Across 30 fruitless years Frankie Dettori has spent roughly 37 minutes of his life trying to win the Darley July Cup. Keen to right a wrong, he tries again but does so facing a young opponent who could be on the verge of sprinting stardom.
While Dettori has had 21 goes at capturing Europe's premier sprint, trainer Clive Cox has launched only five attempts and emerged victorious twice.
One of those horses, Lethal Force, set what remains a track record when making all in the 2013 July Cup. Seven years later, and with Adam Kirby again in the saddle, his Royal Ascot-winning son Golden Horde seeks to maintain the family tradition.
Golden Horde winning at Royal Ascot, photo Edward Whitaker
While Golden Horde was triumphant in front of Ascot's near empty grandstands in the Commonwealth Cup, Sceptical and Dettori endured an agonising near miss in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. They pursue compensation at Newmarket, but to secure it they must defeat not only Golden Horde but also the Diamond Jubilee first and fourth, Hello Youmzain and Khaadem.
With King's Stand Stakes second Equilateral, rising star Oxted and St James's Palace Stakes fifth Threat also in the 13-runner line-up, this is a July Cup that should take plenty of winning.
Dettori, runner-up in the July Cup for the second time on Advertise 12 months ago, made his debut aged 19 in the summer of 1990, when Cox was preparing for what would be his final season as a jump jockey.
His final winner as a rider was also his first winner as a trainer. It came in a Newton Abbot maiden hurdle. Since then, the master of Lambourn's Beechdown Stables has enjoyed his biggest thrills with horses who run a lot quicker and jump a lot less.
In 2017 Harry Angel and Kirby delivered a second July Cup to Cox, who has only ever sent out three losers in the showpiece, two of which were priced at 66-1. His 2020 candidate, who made much of the Commonwealth Cup running against members of his own generation, shares DNA with Lethal Force but has little in common with the fiery Harry Angel.
"He's a little more sober than Harry on a containment point of view," said Cox this week, who is entitled to be more than hopeful Golden Horde will prove superior to his latest big-race opponents from an ability point of view.
On the day Hello Youmzain and Kevin Stott landed the Diamond Jubilee, Cox sprang a 150-1 shock in the Coventry Stakes and Dettori notched a Royal Ascot treble, which included the breaking of his Coronation Stakes duck.
That left him needing only the July Cup to complete a clean sweep of British races that now hold Group 1 status. That wording is important, for when Dettori won the King's Stand, Sun Chariot Stakes and British Champions Sprint they held only Group 2 billing.
Few would have imagined Sceptical could even reach Group 2 company when sold unraced by Godolphin for a mere £2,800 in August 2019. The Denis Hogan-trained Irish raider has proved to be one of the bargain second-hand buys of recent times. Moreover, he now has the chance to win a £141,775 first prize, a chunk of which comes from his former owner, Darley founder Sheikh Mohammed.
Sceptical has been preferred in the betting to Hello Youmzain, who also took Group 1 honours in last year's Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock, where the ground was testing, as it should be at Newmarket. Any drying of the track would assist Oxted, who lives in the same Windsor House Stables box once occupied by Hamas, winner of the July Cup in 1993.
Hamas was fast and so was Mecca's Angel, the dual Nunthorpe winner whose first child, Hudson River, represents last weekend's Derby and Oaks hero Aidan O'Brien in a fascinating Bet365 Superlative Stakes. O'Brien fielded six in the Derby but has just one runner in the July Cup, the massive outsider Southern Hills. Serpentine, you will recall, was sent off a 25-1 shot at Epsom.
It could be another happy afternoon for O'Brien, as it could be for his son, Joseph, whose 2017 Melbourne Cup champion Rekindling is back in Ireland after a spell living in Australia. He competes for the first time in 490 days in Leopardstown's amateur riders' event, while Ascot's programme includes the Group 2 Betfred Summer Mile, which hosts the return of another familiar face, the popular grey Lord Glitters.
An even more familiar face, and still not the least bit grey, hopes to end this smashing Saturday a July Cup winner for the first time.