Three selections, including a 2pt each-way NAP on 2000 Guineas Day from Andy Holding
Day three of what’s been an extremely informative fixture so far and with the stalls now back on a completely fresh new strip of ground on the stands’ side rail, FAR ABOVE (best price 7-2) has been handed the prime position to cause some damage on his seasonal bow.
By far and away the most unexposed runner in the field with just four career starts, James Tate’s imposing colt began his racing life by winning a maiden over seven furlongs over today’s course last April and such was the regard he was held in at home, connections decided not to mess around and pitch him straight in to pattern company on his next outing. Although he slightly disappointed on the day, the son of Farhh left the impression that he wanted to come back in trip, and so it proved, as he remained unbeaten on his final two starts over a furlong shorter. That said, he only just about got away with it on the latter of those performances in a listed race in Deauville and that was down to the fact he wasted so much energy by pulling like a mustang in the early part of the race. On the evidence of that effort 335 days ago and his recent homework (his handler states he’s one of the quickest he’s ever trained), the four-year-old – who has the power and stature similar to stable mate Invincible Army – looks an out-and-out trailblazing sprinter with an incredibly high cruising speed, so it makes perfect sense to kick off his campaign over the minimum trip to find out whether this is well and truly his correct division. Housed right up against the stands’ side rail in gate 13, hopefully he will get plenty of early cover and providing he gets the breaks at the right time, he should have the necessary boot to run down his prey late on.
Moss Gill, a similarly improving four-year-old from last season, rates one of the chief threats based on his profile and it would come as no surprise to see him make the leap into pattern company a successful one.
As every punter is aware by now, Andrew Balding has made a spectacular start to the new season, so all of his runners have to be given the utmost respect, and there’s a fair chance that PUNCTUATION (NAP) (best price 7-1) can add to the growing list of winners for the Kingsclere handler in this intriguing-looking listed contest.
A promising runner-up on debut at Kempton back in January when he was cutting down his two market rivals close home after a tactically run affair, the son of Dansili was a warm order to justify the impression he created on his next start over the same C&D a month later. Slowly away (largely due to the fact it takes him a while for his huge frame to get into gear) and messed about in to the first corner, the strapping three-year-old found himself in an uncompromising position halfway down the back straight, but in a dramatic sweeping move, he forged his way to the front around the six-furlong pole and from that point onward he strode further and further clear of his toiling rivals. Stopping the clock in an eye-popping time for a 1m4f maiden, he left the distinct impression he could be a top-class middle distance prospect in the making and with his deceptively long stride likely to be seen to good effect on the galloping nature of the Rowley Mile, it would come as something of a shock if he doesn’t ruffle the feathers of several ahead of him in the market with an aggressive ride. Whatever his fate this afternoon, he’s one to keep on side for the remainder of the season.
A fascinating 2000 Guineas in every aspect, none more so than whether Pinatubo turns out to be the brilliant horse his two-year-old campaign suggested he might be. On pure ability alone, not many in today’s field can touch him in terms of raw ability, overall form and speed figures, so if he does come unstuck, it might only be due to the fact he gets into a bunfight with everything trying to converge under the favoured stands’ side rail.
Having won this race ten times in the past, anything from the Ballydoyle camp has to be given the utmost respect and, with ‘the lads’, likely to have hatched some sort of masterplan behind the scenes in order to try and make life as difficult as possible for the short-priced favourite, the likes of Arizona and Wichita, in particular, are both worth more than a second look.
One who has already shown he’s very much up to the standard required is KAMEKO (best price 10-1) and hailing from a yard who clearly has his team bursting with health, confidence is high that Andrew Balding’s colt can go close to adding to his handler’s only other previous Classic winner in the shape of Casual Look in the 2003 Oaks.
Just touched off in the Solario and Royal Lodge respectively, the son of Kitten’s Joy was well-backed to make amends in the Group 1 Futurity Stakes switched from Doncaster to Newcastle last season, and in what turned out to be an extremely well-run affair, he came through his toughest to date with flying colours. Always moving sweetly, the rangy colt picked up the running going best two furlongs out and driven right out to the line, he pulled well clear of a stellar field which included the likes of Innsifree, Mogul and the much-vaunted Kinross. Numbers-wise, the race at the Gosforth Park venue was right up there with some of the best speed figures posted by a juvenile last season, including Pinatubo, and with the potential and scope to do even better as he develops into his frame at three, he rates one of the most exciting prospects in the line-up. Drawn right next to the stands’ side rail, hopefully Oisin Murphy will make full use of his mount’s potentially advantageous stall by bustling him up to hold a good early position and providing plan A can be executed perfectly, the rest can take care of itself. With some firms offering four places, it would be a huge surprise if as many horses finished ahead of Kameko given all his positives, and at a rather generous-looking 10-1, he rates the value pick.
Of the rest, regular readers of this column will be hoping Kinross is capable of better than what he showed prior to the Futurity and judged by recent market activity in the direction of Ralph Beckett’s colt, there’s a decent chance he will at least leave his Newcastle run behind him. Impressive both visually and on the clock on debut over today’s course back in the Autumn, he was sent off a red-hot 13-8 favourite to make a seamless transition in to Group company, but as it turned out, he failed to sparkle for one reason or another. Although it’s hard to see him turning the tables with his old rival Kameko strictly on that run 218 days ago, at the same time it would be dangerous to write him out of the equation completely. Military March is another with a ton of ability and for those holding juicy ante-post prices for the Derby, a positive display will instil confidence going forward for the rest of the campaign.