07/14/2010 5:23PM

Hot rematch in July Cup


Kinsale King flies the American flag in the Group 1, $605,000 July Cup at Newmarket on Friday, but it is the Australian-bred, Irish-trained Starspangledbanner they all have to beat in a scintillating renewal of this six-furlong dash. A 4-year-old son of Chosir, Starspangledbanner went wire to wire in beating Kinsale King into third in the six-furlong, Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot three weeks ago, and while Kinsale King is expected to improve for that effort, there is a feeling that Starspangledbanner may be something special.

The winner of the one-mile, Group 1 Caulfield Guineas and the six-furlong, Group 1 Oakleigh Plate when trained in Australia by Leon Corstens, Starspangledbanner was subsequently purchased by Tabor, Smith, Magnier, and Massey and turned over to Aidan O’Brien, for whom he finished fifth in his European debut while giving weight on the scale in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes. His effort in the Golden Jubilee was a revelation, as he went straight to the lead and never looked back, shaking off Kinsale King, as well as runner-up Society Rock, who tries him again on Friday. Johnny Murtagh will ride Starspangledbanner, whom O’Brien describes as “exceptional.”

Trainer Carl O’Callaghan expects improvement from Kinsale King, whose Golden Jubilee third was his first outing since he had won the six-furlong, Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on Meydan’s synthetic Tapeta surface on March 27. He will instruct Kieren Fallon to stay closer to Starspangledbanner in the early going, and that should not be too difficult, as Starspangledbanner breaks from 11 while Kinsale King departs form 13.

Looming large in this sterling field is Fleeting Spirit, fourth in the Golden Jubilee. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, the mare was racing on the slower side of the Ascot straight course that day in her first start since finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. As the defending July Cup title-holder, she will break from post 12 between Starspangledbanner and Kinsale King with Frankie Dettori aboard.

Testing Starspangledbanner on the front end will be Equiano, winner of the five-furlong, Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. French raider Marchand d’Or won the July Cup in 2008 but was only 11th in the Golden Jubilee. The 2008 Golden Jubilee winner, Kingsgate Native, was only sixth to Equiano in the King’s Stand but had previously beaten that one into second in the five-furlong, Group 2 Temple Stakes. A disappointing last of 24 in the Golden Jubilee, Showcasing will wear blinkers for the first time on Friday.

Two horses still trained in Australia, which has an excellent record in British sprints in recent years, face tough tasks. Nicconi was fourth in the King’s Stand while Alverta was only 14th in the Golden Jubilee.