Nine of the last 11 winners of the July Cup may have ran in a Group 1 contest at Royal Ascot on their previous start, but last year Richard Fahey’s Mayson reminded us an improving sprinter from the north could carry the prize at a working man’s price – this year Hamza could be poised to follow in his hoof-prints.
Like Mayson, Kevin Ryan’s Hamza looks a northern-trained sprinter potentially on the upgrade and the similarities between the two runners don’t end there.
Hamza comes into the race aged four, just as Mayson and two of the other three speedsters to claim victory in the last four runnings have done.
Furthermore the son of Amadeus Wolf – Kevin Ryan’s first Group 1 winner as a trainer – arrives at the July Meeting unbeaten in two spins over the undulating terrain at HQ. Mayson had done the same and shares the distinction of having won over 5f and 6f at Newmarket with Hamza.
Hamza’s sire won the Middle Park over 6f at Newmarket as a juvenile and his dam’s sire Alhaarth also scored a two-year-old Group 1 success at the track when taking the 7f Dewhurst in 1995 – beating the great Danehill Dancer in the process.
Clearly the 20/1 shot’s appreciation of the course’s undulating test is not just a passing fancy, but in his very blood.
Hamza had placed in two of his three starts at the basement trip before switching back to it for his last two runs, but prior to those victorious efforts he’d largely been campaigned over longer distances, so a return to 6f for this Group 1 burn-up won’t be a problem.
Nine of the last 10 winners had already proved their winning credentials over 6f or 7f prior to lifting the cup and the Fahey colt has a 7f Haydock win on his CV to further enhance his chances of being in with a shout at the business end of proceedings.
That victory came on firm ground and so it may be a case of the faster, the better for Hamza, who has finished out of the frame just once in six races on good-to-firm or faster.
He must find plenty of improvement to outgun his Group 1-hardened rivals, but if the ground comes good for him on the day – just as it did when a mudbath for Mayson in 2012 – there will be worse 20/1 punts on offer.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.