At the end of the A14, the never ending stretch of dual carriageway that carries you east, you will find the secluded Narnia of Newmarket, the hidden home of the horse that splits the counties of Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.
A town where horse is king, and mere human a pauper, it is four-legs which rule this habitat of just 20,000, many of whom have taken the pilgrimage here to work amongst the equine champions which have been born, raised and later raced on the hallowed grounds.
A hidden gem, aloof to many outside the sport, Newmarket is a town like no other. Steeped in history dating back to the times of James I who called Newmarket home, it is a place where you can feel the dew rising from the heath as you turn left at the statue of the rearing stallion and head towards the heart of the town. It is HQ, racing’s home.
Racing returns home to Newmarket this week as the entourages roll in for the towns annual July Festival. However we now move away from the towering grandstand of the Rowley Mile and the hullabaloo which surrounds the early season Classics, to the more tranquil, relaxed setting of the July course and its equally daunting undulations to both horse and punter.
With three day’s of high quality sport peering over the horizon, let’s take a look at some of the main protagonists to look out for plus a couple of tasty bigger priced alternatives.
Caravaggio – July Cup, Saturday, 11/10
The race of the week, and the horse everyone wants to see. Having landed the Commonwealth Cup in impressive but workmanlike fashion to some people’s eyes, the next super stallion of the Coolmore block goes up against the older horses in what could be the son of Scat Daddy’s toughest test to date.
Last year’s winner Limato, reunited with Harry Bentley, leads the opposition that includes the Diamond Jubilee one and two, The Tin Man and Tasleet as well as the returning Brando.
Harry Angel also reopposes having had to settle for second in their Ascot battle, and there looks to be a whole host of the favourites stablemates thrown in the mix, in what looks a race to sit back and savour.
How many more times will we see the super sprinting dual-Ascot winner? Only time will tell! So let’s enjoy him while we can, and leave Messer’s Magnier, Tabor and Smith to worry about how many 0’s to add to his stallion fee.
Frontiersman – Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Thursday, 13/8
He caught the eye on Guineas weekend when landing the 1m4f handicap in taking fashion and then followed up, proving his worth at the top table, with a well-deserved second to Highland Reel at Epsom in the Coronation Cup.
He may be no price for the working man at around the 13/8 mark, but having skipped Royal Ascot, the one eyed Godolphin wonder is backed to take centre stage and cement his position as one of the leading middle distance horses heading into the second half of the season.
Titi Makfi – Bet365 Handicap, Friday, 6/1
Mark Johnston’s gutsy mare arrives here on a phenomenal four-race unbeaten run where she has conquered all before her including the promising pair of Gallifrey and White Chocolate.
She now attempts to land the Bet365 handicap on Friday that her handler has farmed in recent years and looks to have the assistance of a top class pilot in the plate, with Ryan Moore provisionally booked, and he will no doubt be booting her home in her usual determined style unless Coolmore or Sir Michael Stoute comes knocking.
She has risen 23lbs in the ratings since starting her winning run in early June and has showed no signs of hitting the ceiling just yet. Take that price while you can!
Wuheida – Falmouth Stakes, Friday, 9/2
She started her life on the racecourse in taking fashion when scoring over seven furlongs here last season before landing the Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc day to skyrocket herself to the front of the Guineas and Oaks ante-post markets.
Injury then curtailed her Classic ambitions and she has a tough task on her plate here, on her reappearance back from that break, up against some likeable opposition. The challenge is headed by the Ballydoyle pair of Roly Poly and Rain Goddess, plus the French Guineas 2nd Sea Of Grace, who gets more and more dangerous as the heavens continue to pour.
Time will tell whether this trip will prove too short, and further may be required, but it will just be brilliant to see the daughter of Dubawi back on the track.
Von Blucher – Bunbury Cup, Saturday, 50/1
An expensive purchase from John Gosden into Rebecca Menzies’ ambitious, and upwardly mobile string, the northern raider caught the eye when travelling as well as anything up until the 1f marker in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot
That was over a mile and the drop to seven furlongs should see him finish a lot closer this time, and could be capable of causing a shock, well overpriced at his current market figure.
He was a winner at this meeting last season in the Bet365 mile while in his formative years at Clarehaven, and followed up with three further placed efforts later in the season, before changing hands and heading up the A1 to County Durham in the close season.
He also holds an entry in a Listed contest at Chester on the same afternoon, so a note of caution may be advised until declarations are finalised. However a mark of 98 is there to be exploited sooner rather than later.
A £1 Lucky 31 on the selections pay’s £24,541 if all five are lucky enough to win, while the five-fold accumulator works out at 10288/1 which is surely worth 50p!!
Whatever you’re backing this week, best of luck, and enjoy three days of exciting action and fun, in hopefully the Newmarket sun.
Photo of Caravaggio by Michael Harris.