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Article 10th July 2023 Newmarket

By Graham Clark

Aidan O’Brien has warned that Little Big Bear is only “50/50” to take his chance in the Pertemps Network July Cup on Saturday (15th July). However, he admits he could still seek to secure a record-breaking sixth win in the Group One contest with Meditate

The Ballydoyle master said on Monday that a decision over the participation of the son of No Nay Never in the prestigious six-furlong contest would be made over the next couple of days after he suffered a foot bruise at home last week. 

Little Big Bear failed to beat a rival on his sole try over a mile on his return to action in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket before appearing to appreciate the return to six furlongs in the Group Two Betfred Nifty Fifty Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock Park.

Following that success Little Big Bear, who scored at the highest level last year in the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh, was sent off the 10-11 favourite to add a second Group One win to his name in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. 

However, Little Big Bear had to settle for second best on the occasion behind the Julie Camacho-trained Shaquille, who is also one of 14 going forward for the £600,000 feature on the final day of the Boodles July Festival. 

O’Brien said: “Little Big Bear is not definite to run as he had a foot bruise last week and he missed six days without doing any cantering. 

“We might do something in the morning with him to see how he is and whether we decide to run him or not. 

“If he does run, we won’t know until he has run how that has affected him. He is not guaranteed to run and we will decide in the next couple of days.  

“I’d say it is 50/50 regarding his chances of running.”

If an outing in the July Cup doesn’t materialise for Little Big Bear O’Brien has raised the prospect of return the speedster back to five furlongs for the Al Basti Equiworld, Dubai Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh on September 10th. 

He said: “We didn’t know if he would see out a mile this year we only knew what we saw last year, but we still decided it was the right thing to train him for the Guineas. 

“The Guineas, without going on about it, was on soft ground and it was a bit of a mess for him as he got galloped into early on. We were delighted he came forward from that at Haydock. 

“There is not much for him really after the July Cup, that is the problem. At Haydock (in the Sprint Cup) it can be soft ground.

“There is a five-furlong race at the Curragh on Irish Champions weekend. We will just have to wait and see though.”


Should Little Big Bear not take his chance O’Brien could still be represented in the race by last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Meditate, who could be given one more chance to shine before heading off to stud. 

An appearance at Newmarket would represent a quick turnaround for the daughter of No Nay Never after she finished down the field in the Group One Haras d’Etreham Prix Jean Prat at Deauville on Sunday. 

O’Brien said: “We have to decide whether we are going to retire Meditate or not. It is very possible that she could retire. 

“France at the weekend was a bit of a mess. We thought Andrew’s horse (Chaldean) would make the running, but he didn’t and the pace was just very messy so we didn’t get a clear picture with her. 

“We didn’t want to carry on too long with her as she is a very high-class filly for the paddocks. 

“She is obviously in the July Cup and if Little Big Bear wasn’t going to run we would give her a chance going back over six before she goes as she is a filly that has a lot of speed and was always very comfortable going forward over six furlongs. 

“It is all a little bit up in the air, but it is dependent on Little Big Bear what happens to him during the middle of the week.”

One horse that will not be representing O’Brien at the weekend is dual Group Three scorer The Antarctic

Plans are now in place to train the son of Dark Angel, who was last sighted finishing down the field in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, for the Group On3 Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock Park on September 9th – entries for which close tomorrow.   

O’Brien said: “He will probably be trained for the Sprint Cup at Haydock at the end of the season. He will have a little break and that is what we are thinking for him. 

“He just got caught out on the wing in the Jersey and maybe the seven furlongs was a little bit too far for him. 

“He didn’t come back 100 per cent and that wasn’t his running.”


Pertemps Network July Cup Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) 6f – 4.35pm, Newmarket, Saturday 15th July

1) Art Power (IRE) 6 9 8 King Power Racing Co Ltd Tim Easterby

2) Azure Blue (IRE) 4 9 5 Mr P Appleton & Mrs Anne Elliott Michael Dods Paul Mulrennan

3) Brad The Brief 6 9 8 Chasemore Farm Hugo Palmer

4) Cold Case 3 9 2 Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum K. R. Burke

5) Emaraaty Ana 7 9 8 Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum Kevin Ryan Neil Callan

*6) Khaadem (IRE) 7 9 8 Mrs Fitri Hay Charles Hills

7) Kinross 6 9 8 Mr Marc Chan Ralph Beckett William Buick

8) Lezoo 3 8 13 Marc Chan & Andrew Rosen Ralph Beckett

9) Little Big Bear (IRE) 3 9 2 D.Smith,Mrs J.Magnier,M.Tabor,Westerberg Aidan O'Brien Ireland

10) Meditate (IRE) 3 8 13 M Tabor/D Smith/Mrs J Magnier/Westerberg Aidan O'Brien Ireland

11) Royal Aclaim (IRE) 4 9 5 Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum James Tate

12) Run To Freedom 5 9 8 Mr Godfrey Wilson Henry Candy Dane O'Neill

13) Shaquille 3 9 2 Hughes, Rawlings, O'Shaughnessy Julie Camacho

14) Vadream 5 9 5 Mr D. R. J. King Charlie Fellowes Kieran Shoemark

* = supplementary entry

14 go forward (13 confirmations plus 1 supplementary entry

2 Irish-trained


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