Superlative Stakes Betting

Newmarket’s version of the Royal Ascot meeting is the July Festival, a three-day celebration of stylish fashions and top-class racing. Day Three of the gathering is known as Darley July Cup Day for the running of East England’s £400,000 main event of the season. Joining it on the card is a much-anticipated race showcasing the latest crop of juveniles, the £80,000 Superlative Stakes.

This Group 2 flat horse race is a sprint covering seven furlongs on the straight turf of Newmarket’s famed July Course. It is open only to two-year-old Thoroughbreds, each of which carries nine stone from the start. An allowance of three pounds is made for fillies, and there is a penalty of three pounds applied to any previous Group 1 or Group 2 winners.

When this event was first run in 1986, it was a listed race known as the Bernard van Cutsem Stakes. It was named in honour of Suffolk’s champion trainer and millionaire bloodstock breeder, Bernard Henry Richard van Cutsem (1916-1975). Favourites dominated the early runnings, so much so that only three entrants showed up at the starting line for the 1988 edition.

In 1991, however, the name of the race was changed to the Superlative Stakes and a sponsor was found in the champagne maker Krug. Thereafter, Child & Co. became the race’s backer for several years, followed by Weatherbys for much of its history. In 2003, the event was upgraded to Group 3 status and then quickly achieved the Group 2 level in 2006. In 2009, Meydan assumed sponsorship, a role that has been taken up by bookmakers since 2010.

Each sprinter gets only one opportunity to claim victory in the Superlative Stakes. One of the most memorable winners to leave a mark here was the Irish-bred Dr Devious in 1991, a year before the Chestnut stallion won the Epsom Derby for trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam.

Henry Cecil heads the leaderboard of top trainers here, winning 60 percent of the races held in a span of 15 years. His initial victory came with Suhailie at the inaugural running, and he soon added a hat-trick of consecutive wins with Samoan in 1988, Be My Chief in 1989 and Hokusai in 1990. Ardkinglass beat the field in 1992, followed by three more first-place finishers—Bal Harbour in 1993, Allied Forces in 1995, Baltic State in 1997—before Vacamonte ushered in the new millennium by giving Cecil his ninth win.

More recently, trainer Richard Hannon has had success here. He claimed victory with Redback in 2001 and Kings Point in 2003 before gaining his latest triumph with King Torus in 2010. Those three wins put Hannon right behind Mick Channon, who has four Superlative Stakes victories, including Fleet Hill in 1994, Recondite in 1996, Halicarnassus in 2006 and Hatta Fort in 2007.

Two jockeys have ridden to victory four times here. Steve Cauthen did it first on Suhailie, Samoan, Be My Chief and Hokusai. Then, Pat Eddery had his first turn aboard Undercut in 1987, followed by rides on Ardkinglass, Bal Harbour and Allied Forces.

Since 2001, Richard Hughes has been the jockey to beat as he took the saddle for three of Hannon’s victories. Michael Hills on Surbitan in 2002 and Silver Grecian in 2009 is the only other jockey with multiple wins in this century, although Frankie Dettori and Kieren Fallon each had one success in the 1990s before riding a winner to victory in the most recent decade: Dubawi in 2004 and Horatio Nelson in 2005, respectively.

With eight or nine starters in the running, look for short odds to prevail. Halicarnassus was the last long-shot to win the Superlative Stakes, paying 33/1. Before that, Surbitan paid 16/1. However, favourites tend to perform well here and the right choices for the Perfecta or Trifecta are likely to yield the highest return for the least risk.

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