The PR spiel for Newmarket racecourse bills the Ritz Club July festival, which starts today, as having a "garden party atmosphere". Shame then that the racecourse is forecast to be bathed in rain for the three-day card that features the July Cup, which is sponsored by Godolphin's breeding operation, Darley.
Friday's July Cup is Europe's richest sprint race, offering £400,000 (Dh 2.9m) in prize money to connections of the thoroughbred who has the right blend of speed and stamina to sustain their challenge up the July course's uphill finish. This year will be the inaugural running of the six-furlong sprint as the fourth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge. This is due to the fact that over the last 31 years no fewer than 23 winners have gone on to be Europe's top sprinter in the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. While not quite being able to match that calibre, today's racing features the Group 1 UAE Hydra Properties Falmouth Stakes and the Group 2 Cherry Hinton Stakes, a race which has a hit-and-miss record of producing the following year's 1,000 Guineas winner.
The star filly, Attraction, who won by five lengths in the Cherry Hinton in 2002, subsequently went on to win five Group 1 races, which included the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas, and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. Attraction was the first filly to complete the Cherry Hinton-1,000 Guineas double since the tough Sayyedati in 1992, and the last. Unsurprisingly, Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien heads this year's entries with the Storm Cat filly Heart Shaped, but of more interest to racing in fans in the UAE will be the David Simcock-trained Ahla Wasahl. Simcock campaigned at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai throughout this year's Racing Carnival, and his links with the emirate have been maintained through the jockey Ahmed Ajtebi, who takes the ride this afternoon.
Ajtebi recently won winning the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He has ridden nine winners over here this season, from 55 rides, and has four engagements at Newmarket over the next three days. A great opportunity, perhaps, to make it a perfect 10 of wins in Britain, and to fly the flag for the UAE once more. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org