Stepping out in style to kickoff July course’s Festival fun at Newmarket

Racing at Newmarket. Photo: Julian Herbert

Racing at Newmarket. Photo: Julian Herbert - Credit: PA

Second Step will contest a classy renewal of the Princess of Wales’s Arqana Racing Club Stakes, the highlight of the opening day of the Moët & Chandon Festival at Newmarket’s July Course this afternoon.

Trainer Luca Cumani, who last won the race in 1987 with Celestial Storm, runs Second Step under Andrea Atzeni, one of four contenders for the £100,000 mile and a half contest at 3.15pm to have already won at Group 2 level or above.

He shoulders a three-pound penalty for winning the Jockey Club Stakes on the Rowley Mile in May.

Sir Michael Stoute, the most prolific winning trainer in the race’s 121-year history, saddles both last year’s runner-up Hillstar, under Ted Durcan, and the 2014 Jockey Club Stakes hero, Gospel Choir, under Ryan Moore, as he bids for an unprecedented tenth triumph.

Sheikhzayedroad, Martin Lane for David Simcock, is the other previous top level scorer, having landed the Northern Dancer Turf in Canada, while recent Royal Ascot winner, Mahsoob, is the dark horse for John Gosden. Unbeaten in four starts, he steps up from handicap company.

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Cumani said: “Second Step is in good form and we are happy with him. But he is up against some decent horses and has to carry a penalty.”

A strong nine-runner field goes for the £80,000 Arqana July Stakes at 2.40pm, the other Group 2 highlight of day one of the Festival.

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A six-furlong event for two-year-olds, it features four horses placed at Royal Ascot, the Coventry Stakes third Eltezam, Frankie Dettori for Richard Hannon, the Chesham Stakes third, Sixth Sense, William Buick for Mark Johnston, plus the second and third from the Windsor Castle Stakes, Areen, Jamie Spencer for Kevin Ryan, and Steady Pace, James Doyle for Saeed bin Suroor.

The opening £100,000 Bahrain Trophy over 13 furlongs at 2.10pm includes both Cumani’s recent Doncaster maiden winner Monotype under Kirby and Gosden’s St Leger candidate, Mr Singh under Dettori.

Tommy Docc, runner-up in Ascot’s Queen’s Vase under Philip Makin for Keith Dalgleigh also has a chance.

Cumani is represented by White Lake in the £40,000 Hastings Direct Sir Henry Cecil Stakes over a mile at 5.30pm. His rivals include 2,000 Guineas fourth, Bossy Guest, Moore for Mick Channon, and last year’s dual Group 2 winner, Estidhkaar, for Paul Hanagan and Hannon.

The John Deere Maiden Fillies’ Stakes has been split into two divisions at 4.20pm and 4.55pm. In the former, all but two of the 10 are debutants with Marenko and Greenfyre from Hannon’s stable.

The second division sees all but one make debuts with Hannon double handed with Wishsong and Madhatten.

Eleven go in the Unibet Handicap at 3.45pm in which Stoute runs Dissolution under Moore, eighth in the King George at Royal Ascot after earlier scoring at Newmarket.

Azmaam, Dane O’Neill for Hannon has a chance along with The Queen’s Awesome Power under Harry Bentley for William Haggas. The youngster bids for a three-timer after Sandown and Lingfield wins.

The same is true of Muntadab for Hanagan and Stoute while Mythical City, under Franny Norton for Johnston, won his last three outings at Chester, Ripon and Haydock.

The bumper eight-race card closes with the 6pm Robinson Mercedes-Benz Handicap in which recent course winner Newton’s Law goes for Moore and Brian Meehan while Jan Van Hoof, David Nolan riding for Richard Fahey, won at both Pontefract and Wolverhampton.

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