The final day of the Piper Heidsieck July Festival at Newmarket Racecourse opens tomorrow with what appears to be a wide-open edition of the $93,500 32red.com Superlative Stakes (Group 2).
Fort Bastion, the Twinspires 5-2 lukewarm morning line favorite, heads a field 11 two-year-old thoroughbreds that will compete for Group honors going 7-furlongs on the turf over the July Course.
Fort Bastion has yet to break his maiden but he comes into the race with two second-place finishes including 2¼-length runner-up finish in the 7-furlong Chesham Stakes to Maybe who is ranked second on the Timeform list of top two year olds with Timeform ranking of 112.
Fort Bastion has a 107 Timeform rating and he is the only horse in the field with a ranking in the Timeform top 20. The Superlative Stakes will confirm the Timeform ranking or expose Fort Bastion as a vulnerable favorite, which I believe he may be, and I will probably use him on the bottom of exotics.
Two horses I really like are long shots Red Duke (15-1) and Pearl Mix (8-1).
Red Duke has never been out of the money in two starts and he comes into the race with a one-length win in the British Stallion Studs E.b.f. Maiden Stakes at Redcar Racecourse on June 18. His time of 1:26.3 in his 7-furlong maiden win is the best of all that have been entered in the Superlative.
Red Duke is a descendant of the Danzig branch of the Northern Dancer sire line and since 1990, that line has produced the most Superlative Stakes winners with seven victors: King Torus (2010), Hatta Fort (2007), Halicarnassus (2006), Horatio Nelson (2005), Baltic State (1997), Recondite (1996) and Ardkinglass (1992).
Red Duke appears to be a precocious colt out of the first crop of Hard Spun who never earned classic honors but was a multiple Graded-Stakes winner and tough, gritty competitor in sprint and route races winning the 7-furlong Kings Bishop Stakes (G1) and finishing second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and third in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
With five winners in 12 runners for a 42% strike rate, Hard Spun is off to a good start at stud and he is ranked 11th on the Thoroughbred Daily News First-Crop Cumulative Earnings list which also lists the first-crop stallions in England and Ireland.
Gone West, the damsire of Red Duke, is also the damsire of Epsom Derby (Group 1) winner Motivator and he is the sire of Zafonic, winner of the British 2,000 Guineas (Group 1), and Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Commendable.
Triple Crown winner Affirmedis the sire of the second dam, Bint Pasha – winner of the Yorkshire Oaks (Group 1) and Prix Vermeille (Group 1). In addition, the other three dams on the tail-female line – Saudia, Icely Polite and Royal Kin – were winners on the race track and producers of winners.
Pearl Mix will be running on turf for the first time as his two previous starts have been on the all-weather track at Kempton Park. But if he can transfer the form of his maiden win to the turf, Pearl Mix will be tough to beat.
Pearl Mix took the early lead out of the gate and never trailed in the Lay Back And Win At Betdaq.com Maiden Stakes, defeating a field of 12 by an impressive 7-lengths. His time of 1:27.1 is the second fastest at that distance.
Like Red Duke, Pearl Mix is also a descendant of the Danzig sire line. Oratorio, the sire of Pearl Mix, was competitive in sprint and route races winning the 7-furlong Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Group 1) as well as the 10-furlong Eclipse Stakes (Group 1) and Irish Champion Stakes (Group 1).
At stud, Oratorio sired King Torus who won the 2010 Superlative Stakes. Danehill, a Sire of Sires and grandsire of Pearl Mix, sired Horatio Nelson, winner of the 2005 Superlative Stakes.
Linamix, the damsire of Pearl Mix, won the Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2,000 Guineas) and Lammtarra, the sire of the second dam Rose Quartz, won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Another horse I like in this race is Sound Advice(12-1) who is taking a big step up in class but I like his gritty performance in 1¾-length maiden win at Musselburgh Racecourse and he has the breeding to be competitive.
"I thought he was very impressive first time out,” said trainer Keith Dalgleish in an At The Races news article. “Maybe the overall margin wasn't impressive, but he stumbled down to his knees coming out of the stalls and to get going again and do what he did was very good. It's a massive step up in class for him this weekend but I believe in the horse and we'll see what happens. …I'm really looking forward to seeing how he gets on in a higher grade."
Echo Of Light, the sire of Sound Advice, is a descendant of Mr. Prospector and multiple Group winner in England and France who was competitive from a mile to 10-furlongs.
Dubai Millennium, the grandsire of Sound Advice, was a multiple Group winner in England and France and he received a 140 Timeform rating for his victory in the 2000 Dubai World Cup. Dubai Millennium sired the 2004 Superlative Stakes winner Dubawi who went on to become a Classic Champion Thoroughbred winning the Irish 2,000 Guineas.
Sound Advice is the only descendant of Mr. Prospector entered in the Superlative Stakes and while that line is not as influential in England as Northern Dancer, it is well known for getting precocious two-year-olds and I’ll use him in the exotic wagers.
Good luck with the final day of the July Festival.