Muhaarar bags July Cup thriller
Muhaarar confirmed his status as the new star of the sprinting division after getting up in the final stride to clinch a dramatic victory in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket.
Just weeks after stamping his authority over his own age group in the inaugural running of the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, the Charlie Hills-trained three-year-old once again delivered the goods on the big stage when turning over his elders in the Group One showpiece.
Last year’s runner-up Tropics blazed the early trail in his quest to go one better in the six-furlong event than 12 months ago, with Australian challenger Brazen Beau, Astaire and Eastern Impact all sitting close on his heels.
As the race entered the business end, Dean Ivory’s stable star was still the one to pass, with all of his rivals working overtime in their bid to pass him.
With the line in sight it looked as though the seven-year-old was going to gain a first victory at the top level that his efforts over the years have deserved.
But having found himself failing to handle the dip, Muhaarar, the son of 2003 winner Oasis Dream, suddenly hit top gear as the race was coming to a close.
Timing his run to perfection, dual champion jockey Paul Hanagan galvanised one final lunge out of the 2-1 joint-favourite to get his mount up by a nose and snatch an unlikely looking victory.
Hills said: “It was the track I was worried about more than anything. He got a good start and Paul managed to get him covered up, but he didn’t come down the hill too good. But he’s a real fighter and he galloped right to the line against some seasoned sprinters.
“He will only get sharper the more he competes in these races. He has got a great temperament and if you wanted any horse’s temperament you would ask for his.
“He has run a great race and has stepped up and improved again. I think seven furlongs is no problem, either. He’s just a very good horse and one that is very exciting.”
“We’ll put him back on a nice level track now. He’s in the Maurice de Gheest and the Haydock Sprint and there’s Ascot at the end of the year.
“He’s not in the Nunthorpe, so that’s out of calculations.”
Winning jockey Hanagan, who was completing a double having earlier won the Bunbury Cup aboard Rene Mathis, said: “This is what’s it all about. The whole team works hard, I’m delighted.
“He didn’t really handle the track and the dip and I could only really move on him when he hit the rising ground.
“I always just thought he was going to get there.”
Although watching Tropics have to make do with second once again, Radlett handler Ivory was still thrilled with the performance.
He said: “The last few strides felt like 10 minutes. I thought he had won it, but I can’t complain at all. To me, it is as good as a winner. It was not perfect ground today, but he had more about him than he did at Ascot.
“I believe he is a Group One horse and when he is right he gives 110 per cent. He is entered in the Stewards’ Cup, but he does not like a lot of runners. The next step will be the Listed race he has won in the last two seasons back here because he receives no penalty.
“We will have to seriously think about going over the Breeders’ Cup after that, as there are not too many times you get invited over to race there.”
Sprint stalwart Sole Power was fourth for Eddie Lynam, who said: “It was a really good race. He has been a great horse for us. He’s like the son I’ve never had.
“He’s run a really good race again today. Horses like him are great for the division.
“The winner is the true champion – a six-furlong horse – but our horse has run a great race.
“I feel a bit for the connections of Tropics, but I think you’ll find the race has won by a proper champion. We will head for the Nunthorpe now.”
Owner David Power added: “We are looking forward to the Nunthorpe, but I think he will be up against Acapulco. Hopefully we will have double-figure odds.”