CLIVE Cox has every faith in Lethal Force as this season’s surprise package in the sprinting division attempts to supplement his Royal Ascot gains in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket this afternoon.
The Lambourn trainer puts the grey’s improved form down to his physical development from three to four years old and expects his speedster to have more in the locker after his emphatic success in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
“He’s been in great nick since that wonderful day at Royal Ascot and it’s great to be going there with him in such good form,” said Cox. “I expressed before he has really blossomed from three to four and that is clearly visible in the standard of performance we have been able to see so far.”
Lethal Force had just been touched off by Society Rock on his seasonal reappearance at York in May, but turned that form around at Royal Ascot despite being worse off at the weights.
“He improved markedly even from that great run in the Duke of York with the weight situation and everything with Society Rock having a Group One penalty for that meeting,” Cox added.
“Reading the horse’s body language and the way he has trained since he came back from Ascot, I’m very confident.”
Jockey Adam Kirby’s only slight concern is whether Lethal Force will handle the July Course gradients. “He’s four now and he’s big and he’s strong. Although he didn’t look it, he was a weak sort of three-year-old. Now he’s improved, he’s filled out and he’s a proper horse. Providing he comes down the hill at Newmarket he’ll run well.”
Shea Shea is strongly fancied to land the spoils for South African trainer Mike de Kock. The six-year-old looked like lifting the King’s Stand Stakes at the Royal meeting but was collared close home by Sole Power, who challenged on the opposite side of the track.
“He ran a cracking race at Ascot, but he’s a hold-up horse. He likes to go at them and when he gets in front he likes to prick his ears and relax,” said De Kock. “He did that in Dubai and when Christophe (Soumillon) stopped riding him he put the brakes on straight away. He wants a challenge.
“We have to delay his challenge as late as possible. He likes to do that and plus we are going an extra furlong. He has won at that trip, but not at this level.
“He’s pretty good at five furlongs, six is unchartered territory at that level, but we have to hold him up and Christophe is going to have to hold his nerve for as long as possible.
“He came out of Ascot pretty well. He wasn’t well enough to run on the Saturday again (in the Diamond Jubilee), but we’re happy with the way he came out of the race. He’s in fairly similar form and is probably a bit fitter, which he is going to need to be for the six furlongs.”
Sole Power has yet to win at six furlongs, but his trainer Eddie Lynam feels his dual Group One winner has every chance of doing himself justice at the longer distance as he settles better in his races these days. “Any time he’s run over six, he hasn’t got five of it. He’s never really settled over six furlongs and he’s never really finished,” the County Meath trainer said.
“This year, the way he hit the line in the King’s Stand you’d have said he would have gone another 100 yards no problem. If he settles, it gives him a 50-50 chance of getting the six. If he gets the six, he deserves a huge amount of respect. He’s a very good horse.”
Lynam has a second string to his bow in Slade Power, who has triumphed in the Group Three Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh.
Aidan O’Brien has an interesting contender in Gale Force Ten, who drops back to six furlongs for the first time this season. Fourth in the French 2000 Guineas and runner-up in the Irish 2000, the colt won the Jersey stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot last time.
“He’s in good form and was just beaten in the Norfolk last year by a very fast horse (Reckless Abandon),” said the Ballydoyle handler. “He’s run over six furlongs, it was seven at Ascot and he’s run over a mile. It’s a big drop back, but it will be interesting.”
Australian raider Shamexpress finished four-and-a-half lengths behind Sole Power when ninth in the King’s Stand but his trainer Danny O’Brien expects a better performance over six furlongs. “He has galloped on the July Course the last two Tuesdays and we have been buoyed by the way he has gone. He has had no issues at all with the undulating track.”
Havelock flies the flag for the United States and his trainer Darrin Miller is optimistic that he can show his true colours after finishing only 11th in the Diamond Jubilee, while James Fanshawe’s Society Rock was third in this race 12 months ago and bids to go two places better after putting in his best work at the finish when second to Lethal Force at Royal Ascot.