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Newmarket - Horse Racing: July Festival Day Three review

Alcohol Free landed the July Cup spoils at Newmarket on Saturday afternoon to cap a tremendous 24 hours for rider Rob Hornby.

Elsewhere on day three of the July Festival, there were wins for Isaac Shelby in the bet365 Superlative Stakes for trainer Brian Meehan, while the bet365 Bunbury Cup was won by Bless Him under a vintage Jamie Spencer ride.

Here's our review of the concluding day of action from Newmarket's July Festival.

Hornby in Alcohol Free party mood

Rob Hornby has had quite a tumultuous few weeks. The rider was replaced by Colin Keane for Westover's impressive Irish Derby success at the Curragh last month – a decision once taken by connections that Hornby accepted with more than a degree of class, despite his obvious reason for disappointment.

That sage approach was applauded by many in racing and, just a couple of weeks later, Hornby was getting paid back in spades.

Prosperous Voyage caused a massive upset on Friday, handing a first ever defeat to Inspiral in the Falmouth Stakes and, a day on, Alcohol Free powered home to win the July Cup and give Hornby a famous Group 1 double.

It was Platinum Jubilee Stakes winner Naval Crown who made most of the running, but Hornby and Alcohol Free – well beaten in that Royal Ascot run, her first time sprinting since 2020 – came with a piercing late run and they were well on top at the finishing line.

Naval Crown was second, with Aussie raider Artorius in third and the favourite, Commonwealth Cup winner Perfect Power, no better than seventh for Richard Fahey and Christophe Soumillon.

Hornby had never won a Group One on home soil and he admits there will be some celebrations this weekend.

"It won't be an alcohol-free weekend," he quipped when asked how he would celebrate. "It's crazy really; it's amazing; I'm speechless.

"Yesterday was amazing but to have two Group 1 rides in two days is fantastic let alone two winners."

The Andrew Balding-trained filly Alcohol Free is 7/1 to add the Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood on 26th July.

Shelby rules in Superlative Stakes

Isaac Shelby had impressed in his debut win at Newbury in May and the Brian Meehan-trained son of Night Of Thunder took the rise in class in his stride to win the bet365 Superlative Stakes, narrowly edging out Charlie Appleby's Victory Dance, the 5/4 favourite, after the pair pulled clear.

Sean Levey had to be strong in the finish, with William Buick and Victory Dance thrusting, but they held on by a head.

Dark Thirty for Richard Hannon was third, with Mark Johnston's hitherto unbeaten Lion Of War the disappointment as he seemed to become unbalanced in the Newmarket dip and forfeited any chance.

Isaac Shelby is a 20/1 chance for the 2000 Guineas back at Newmarket next season and his trainer was thrilled with a colt he clearly thinks plenty of.

"He's really special. This is high-end stuff here so Isaac Shelby has really proved himself," said Meehan. "He's always looked like a nice horse since he came in the yard last winter and has always been easy to deal with.

"He's a horse who was always going to improve and I think physically there is massive improvement in him. We'll bide our time before we make any plans going forward, but I see him as a four-run horse this season."

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Newmarket - Horse Racing: July Festival day two review

Newmarket - Horse Racing: July Festival day one review

Vintage spencer on Bless Him

Jamie Spencer did what Jamie Spencer does to land the £120,000 bet365 Bunbury Cup on Bless Him for trainer David Simcock.

The horse was dropping back in trip and while a frantic pace was going off up front, Spencer's mount was anchored in rear.

They were still close to being last at half-way, and while many riders were flat out, Spencer was minding his powder.

Bless Him then started bursting past rivals and he got to the lead with a half-furlong to run, winning with plenty in hand over a bunched finish led by Ropey Guest, Jumpy and market leader Montassib.

The International Stakes on the King George and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes card at Ascot on 23rd July is next, with Bless Him 12/1 for that contest.

"It's worked out well, they split into three pockets so he wasn't actually that far off them and he came through nicely," said trainer Simcock. "He'll go to Ascot for the valuable seven furlong handicap [next]."

Best of the rest at HQ

Elsewhere on the Newmarket card, Levey was off to a flying start as he made all on Alseyoob in the Rossdales Maiden Fillies' Stakes for trainer Ismael Mohammed, while Miss Carol Ann got up late for Jack Mitchell and Roger Varian to thwart Silken Petals in the Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa Fillies' Handicap.

Hornby pre-empted his Group 1 joy by getting a tune from Jimi Hendrix to nab Spencer's mount Positive Impact in the bet365 Mile Handicap, while in the concluding race Benoit De La Sayette and Michael Bell's Adjuvant finished best to deny Commonsensical for James Doyle and Hugo Palmer in the Moet & Chandon Handicap over a mile-and-a-half.

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