Trainer Stephen Gray could not have hoped for a better booking for his champion sprinter Lim’s Cruiser in this Saturday’s £500,000 (S$850,000) Group 1 Darley July Cup (1200m) at Newmarket – John Egan.

The veteran Irish jockey boasts a perfect record in one of UK’s most prestigious sprint feature races – two from two: Pastoral Pursuits in 2005 and Les Arcs in 2006. The Darley July Cup is also the fourth of seven races in the Sprint category of the 2019 QIPCO British Champions Series.

Gray didn’t really seek the 51-year-old jockey out for that faultless record. He only found out of his July affinity after the booking.

Egan happens to be a regular rider for trainer Jane Chapple-Hyam whose Abington Place Stables in Newmarket is where Lim’s Cruiser is currently stabled at. He even rode in Singapore once for the English-based Australian trainer, Traffic Guard who finished 10th to Jay Peg in the now-defunct Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup in 2008.

He came back in 2010 to finish seventh on Lahaleeb for Bahrain trainer Fawzi Nass in the same race.

“John is in semi-retirement and has a perfect two-from-two record in the July. He rides a lot for Jane, and I was happy to have him on Cruiser after Vlad (Duric) said he couldn’t come over again,” said Gray.

Duric steered Lim’s Cruiser to a creditable eighth at both the horse’s and jockey’s grand England premiere in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Royal Ascot on June 22, but as much as the two-time Singapore champion jockey is persuaded the Casino Prince six-year-old will run an improved race second-up, he has reluctantly opted out for the second jaunt.

“I have missed a lot of meetings back home through suspension already,” said Duric who currently leads the premiership by 11 winners on Michael Rodd.

“Last time, I missed just the Friday meeting and it would have been the same this time, but I can’t afford to miss too many meetings here.

“Lim’s Cruiser has come on since his first run and I’m sure he’ll run a better race this Saturday. I’ll be cheering on in front of my TV for sure!”

Egan galloped Lim’s Cruiser up the Newmarket track with another working companion on Saturday and jumped off with a big thumbs-up.

“I’m very happy with his gallop; he went very, very well. We didn’t kill him and in the last furlong, he went very quick,” he said.

“He feels in good nick and pulled up nice. I think he’s a good chance.”

Despite the stellar workout, Gray is aware the two-time Singapore champion sprinter still faces a tough assignment, but remained bullish he would not be disgraced, especially with that one first run under the belt.

“He’s really improved since Ascot,” said the Kiwi handler who flew back to England on Friday.

“He was not very settled at his first few days here, and I felt if he had been here longer, he could have finished a few lengths closer to the winner (Blue Point).

“He is really happy here, he’s eating and drinking well and enjoys the paddocks. He has thrived and I think he’ll run a very good race this Saturday.

“We weren’t sure if he’d run in the July or skip it and go to the Goodwood race (Group 2 Lennox Stakes over 1400m) instead, but he’s pulled up so well we decided to have a crack at the July.

“Except for a few horses (like runner-up Dream Of Dreams), it’s a completely different field from the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. But Newmarket is just up the road, and he handled the track very well in that gallop.

“I just wanted him to work well and having John Egan on was very important, because he gave us good feedback.

“He handled the hills well and hit the line strong, his time was good and he’s pulled up good. He’s definitely improved since he’s been here.”

To view the video of Lim’s Cruiser (John Egan, on the outside) at Newmarket on Saturday, click here.

Michael Lee

10 July 2019