Who should I bet on at Newmarket's July Festival?

The July Festival at Newmarket is underway and Planet Sport is here to cast its expert eye over some of the horses you should be adding to your betting slip.

The world's greatest horses, jockeys and trainers return to Newmarket's July Course for one of the biggest three-day summer Flat meetings of the year.

The July Festival hosts two Group One races, The Falmouth Stakes on Friday, which was won by Snow Lantern, and the Darley July Cup on Saturday, July 10, as well as many other exciting contests.

Planet Sport previews the progress and the odds of some of the horses in contention.

(All odds correct at time of article publication)

Saturday's tips

Quick tips snapshot: 1.30 Ephrata, 2.05 She Do, 2.40 Royal Fleet, 3.15 Masekela, 3.50 Ametist, 4.25 Starman, 5.00 Parachute.

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3.15 Masekela

Andrew Balding's two-year-olds look a good bunch this year - and while Masekela did not manage to win at Royal Ascot, it is too early to be giving up on him.

Having won on his debut at Goodwood, he was another he was paddling in the very bad ground at Ascot on the Saturday in the Chesham Stakes.

While he had won on debut with cut in the ground, it was getting to extreme levels by that stage of the Royal meeting.

He runs in the Bet365 Superlative Stakes, and the fact Balding is persevering at a high level suggests he knows what he has got on his hands.

4.25 Starman

Starman can fulfil his undoubted promise by landing his first Group One in the Darley July Cup.

Ed Walker's stable star has lost just once in his five-race career, when bogged down in desperate ground on Champions Day at Ascot last October.

He resumed winning ways on his reappearance at York at Group Two level, which confirmed him as one of the best sprinters around.

The ground should be in his favour this weekend, with no substantial rain forecast, and Starman can go one better than his sire Dutch Art - who finished second in the race in 2007.

Planet Sport notebook - Darley July Cup (Saturday 3.35)

Dragon Symbol

Dragon Symbol was involved in a controversial finish at Royal Ascot when he was first past the post in the Commonwealth Cup only to lose the race in the stewards' room to Campanelle.

Trainer Archie Watson said: "I would say with Dragon Symbol, we don't really know where his peak is yet. I'd say they (and stablemate Glen Shiel) ran similar races on the figures at Ascot, and it wouldn't surprise me to see either horse finish in front of the other because they are both high-class sprinters.

"It is an incredibly strong race, though - you have all the strands of form coming together. You have got Oxted coming back up from five furlongs; you have got Dragon Symbol from the Commonwealth Cup, Rohaan from the Wokingham and Glen Shiel and Starman.

"It is probably the most competitive race of the season so far - and it is great to be involved. I would love to win the race, and we go there with two good chances."

Glen Shiel

Glen Shiel arguably sets the standard at Newmarket, having won on Champions Day last year and finished a narrow second in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot.

"That was him right back at his best and I think he stripped a good deal fitter for his run in Ireland," said Hambleton Racing's Simon Turner.

"He's in great form at home, but obviously it looks a really good renewal this year.

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"He'll be there to do his best and hopefully run well. Needless to say we wouldn't be too upset if we saw a lot of the possible rain fall, but Archie is adamant that he doesn't need desperate ground to run very well.

"It's going to be a big field and with the three-year-olds coming in it does look a really strong race, so it will be interesting to see how the younger ones match up against their elders.

"What we do know is that if it does rain it won't affect us, whereas some of them might not be at their best."


Ed Walker's Starman is poised to take his place at the top of the sprint division when he lines up for the July Cup.

The four-year-old is vying for favouritism in the Group One contest over six furlongs.

Starman was last seen triumphing in the Duke of York Stakes at York, beating Naharr, Oxted and Summerghand in the process.

The performance was the bay's first of 2021 and Walker was pleasantly surprised to see him strike first time out after a 207-day break.

"I was treating it as a prep race, I expected him to need the run and in a way was happy to get beaten as Ascot was the be all and end all," he said.

"When he won like that and battled like he did, he certainly looked like he was going to tighten up and improve for the run.

"I'm not going to say he'll be a stone better after York, but I'd like to say he'll be better for that run."

This weekend's contest looks to be hugely competitive, with Starman and Oxted joined at the head of the market by Dragon Symbol - who was first past the post in a dramatic renewal of the Commonwealth Cup - and Jersey Stakes winner Creative Force, though Diamond Jubilee champion Dream Of Dreams is notably absent due to injury.

"It feels like a real championship race, you have all the best horses of the generation in there, but it's a shame not to have the Diamond Jubilee winner there alongside the King's Stand winner," Walker said.

"Starman has got an opportunity to be the sprinter of his generation because he's only got the one blip on his record, I'd love to think he could be the next Muhaarar.

"He's done absolutely nothing wrong bar that run on bad ground, I just don't know how much is up his sleeve - only he can answer that question and hopefully he does answer it on Saturday."

Chil Chil

Andrew Balding's Chil Chil has taken her form to a new level on her last two starts, winning a handicap at the Guineas meeting and the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle. Her trainer is another hoping for a dry week.

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Balding said: "She will go for the July Cup if the ground is good or faster. She showed some pretty useful form last year when conditions were right and she was a little bit unfortunate on a couple of occasions. Beat The Bank, her brother, got better with age and it appears she is.

"It is a big step up in class, but she likes the (Rowley Mile) track at Newmarket and I don't see why she won't like this one, so why not have a go?

"She travelled strongly at Newcastle and I was impressed with the way she picked up in the second half of the race. She is clearly a filly at the top of her game. It would be nice if she could prove up to this level."

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