Australian galloper Star Witness will head forward to the Group 1 July Cup at England’s Newmarket Racecourse on Saturday after producing a pleasing track work performance yesterday.
The three-year-old colt is aiming to be the first Australian-trained horse to ever win the 1,200 metre race.
“An Australian-trained horse has never won the July Cup, so we’re going in there very aware it has been a bridge too far for the Australians in the past,” said trainer Danny O’Brien.
“Naturally it’s a challenge and we’d like to be the first to win it.”
The race will be Star Witness’ swansong, with the well-bred colt destined to be retired to stand at Widden Stud follwing this weekend.
Star Witness has produced two gallant placings in the first two Group 1 runs of his English campaign.
Despite his recent success, trainer Danny O’Brien wanted to trial Star Witness over Newmarket’s gruelling track before deciding to send him to the July Cup.
The serious gallop proved to O’Brien that Star Witness was ready to face his toughest test yet.
”He hasn’t gone backwards since Royal Ascot and worked very well on the July course this morning ” O’Brien said yesterday.
”Steven (Arnold) was very happy with the way he handled the rise and the undulations of the track.
“He’s every bit as good as he was on Jubilee day.
“He came out of the King’s Stand in great order and ran very well on the Saturday without conditions really being in his favour.
“He’s had three weeks since and really enjoyed the environment. He certainly hasn’t gone backwards.”
Star Witness died in his run last start when being asked to quicken in speed on the Heavy-rated track.
”It was a very heavy track (at Ascot) and he had to take off a long way out and they ran 1-17 (one minute, 17 seconds) for the 1200 metres, and that is just unheard of in Australia,” O’Brien said.
”The weather forecast for Saturday is good and on a firm track I’ve got no concerns about him running it out, and neither does Steven.”
O’Brien feels a win at Newmarket Racecourse would be one of the highlights of his training career.
”It’s the home of racing, so to win a race like the July Cup would be a significant achievement for all of us,” he said.
The trainer also realises what a win could mean to Star Witness’ value at stud.
”It has been a real stallion-making race, with Danehill and plenty of other leading sires winning it, so hopefully Star Witness can add his name to the list,” O’Brien said.
Jockey Steven Arnold, who rode Star Witness in both his previous European starts, was pleased with what he saw at yesterday’s track gallop.
“I was happy,” he said.
“He doesn’t seem to have lost anything since Ascot and seems to be holding his form well, which is important.
“If he repeats his run at Ascot he’ll be competitive. It’s different to race pressure, so you never quite know, but he handled the track no problem.
“There’s a steep uphill lay, but for the first couple of furlongs they sort of go downhill and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t quite as testing as Ascot.”
Arnold is looking to turn to his past experience to help him guide Star Witness to a well-deserved win.
“I rode here two years ago,” Arnold said.
“It’s a six-furlong straight race with a few undulations, but I’ll just ride the horse where he’s comfortable.”
The lightly raced Star Witness has won four of his 12 race starts, winning almost $A1.2 million and nearly £183,000.