Not really, but #4 Finniston Farm (7-1) does loom as a fascinating value play in Saturday’s Superlative S. (G2) on the final day of Newmarket’s July Festival.

Carded as the 5TH race (with an 11 a.m. EDT post time), the seven-furlong test for juveniles features a prohibitive favorite from the Aidan O’Brien yard, Gustav Klimt. It goes without saying that there’s plenty going for the Ballydoyle youngster, from pedigree (as a full brother to Wonderfully, Cuff, and ill-fated Mars) to a convincing maiden score second time out at the Curragh. He’s well qualified to serve as a victorious opening act for the American-based Klimt, who’s trying to go nine furlongs in his belated sophomore debut in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3).

The one caveat about Gustav Klimt is that he’s a prohibitive price in a race that O’Brien hasn’t won for 12 years. His last to strike here was Horatio Nelson (2005), although Air Vice Marshal (2015) and War Decree (2016) have finished a close second in the past two runnings. On the other hand, that can be turned on its head to argue he’s past due for a win.

In any event, Finniston Farm figures to put up a bold show himself. By Helmet (Thunder Snow’s sire) and out of the Slip Anchor mare Logic, he justified trainer Tom Dascombe’s bullish opinion by winning handsomely at Haydock in his lone start.

“We had his half-sister Crowley's Law who was second in a Group 1 for us in America and he could be special. He looks the real deal and moves beautifully,” Dascombe said in an “At the Races” stable tour prior to his debut. 

In the lead-up to the July Festival, Dascombe was reportedly looking at a possible tilt at the July S. (G2) before deciding to step up another furlong for the Superlative. But the strong vibe was the same.

“He's a very exciting horse,” Dascombe told PA Sport. “We won the July Stakes (Classic Blade) and the Superlative Stakes (Firth Of Fifth) in the same year once (2008), but I think we just got lucky that year.

“This horse would be 10 times better than the pair of those. He's possibly as good a horse as I've had.

“I'd be disappointed if he's not good enough to be competing in those kind of races.”

While I must constantly tell myself not to be swayed by trainers’ comments, Finniston Farm looks the part. On video he strikes me as a “grand stamp of a horse,” as they’d say, and for one of his size and scope, you’d have to think he’ll move forward here. He was in the vanguard throughout in his six-furlong debut, doing his best work late to pull clear. The third-placer, Learn By Heart, was later scratched from the Chesham at Royal Ascot but came back to dominate at Doncaster.

 

 

Dascombe resisted the lure of Royal Ascot for Finniston Farm, preferring to await the July Festival in a thoughtful piece of management. The Superlative thus represents a softer introduction to Group racing – a class test without the stress of encountering a big field at the Royal meeting. Only time will tell if he’s as good as Dascombe thinks, but this is the right spot for a colt of his profile.

Earlier on the card, a couple of competitive handicaps may turn up a price horse. For whatever it’s worth, here are two who qualify as stab-worthy. In the 3RD race (9:50 a.m. EDT) for three-year-olds at a mile, #7 Maths Prize (10-1) hopes for a better time than his debacle in the gate at Royal Ascot. Toss that one, forgive his comeback over 1 1/4 miles that trainer Roger Charlton now describes as a mistake, and his juvenile form puts him right in the thick of it. In the 4TH, the lucrative Bunbury Cup, #4 Steady Pace (8-1) has a decent case. The Saeed bin Suroor trainee was a useful juvenile who’s now found his niche as a sprint handicapper. After turning in some solid efforts at the Dubai Carnival, he was a bang-up second in Royal Ascot’s Wokingham, giving five pounds to the winner. Steady Pace should go just as well over the seventh furlong here, Godolphin is in good form at present, and jockey Josephine Gordon has clicked with this team.  

The 6TH race, the July Cup (G1), is one to savor as a showdown of historic proportions. I’d like to style it the Caravaggio versus Limato show, with Harry Angel the likeliest candidate for the spoiler’s role (since the July Course is arguably more congenial to his front-running style than Royal Ascot). Yet that’s not really being fair to The Tin Man or Tasleet. Perhaps the larger point is that those five are entitled to fight out the finish, leaving it tough to make a case for a longshot to muscle in.

But if there is one to outperform his odds, it’s Brando at 20-1. The winner of last September’s Ayr Gold Cup under top weight of 136 pounds, and third to The Tin Man in the British Champions Sprint (G1), the Kevin Ryan trainee scored upon return at even-money in the April 20 Abernant (G3). Brando was favored again in the Duke of York (G2), only to trail last after a blood vessel burst. The whole Ryan yard missed Royal Ascot, spending time under quarantine after equine herpes virus was detected. Now Brando gets to take his chance at the top level again. If he’s back on song, the well-bred son of Pivotal is worth a look for the exotics.

Finniston Farm photo courtesy Haydock via Facebook