Trainer Hugo Palmer insists there is every reason to believe that Flaming Rib can run a big race in the highlight of Newmarket’s Moët & Chandon July Festival, the Group One Darley July Cup (Saturday 9th July), after connections paid £36,000 to supplement the three-year-old colt on Monday.
The son of Ribchester, a 7-1 chance with bet365, has faced older rivals before, taking the scalp of the subsequent Group Two Cazoo Temple Stakes winner King’s Lynn at Chester in May. Since then he has done nothing but improve, subsequently finishing second behind El Caballo in the Group Two Cazoo Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock Park.
On his most recent outing Flaming Rib finished a fine second behind Saturday’s 2-1 favourite Perfect Power in last month’s Group One Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and Palmer explained that it was that run that convinced both him and part-owner Michael Owen to supplement his charge.
He said: “It was a great run at Royal Ascot. When these entries came out he’d just won a conditions race for us at Chester and those that were entered at the first stage I think paid around £7,000 (it actually costs a total of £7,500 to run for horses entered when the race closed in May).
“So while it was expensive for us at this stage, we’d rather pay £36,000 and go in there as an 8-1 poke than pay seven (thousand) only to get stuffed in the Sandy Lane! It’s changed a lot since then, he ran a great race in the Sandy Lane and an even better one in the Commonwealth Cup.
“Michael was joking the other day when I told him that the supplementary fee was £36,000 as the horse only cost £35,000! It’s proof that relatively inexpensive horses can make their mark felt at a high level on a big Saturday.
“We’ve got no reason to think he won’t run a big race in the July Cup. He’s the fifth favourite and the four horses ahead of him in the market have got reasons to be there. We’ve got to beat our twice conqueror in Perfect Power and the horses that filled the first three places in the Platinum Jubilee as well. We can only worry about our horse and I’m really looking forward to running him.”
Three-year-olds have a good record in the Darley July Cup, winning 38 times in the post-war period, including four of the seven most recent renewals – something which gives the trainer further cause for optimism.
Palmer continued: “At the inception of the Commonwealth Cup, people used to talk about how three-year-old sprinters really struggled against their elders but actually when you look back now it’s not that way.
“I was Hughie Morrison’s assistant when we won the race with Sakhee’s Secret all those years ago (2007). Three-year-olds actually do have a good record in the race and I’m sure that’s only going to get better and that’s because of the three-year-old sprinting programme.
“The likes of the Sandy Lane and the Commonwealth Cup are really nurturing talent so I’d expect that trend to continue, but of course the favourite is a three-year-old as well.”
This will be Palmer’s first ever runner in the Darley July Cup and he believes that the sharp track on the July Course will play to Flaming Rib’s strengths, while also confirming that Ben Curtis will take the ride.
He added: “He’s a winner over five furlongs and has placed at Group One and Two level over six furlongs this year and the horse he beat over five furlongs went on to win the Temple Stakes on his next start, so I think he has lots of good qualities (for the Darley July Cup).
“I think despite what the Australian and the Japanese guys seem to be telling us, Newmarket is a much sharper track than Ascot – you go down to the six furlong point at Ascot and you’re staring at a mountain to the grandstand. At the six furlong point on the July Course, you’re going downhill all the way until you start to climb in the final furlong and a half or so.
“It’s a much sharper track and it’s a track that favours prominent racers and while Flaming Rib does not need to make the running he is also not a hold up horse. He likes to wear his heart on his sleeve and race on the front end and he’s a horse who doesn’t like to lie down when he’s beaten – Flotus quickened past him at Ascot and he fought back and beat her, only to find the excellent Perfect Power to his right.
“I think that’s what is so exciting about this horse, not particularly for the July Cup, but going forwards. They told me that when he won his Listed race at Doncaster, the ground was so wet that if it hadn’t have been the last meeting of the season they’d have probably called it off. Meanwhile, the ground on the Friday at Ascot in that 34 degree heat was so fast that I don’t think there was any Good To Firm left in it, so I think it’s nice that we can campaign him wherever.”
Flaming Rib was beaten by just over five lengths by Perfect Power on his first start of the season in the Greenham Stakes over seven at Newbury in April, though Palmer took full responsibility for that poor run.
He explained: “He was really tough at Chester and raced behind the pace and I was delighted with him. I’d been pleased with him all year until we went to the Greenham and I hadn’t known the horse for very long at that stage, but I regret asking James Doyle to hold him up and give him a chance to stay because that’s not how he likes to be ridden.
“He was just too keen that day and we were beaten five and a bit lengths by Perfect Power over the wrong trip, but I can’t help but think that if we had gone forward that day we might not have been beaten by five lengths anyways. We’ll see, he stayed a stiff six at Ascot very well and it’s an easy seven at Newbury, who knows.”
Palmer has enjoyed a successful start in his new role at Michael Owen’s Manor House Stables in Cheshire, where he moved to from Newmarket earlier this year, and is delighted with how things have gone so far.
He said: “I’m loving the role – the team I’ve brought up with me and the team I’ve met here have worked fantastically hard and everyone has really pulled together.
“There have been some tricky moments – nothing in life is easy – but the fact that the horses have, touch wood, continually run their races and are showing up on the big days makes the whole thing worthwhile. It’s the reason we do it and it’s thrilling.
“Michael owns a leg of this horse and it’s lovely that he runs in his colours because they are the stable colours, which is tremendous. This is what racing needs – it needs the enthusiasm of owners and to have English owners with real enthusiasm and top-class horses is very exciting because for all that British racing is enormously grateful for the patronage from the Middle East and further afield, it does sometimes make racing seem a little bit fanciful for English people to be involved.
“A healthy thriving industry will have a huge amount of horses owned by natives of this country this well.”
The Darley July Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Darley July Cup, bet365 odds: 2-1 Perfect Power; 7-2 Artorius; 9-2 Creative Force; 6-1 Naval Crown; 7-1 Flaming Rib; 16-1 Alcohol Free, Happy Romance, Romantic Proposal, Cadamosto; 25-1 King Hermes, Twilight Jet; 33-1 Emeraaty Ana; Kinross; 40-1 Blackrod; 50-1 Double Or Bubble, New York City
By Nick Seddon/The Jockey Club
Photo: QIPCO British Champions Series Logo