In as open a July Cup there has been for years, it was Richard Fahey's Mayson who triumphed in atrocious conditions at Newmarket to gain a first British Group 1 win for both Fahey and jockey Paul Hanagan in a fantastic front running performance. Weather conditions played havoc with entries on Saturday with Bated Breath, Krypton Factor and Libranno all pulling out of the feature race as part of a tally of twenty-two withdrawals across the seven race card and Mayson capitalised on the rain softened conditions to stretch his rivals in a strongly run race before posting commendable sectionals in the final two furlongs of his race.
A dual Group Three victor this year, Mayson had lost his way of late with under-par performances at York and Newcastle in lesser affairs but had built up a superb head of steam prior to those races with a double victory at Newmarket in the Abernant Stakes and Palace House Stakes. Returning the familiar surroundings of Newmarket - albeit this time on the July Course - seemed to revitalise Mayson and in heavy conditions he was not for catching. "He got very upset at York two runs ago" said Fahey; "He got a hind leg stuck in the stalls for about twenty seconds and he came home not just right. I couldn't say he was lame but he was stiff. It was then bottomless at Newcastle last time out whereas this is a bit more like soft". Victory for Mayson came just two weeks after jockey Paul Hanagan was violently thrown from another mount at the July Course when clipping heels going into the renounced July Course dip. Hanagan was philosophical in victory; "This is typical of the ups and downs of this game. Last week I was being stretchered off and this week it is the July Cup - you can soon get brought back down to earth with a bump". It is not clear where Mayson will be targetted next with Fahey reluctant to send his charge back to York for the Nunthorpe. The Haydock Sprint Cup and the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville both look viable options for this progressive four year old.
Having beaten Mayson earlier in the year, it was The Cheka who took second. Visored for the first time, The Cheka tracked Mayson for the majority of the race in third before chasing his old rival towards the final two furlongs. Like many, The Cheka struggled to cope with Mayson's ability to storm through the soft ground, eventually going down by five lengths, but held off the consistent Society Rock by a further length. Eve Johnston Houghton's son of Xaar burst onto the scene as a tantalising racing prospect at the age of two when stretching away for an unfathomable ten length success in a maiden contest at Ascot but injuries all but put paid to any hopes of running him in the 2009 2000 Guineas. The Cheka was put away after a narrow defeat in the Solario Stakes in August 2008 and was not seen again until surging to a game victory over a talented group of rivals at Newbury in 2009. With injuries seemingly behind him for now, The Cheka has reverted to sprinting in 2012 and his victory at Doncaster in the Listed Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster over Mayson on his seasonal reappearance was quickly backed up with a narrow defeat in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes. Johnston Houghton was noticeably delighted with her star, "I am absolutely thrilled with him. Jimmy (Fortune) said before he likes the ground and he was right. He's a big strong six year old. We knew he couldn't come from behind so I said to just let him bowl. He is back on song again; He ran a good race at Royal Ascot but it's just getting the stalls right with him and we will keep working on that because I am really looking forward to the back-end race at Ascot with him". Johnson Houghton was referring to the QIPCO Champions Sprint, won last year by Deacon Blues, which now looks to be The Cheka's late-seasonal target.
It was yet another fourth in the July Cup for Paul Messara with Ortensia who was seen to much better effect today as opposed to her under performance in the Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot - a performance Messara states was down to Ortensia not handling the pre-race proceedings well. Ortensia pulled out towards the stands side with two furlongs to go and looked like she would mount a serious challenge heading towards the final furlong before Mayson pulled away yet again, "I thought it was a super run as she doesn't really handle a wet track." said Messara, "Coming fourth under those conditions was outstanding and if we had the right conditions we would have been right there at the finish". The Nunthorpe Stakes at York over five furlongs looks to be Ortensia's next and final target before returning to stud duties in Australia. Whilst one star of Australia shone in the soft conditions, Sepoy again failed to fire in unfamiliar conditions - having previously failed to land a blow in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Keen on his way to post, Sepoy had been fancied by many as the class horse in the race and was prominent for the majority of the race. However, the soft conditions look to hinder his progress in this race as did a renewed temperament and he finished a well-beaten tenth-place.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)