So that’s it – Newmarket’s summer season at the July Course is over. While we can’t say the weather has been much to write home about, the action on the track certainly has.
Fans were treated to a seven race card for our final fixture of the season on the July Course, followed by the historic Town Plate race for amateurs and a music set by the hugely popular McFly.
Here Graham Clark picks out five things we learned on the day …
REMARKABLE RENNIE TRIUMPHS OVER RIVALS … AND CANCER
It’s not every day we include an amateur race in our Five Things We Learned column – but then the Newmarket Town Plate is no ordinary amateur race.
First run in 1666 as the brainchild of King Charles II, the race is believed to be the oldest and longest Flat race in the world and has a habit for throwing up an incredible story.
This year the pre-race talk was of riders Colin Moore, a 79 year old who was looking to become the oldest in living memory to win the Town Plate, and Rachel Rennie, who had prepared to ride in the race in 2016 only to be diagnosed with breast cancer a month before it took place. Five years, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 20 rounds of radiotherapy later and here she was – finally taking her place in the most historic amateur contest anywhere on the planet.
The nature of the race means that the first mile or so takes place on neighbouring land adjacent to the July Course. As such cameras are unable to film the opening exchanges.
But by the time the runners and riders appeared on the screens for the expectant 15,000-plus crowd to cheer them home it was Torquay and rider Kirsty Evans who were a good 20 lengths clear.
However, Rennie’s horse Friends Don’t Ask had clearly read the script and with half a mile left the pair made their move, heading Jon Day and Stripe of Honour inside the final quarter of a mile and landing the spoils.
There were wild celebrations in the winner’s enclosure and rightly so. Rennie’s victory was not one for a passionate amateur rider but a triumph over adversity and cancer.
Afterwards she beamed: “There was a little bit of me thinking back to five years ago as this was the culmination of the getting back progress. It was the one thing I didn’t get to do then that I have now.
“It is great. I could hear people shouting at me which I didn’t think I would be able to with the crowd that was here.
“The reaction to this has been great. All the lads talk to each other and they often ask which one is the Town Plate horse when we are out. They were telling them this is the Town Plate winner yesterday (Friday) and I thought ‘Oh God do you have to?’
“I think we will hit up Newmarket town to celebrate this. It has to definitely be one of the highlights of my life. Although I said I’m competitive I’ve never done loads of competitive stuff apart from horse based stuff so to do something that is a bit more than your local show is good.
“I’m probably going to have about 100 WhatsApp messages on the phone. The whole thing has been very special.”
SUMMER NOT FINISHED YET AS HARLEY HAILS “TOUGH” VETERAN
Jockey Martin Harley hailed Summerghand as a “proper tough horse” after the veteran sprinter got his career back on track when going one better than 12 months ago in the Close Brothers Hopeful Stakes at Newmarket’s July Course.
Without a victory since claiming Group Three honours in the Abernant Stakes on the Rowley Mile at the Craven Meeting in April, the David O’Meara-trained seven year old returned to winning ways with a decisive victory in the Listed feature race.
Arriving on the back of down the field efforts in the Group One Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, over course and distance here in the Darley July Cup and in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood, the gelded son of Lope De Vega appeared to have something to prove on recent form figures.
The six furlong contest looked to be heading the way of 2019 Stewards’ Cup hero Khaadem, who looked to have plenty of his rivals in trouble out in front, but as his effort petered out Summerghand burst through under Harley inside the final furlong before pulling away to score by two and a half lengths.
Harley said of his 16-1 winner: “This is more of his grade these days. He ran in the July Cup and when they quicken away he gets a bit disheartened.
“Today they went quick and when he started to pass one or two tiring horses he really got his momentum up and finished strong.
“I was a bit worried about the ground as it was kicking up out there but as the pace was so strong early and a few horses started coming back to him he really came into his own during the last furlong and a half.
“He is a tough horse and in Listed and Group Threes he is very competitive, but when he goes in Group Twos and Group Ones he is taking on a different sort of horse. He is a proper tough horse.
“David (O’Meara, trainer) has done a fantastic job keeping the horse fresh and sweet. He rang me up and said ‘do whatever you think is right’. I didn’t want to drop him out today and I said ‘let’s keep him in midfield’ and the rest is history.”
RYAN’S HIGH PRAISE FOR CONVINCING YOUNGSTER MANACCAN
Picking out a two year old to go on to bigger and better things is one of the most fun aspects of following Flat racing.
So those with their notebooks handy could do worse than pay attention to trainer John Ryan, who believes Manaccan has the potential to hit the same heights as his former Group Two winner Silver Grecian.
The compliment followed a stylish success in the Close Brothers Savings British EBF Novice Stakes, which sets up a tilt against pattern race opposition.
The Exceed And Excel colt took a significant step forward in his development when running out a wide margin winner of the six furlong prize under jockey William Buick.
Always travelling well, the even money favourite quickly put matters to bed decisively to cross the line four and a half lengths clear of debutant Wajd and teeing up an outing in the Group Two Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on September 18th.
Newmarket trainer Ryan said: “When we first got him we thought he was nice and he ran a great race first time up at Ayr, where we gave him a prep to see if he was good enough to go to Royal Ascot and he wasn’t quite ready so we eased off him.
“We went to what was still a hot race at Yarmouth but he scoped a bit dirty after that. Luckily for me Graham (Smith-Bernal, owner) is very patient with his horses and we said we would just take a pull as there was always a bigger picture.
“You have to prove yourself worthy to get there but I think today he has probably done that… He would be the best I’ve had since Silver Grecian (2009 Superlative Stakes winner) and I think he is on that level.”
WALL CELEBRATES FIRST JULY COURSE WINNER OF 2021
He left it late, but trainer Chris Wall breathed a sigh of relief after saddling his first winner on the July Course this season on the track’s last raceday of the year, all thanks to Baque D’Or in the Close Brothers Invoice Finance Handicap.
The Belardo colt took a step up to a mile and a half in his stride on his first start since the beginning of June when getting the better of last time out Newbury scorer Saligo Bay by two and three quarter lengths.
The Newmarket handler said of his 3-1 winner: “We were in danger of not having a winner on the July Course this season and we normally have at least one. We have had a couple of seconds but just not the winner.
“It was just the way the race was run that got him beat at Doncaster and he had ringworm badly after that so we had to give him time to recover from that.
“He really appreciated the step up to a mile and a half today. Hopefully he can go on and have a productive autumn now.”
COOK LOOKS FORWARD TO SOME GOOD TIMES AHEAD
It has been four years since owner John Cook celebrated Breton Rock’s final Group Two success in the 2017 Lennox Stakes at Goodwood, but Indigo Times could give him plenty to look forward to following his victory in the Close Brothers Asset Management Handicap.
Without a win on his four previous attempts on the turf, the David Simcock-trained four year old finally added to his six all-weather victories when prevailing by a length and a quarter with Hayley Turner on board in the 1m 6f prize.
Cook said: “At last he has done it on turf and he has really showed his true form today. We had our doubts but they are horses at the end of the day and they can make fools of you.
“It has definitely taken us by surprise and we only ran him here because it was on our doorstep. At Ascot a couple of weeks ago it was too soft but it looks like we haven’t just got an all-weather horse now. It has been a long time since we have had a good one and hopefully he can go in again.”