Trainer Kevin Ryan is hoping his decision to skip Royal Ascot and wait for the Darley July Cup with Brando will bear fruit when the Pivotal gelding takes part in the centrepiece of the Moët & Chandon July Festival at Newmarket’s Adnams July Course on Saturday.
The fourth of seven races in the Sprint category of the QIPCO British Champions Series and the first time that 3-year-olds get to take on older horses over six furlongs at G1 level, the £500,000 Darley July Cup received 19 entries at today’s confirmation stage.
Brando was one of seven different individual G1 winners among the entries. He won the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs at Deauville last August
He is also a Newmarket specialist. Unbeaten in three starts at the Rowley Mile, including back-to-back victories in the G3 Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes, he finished third in the 2017 July Cup on his only previous start on the July Course.
He has run well on both his starts since that second Abernant triumph, finishing runner-up in the G2 Duke Of York Stakes at York in May and fourth in the G2 Greenlands Stakes in Ireland ten days later.
His potential rivals on Saturday are led by the G1 King’s Stand Stakes winner Blue Point, and the 3-year-olds Eqtidaar and Sands Of Mali, first and second in the G1 Commonwealth Cup, not to mention Limato, winner of the July Cup in 2016 and second 12 months ago.
Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien has no less than ten of the 19 entries, including last year’s dual Rowley Mile G1 scorer U S Navy Flag, the European champion juvenile last season, while further international flavour is added by the presence of the Australian hope Redkirk Warrior, a three-time G1 hero down under.
Kevin Ryan,trainer of Brando, said: “I have been training Brando especially for the July Cup and he is in great form. I don’t know what it is about Newmarket, but he seems to love the place. He must like running downhill. He is a big, heavy-topped horse yet is very well balanced and seems to relish running down into the dip. He wasn’t beaten very far in this race last year.
“It was a difficult decision to skip Royal Ascot, but I wanted him to run in the July Cup and then defend his Prix Maurice de Gheest title, and I didn’t think it would be fair on him to go to Ascot as well. You can’t run in all these championship races.
“We probably backed him up just a little too soon in the Greenlands Stakes. He was a little below par that day and things didn’t really work out for him in the race either. In his younger days, he was very soft ground-dependent, but now he handles all types of ground. I saw pictures of the July Course the other day and it looked in great nick.”