As we approach the 2000 and 1000 Guineas, racing expert, Andy Holding has gone through the main contenders for both races.
Before we tiptoe our way into the current version of racing, it is probably not a bad time to revisit the memory bank and remind ourselves of what to expect from the class of 2019.
Instead of the usual trials to call upon when assessing the forthcoming big races, we have the pieces of evidence, small or large, from what we saw during the months of the last campaign to base our judgements on.
To all intents and purposes, it is all a guessing game at present, but with just one week to go before the first Classics of the season, let’s a delve into the current landscape and try and shed some light.
The obvious starting point when looking at the colts’ classic is last season’s undisputed champion, Pinatubo.
Unbeaten in six starts last season, including a nine-length demolition in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh, the son of Shamardal also proved how tough he is mentally by beating a stellar field on demanding ground in the Dewhurst on his final start.
Indeed, the way he stayed on in the closing stages that day back in October suggested he will certainly get a mile if not further as a three-year-old and that theory is very much backed up by his trainer Charlie Appleby.
In a recent interview, the Newmarket-based handler was quoted saying: “If he wins the Guineas by three or four lengths we would probably look at the St James’s Palace [at Royal Ascot, June 20] but if he just wins or, God forbid, gets beat then it could suggest a step up in trip will suit him.”
Reported to be bigger and stronger by connections, the current odds-on favourite for the 2,000 Guineas heads to HQ following a pleasing piece of work with two gallop companions at Chelmsford recently and, being one of the few that was always going to go straight in to battle without a run, his preparation couldn’t have gone any smoother.
Next in the betting is Arizona and, despite being beaten twice by his old rival, connections of the second favourite have not lost faith the son of No Nay Never can turn around the form despite the formbook suggesting the contrary.
The way he finished off his race over a mile in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita when suffering a brutal trip certainly lends some substance to their argument and when you add into the equation Aidan O’Brien’s recent quotes it makes sense to take extra note.
The Ballydoyle maestro said: “He’s a big, rangy, scopey horse and we always thought he’d improve from two to three and that it would suit him being a three-year-old.”
Indeed, when you look at Arizona at close quarters, it is a wonder he had the skills to go around the tight bends of Santa Anita, such is his frame.
In short, whether you believe he can reverse form with Pinatubo or not, having trained no fewer than nine winners of the first Classic of the season in this decade, including the last three, anything O’Brien runs in the race with any sort of chance has to be afforded the utmost respect.
Arizona is expected to form one element of a strong Guineas challenge for Ballydoyle, with the likes of Wichita, New World Tapestry, Royal Dornoch and Royal Lytham also being considered for the Newmarket prize.
The main problem any raiding team faces is the fact that under Ireland’s quarantine regulations, anybody coming back into the country will have to self-isolate for 14 days on their return, which means O’Brien himself is unlikely to oversee operations at Newmarket.
Another which has been popular in the ante-post markets over the last few weeks is last season’s Group 1 Futurity winner, Kameko.
Run at Newcastle for the first time following the abandonment of Doncaster, a stellar and competitive field was assembled at the Gosforth Park venue and in what turned out to be an extremely truly-run affair, the son of Kitten’s Joy ran out a convincing winner.
In beating some of the best juveniles around, Andrew Balding’s colt proved he stayed a stiff mile really well and considering it was only his fourth career start, there’s more than a fair chance a good deal of improvement will be forthcoming.
Representing a stable who hit the ground running early last season, there have been very encouraging vibes surrounding the Kingsclere-based three-year-old for some time now and with the ground likely to be on the fast side, he looks one of the chief threats to Pintatubo.
Despite being well held in that race back in November, it hasn’t prevented Kinross being well-supported in the build-up, so much so, in some places he is actually shorter in the betting than his Newcastle conqueror.
Sent off a well-backed 13-8 favourite in an 11-strong field, the son of Kingman failed in his bid to duplicate his scintillating debut performance at Newmarket, when he had clock-watchers salivating at the mouth and it looked a classic case of going back to the drawing board for Ralph Beckett’s colt.
It would be churlish to write him off completely especially as he recorded a rating of 92 on our figures opposed to 93 at Newmarket and, the fact he now heads back to the scene of his spectacular performance ready to rock and roll again fresh after a long break, is another positive.
Threat is another leading two-year-old who has been positively mentioned in recent days and it is easy to fashion a case for Richard Hannon’s colt running well.
Slowly away and never really a factor on his final start in the Middle Park over six furlongs, the son of Footstepsinthesand was seen to better effect over a furlong further in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on his previous start and he looks the type who should develop his craft with time on his side.
Of the rest, the likes of Wichita, New World Tapestry, Royal Dornoch, Royal Lytham and Positive all have plenty to find with some of the main players and as such, there current prices are a fair representation of their chances.
As history dictates, trying to find the winner of the opening fillies’ Classic is a little more fraught with danger, a point highlighted by big-priced victories for Homecoming Queen and Billesdon Brook in recent times.
That said, similar to the colts’ version, you wouldn’t have gone too far wrong backing Aidan O’Brien’s runners blind in the last 15 years, so it is also safe to say the cream rises to the top as far as trainers are concerned.
The clear market leader in this season’s renewal is Quadrilateral as she bids to provide trainer Roger Charlton with his first Classic winner since Quest For Fame way back in 1990.
The daughter of Frankel maintained her unbeaten record with a gutsy win in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile over course and distance in the autumn and if near that level of form first time out, then clearly she is the one to beat.
Although beaten fair and square on the day, Love will no doubt have her supporters as she bids to turn around the form and a lot depends on whether she’s improved from two to three.
Prior to her defeat at Newmarket, the daughter of Galileo had looked good in capturing the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh and the faster the ground the better her chances.
Millisle is another Irish raider for the shortlist courtesy of her victory in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes and, even though she is yet to prove she stays beyond six furlongs, the way she finished off her race back in September suggests there is every chance she will.
That is certainly the way trainer Jessica Harrington is thinking based on what she suggested in a recent interview: “Millisle heads to the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and I see no reason why she won’t stay a mile. Her breeding suggests she will get it anyway. She’s done very, very well over the winter and you’d have to be excited about her for the season.”
Another positive derives from the fact champion jockey Oisin Murphy has been booked to ride following the news regular pilot, Shane Foley, falls foul of the Irish quarantine restrictions, so there are many reasons to be excited about her claims.
Daahyeh comes into the equation on several lines of form from last season and, as a result, she can’t be dismissed lightly. Her Albany victory at Royal Ascot was backed up by four subsequent top-class performances capped off by a heroic runner-up spot in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf at Santa Anita and that final run of the campaign went some way to indicating a mile would be well within her range on a regular basis.
Moreover, she has solid form over the Rowley Mile – thus proving she handles the track undulations – and with fast ground likely to be in the ascendancy in just over a week’s time (unless we get a dramatic change), she will be at home on a genuine quick surface more than most.
Depending on how she figures in the Guineas, Roger Varian’s filly could end up in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, or failing that, she could turn out to be a viable candidate for something like the Commonwealth Cup at the same meeting if she proves conclusively she doesn’t get a stiff mile.
Raffle Prize ties in nicely with most of the best fillies’ races last season, so she has to be worth a mention, although based on her form and run-style, she would seem the least likely of the main players in the current market to stay the trip.
Showing blazing all-round speed to land the Queen Mary over five furlongs, Mark Johnston’s filly broke the track record over six at Newmarket next time, beating Daahyeh in the process, and her final two performances in defeat over the same trip lends weight to the argument she probably is more a Commonwealth Cup type than a viable Guineas candidate.
Cloak Of Spirits ran a nice race behind Daahyeh in the Rockfel on only her third career start and she looks the type who will improve as time progresses, while Peaceful makes more appeal as a middle-distance type based on how she shaped last season and her family tree.
Amazingly, So Wonderful still remains a maiden after eight starts, but her run behind stable mate Love and Daahyeh in the Moyglare would give her some hope of competing at this sort of level and, as stated before, anything representing Ballydoyle in a Guineas has to be considered at all costs.
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