Last year’s champion apprentice Cieren Fallon is counting down the hours to his first Group One ride on Roger Teal’s Oxted in Saturday’s Darley July Cup.
Far from a no-hoper, Oxted won the Abernant Stakes in striking fashion and Teal decided to skip Royal Ascot to keep him fresh for this.
While Fallon is unable to use his 3lb claim, connections have stayed loyal and the jockey is very grateful.
“It’s going to be a big day, my first ride in a Group One,” said Fallon.
“He’s been a really good horse to me and obviously Mr Teal and the owners have been very kind to allow me to keep the ride. I’m overwhelmed with the support they have given me and hopefully I can repay them with a big run. Oxted’s done wonders for me already and it would be a dream to win.
“He’s a young sprinter who is still learning and his best days are yet to come. It’s a big step up in class, but he’s wintered well and is progressive. If it’s not his day on Saturday, then it will be in the future. He’s definitely a Group One horse and it’s only a matter of time before he proves it.
“He’s got really good gate speed and the stiff finish shouldn’t be an issue as he’s won over seven furlongs. He handled the undulations well (on the July Course) when running there last summer, he finishes strongly and we’ve got a nice draw. I don’t see any chinks.
“He showed his class in the Portland, but there was a real difference in him when I rode him in the Abernant. He’s strengthened up a lot, he’s got bigger shoulders, and he travels a lot better. He had more natural speed and is getting faster.
“He ticks all the boxes you need to be a Group One sprinter and Saturday will tell us where he fits in with the others.”
Fallon’s father, Kieren, never managed to win the July Cup and it has not passed Cieren by.
“I’ve already got the bragging rights as I was a champion apprentice, plus I won a Group Three as an apprentice – that’s another one!” he said.
“This would be something else. He’s going to walk the course with me and wants this as much as I do. In my opinion, he’s the best jockey ever and he rode the track brilliantly.”
Oxted is one of 13 runners in the race, which is part of the British Champions Series, along with Royal Ascot winners Hello Youmzain and Golden Horde.
Traditionally seen as the big midsummer sprinting target, Saturday’s renewal looks well up to scratch.
Kevin Ryan’s Hello Youmzain was backing up his victory in last season’s Haydock Sprint Cup when coming out best in a blanket finish to the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
While runner-up Dream Of Dreams is absent, the close third Sceptical is back over from Ireland – with Frankie Dettori once again on board.
Golden Horde is taking on his elders for the first time, having run out a ready winner of the Commonwealth Cup for Clive Cox.
There is a strong team of three-year-olds – with Richard Hannon’s Threat dropping in trip, Karl Burke’s Lord Of The Lodge and Aidan O’Brien’s Southern Hills all taking part.
Equilateral, second to stablemate Battaash in the King’s Stand, sports new colours after being bought by Jim and Fitri Hay.
William Buick rides the German challenger Namos – with Brando, Khaadem, Shine So Bright and Sir Dancealot completing the field.
In the Bet365 Superlative Stakes, the eye-catching runner is O’Brien’s Hudson River – an easy winner on debut.
He is the first foal out of the classy sprinter Mecca’s Angel an is by Galileo.
Tom Dascombe’s unbeaten Devious Company takes him on – while first-time-out winners King Zain, Master Of The Seas, Miami Joy and Seventh Kingdom all look promising.