, but she proved us wrong. She should have a leading chance. Fennell Bay will give his all."
York good to firm (watered)
Ascot good to firm (watered)
Newmarket good to firm (watered)
Chester good to firm
Hamilton good to firm, good in places
Salisbury good to firm, firm in places
Tipperary good to firm (watered)
Downpatrick good to firm (watered)
Today's key pointers
Some of the leading players for the July Cup are six-year-olds, the likes of Shea Shea and Society Rock among them. One thing supporters of those horses may like to know is that age group have supplied just one winner, Les Arcs in 2006, and two placed horses, Hitchens and The Cheka, from 21 who attempted it since 2000, albeit not many have been strong fancies. Three, four and five-year-olds have won four each in that period.
Seven of the last ten winners of the 5.00 at Newmarket, a handicap for two-year-olds, have carried 8st 11lb or more to success, so it's best to look for something with a bit of decent form rather than a horse lurking at the bottom of the weights.
Surprisingly a high draw in the John Smith's Cup has been an advantage in the previous ten years, as on seven occasions the winner has emerged from stall 12 or wider, and five times from at least 16.
Pointers courtesy of Raceform Interactive