By Jon Lees
GB: Starman has a chance to become “the sprinter of his generation” in Saturday’s Darley July Cup at Newmarket, according to his trainer Ed Walker as he prepares the colt to make his delayed return to G1 company.
The four-year-old colt was favourite for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes after taking his score to four wins from five races in the G2 Duke of York Stakes in May – only to be scratched after heavy rain at Ascot turned the ground soft.
Starman is at the front of the market again for the July Cup which has set up a defining clash with King’s Stand Stakes and last year’s July Cup winner Oxted and three-year-olds Dragon Symbol, the DQd first home in the Commonwealth Cup, and Creative Force, who won the Jersey Stakes.
“He’s got an opportunity to potentially be the sprinter of his generation because he only has one blip,” said Walker. “I’d love to think he could be the next Muhaarar. I suppose we’ll find out on Saturday.
“He’s done absolutely nothing wrong bar that one run on bad ground. I just don’t know how much is up his sleeve. Only he can answer that question and let’s hope he does on Saturday.”
Starman’s ‘blip’ was in last year’s Qipco British Champions Sprint run on soft ground at Ascot, where he finished 14th of 16, and Walker said he wasn’t going to let the colt run in the same conditions again.
“We were gutted to have missed Ascot, which was arguably the weaker of the two races, but it was a very easy decision,” he said.
“He’s only been beaten once and that was on that track in those conditions. I am a big believer in forgiving people for making mistakes but you don’t make the same mistake twice.
“All the horses that beat him on Champions Day were at the fore in the Diamond Jubilee. I would have felt so stupid if he’d come in beaten six lengths again having beaten two rivals having not liked the ground.”
Tom Marquand will be back in the saddle on Saturday when Walker hopes to see a bit more of what Starman is capable of.
“Whatever he is working with, he will only do what he has to,” said the trainer. “Even Oisin’s words, when he got off him at York were, ‘How good is this horse?’. I just haven’t got a clue because he doesn’t ever blow, doesn’t ever sweat. That’s what’s so exciting about him.”
The Lambourn trainer is also set to saddle filly Primo Bacio, in the same David Ward ownership as Starman, who also missed her Royal Ascot target because of the going. She will contest the G1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes on Friday.
“She’s flying,” he said. “She is taking on the older generation but I feel more confident she is going to produce her best than I did going into Ascot where I had doubts about the round mile there.
“Lots of people were questioning my decision but knowing the filly I just didn’t feel it was right. She is a good moving filly with a really smart turn of foot and I think running her over a stiff mile on bottomless ground, putting a massive emphasis on stamina, wasn’t right.
“The July Course mile is going to suit her more so it might be a blessing in disguise that we are where we are. She is really fresh and looks fantastic.”
July Cup betting (Coral): 4 Oxted, Starman, 5 Dragon Symbol, 7 Rohaan, 8 Creative Force, 10 Art Power, 12 Extravagant Kid, Glen Shiel, 14 Supremacy, 16 Good Effort, 20 Lope Y Fernandez, 25 bar.
• Find out more about the Moet & Chandon July Festival at Newmarket