Two selections stand out for the first Classic of the 2021 flat season.
It’s been an intriguing market in the build up to the 2000 Guineas, with several horses taking turns to be strongly supported. This is testament to the wide open nature of this year’s renewal. Now with just a day to go, Wembley has settled at the head of the betting. After a very dry few weeks, the ground at Newmarket is set to be good to firm this weekend.
2000 Guineas Tips:
Aidan O’Brien has won nine of the last 20 renewals and he has another typically strong hand once again this year. He saddles the current favourite, Wembley. Due to the late start to the flat season last year, plenty of two-year-olds had strange seasons and Wembley certainly didn’t have a typical two-year-old season for a 2000 Guineas market leader.
Winning a maiden on his fourth attempt, Wembley made the jump to group company and took a huge step forward on his final two starts last term. His season culminated in the Dewhurst, where the son of Galileo finished a close second, making late ground after a far from ideal passage into the race. Drawn in stall two, Ryan Moore had no other option but to bide his time on the outside. Swooping wide down the track, he really got going late on but the line came too soon for him.
He found trouble in running in the National Stakes at the Curragh too. Dead last less than two furlongs out, Ryan Moore had to pull him into the middle of the track for a clear run. As soon as he saw daylight, he flew home to finish second in eye-catching fashion.
The tactics they employ on Wembley on Saturday will be interesting. Drawn in stall eight, I’d be hopeful they ride him closer to the pace this time. He’s found trouble the last twice and if they ride him cold again, it could easily happen again on Saturday.
The winner of the National Stakes, Thunder Moon, showed an electric turn of foot that day but both Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica reversed the form in the Dewhurst.
What struck me last season, was just how small Thunder Moon was. He’s a tiny horse and my concern is his rivals will have matured past him over the winter. Being a son of Zoffany is a big negative for progressing from two to three and this is enough to put me off. Zoffany is a brilliant sire of two-year-old’s, but plenty of his progeny struggle at three. He’s had 10 pattern class winners at two, but only one of these went onto win a Listed race in Britain at three.
Thunder Moon will have to reverse this negative trend and while he’s the best two-year-old Zoffany has produced, it’s still a worry for me. The fast ground this weekend should play into his hands but I do think both Wembley will uphold the Dewhurst form.
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Further down the field in ninth in the Dewhurst was Chindit for Richard Hannon. He’s won the Greenham on his sole start since and now rates a 14/1 shot for the 2000 Guineas. That was his only bad run so far in his career but it’s a worry it came at Newmarket. He would need a big step forward to reverse the form with Wembley, in my opinion.
Poetic Flare was just behind Chindit in the Dewhurst. He too was soundly beaten that day but it’s worth noting it was just his second career start. His first run came in March last year, with a 201 day break until he was pitched into the Dewhurst. He was far from disgraced though and the testing ground won’t have seen him to best effect. Jim Bolger himself said that he didn’t have Poetic Flare fully fit for the Dewhurst and that he needed the race. Indeed, the son of Dawn Approach has shown how much he’s improved since.
Bolger went to Leopardstown a week later, where Poetic Flare ran out a cosy winner of the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes. The colt then won on seasonal reappearance in the 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown. He dominated the race throughout and kept on strongly to the line without Kevin Manning putting him under too much pressure. The way he finished off the race gave off signals he will relish the step up to a mile. Being a son of Dawn Approach means he should get the trip no problem too.
It’s also very interesting Jim Bolger has chosen to send Poetic Flare over the Vertum Futurity winner, Mac Swiney. Bolger has reported that he’s improved again since his trial run and I can see him being a different horse from the one we saw in the Dewhurst last year.
Battleground had been weak in the ante-post market so it’s a slight surprise he’s running here. His Vintage Stakes victory at Goodwood was particularly impressive, but the form from all three of his last three runs in 2020 isn’t much to write home about. Being by War Front is a negative too. War Front has had six runners in the 2000 Guineas, with no winners. Four of which finished eighth or worse. Moreover, the stats point towards his progeny running better later in the season. His three-year-olds have a strike-rate of just 11% in Group 1 races in the early season, compared to 27% mid-season. He was also foaled on May 10th; the last time a horse foaled in May won the race was 1992. This coupled with the vibes given by Aidan O’Brien in the last couple of months about not being sure if he will run or not suggest he will be a horse for later in the season. Although, he’s drawn in 15 which could be handy in getting to the nearside rail.
Van Gogh rounded off his two-year-old campaign with a Group 1 victory at Saint-Cloud over a mile on heavy ground. I do think he will want further than a mile and this may more of a stepping stone to the Derby for Van Gogh. It wouldn’t surprise me if he were to run well here but I think quick ground at Newmarket over a mile won’t see him at his best.
One Ruler has been fascinating in the market for this. Clearly word about his homework got out as he was backed into ante-post favourite at one point for the race. Charlie Appleby’s runner won the Autumn Stakes last year, which is a race that tends to be a good pointer towards the 2000 Guineas. He did improve with every start and was disadvantaged by the ground in the Vertem Futurity. However, based off his form last year, 7/1 does look a bit short.
William Buick has chosen to ride One Ruler’s stablemate, Master Of the Seas, instead. The Craven winner does have fitness on his side but Thunder Moon and Wembley both beat him in the National Stakes. Given the trouble in running that Wembley found, it’s difficult to see Master Of The Seas overturning that form, for all he was impressive when landing the Craven.
Lucky Vega was another with a hard luck story in the National Stakes and on that form he has a fighting chance here. However, I’d be concerned he may not get the trip, he did look more of a sprinting type in the Middle Park. Moreover, no horse that has run in the Middle Park has gone onto win the 2000 Guineas in the last 20 years.
Naval Crown beat Master Of The Seas at Meydan in February so you could argue the price difference between the two is too big. However, he could only manage second on his seasonal reappearance despite having the run of the race at Newmarket. He’d need to take a massive step forward.
Mutasaabeq has been well supported since being supplemented earlier in the week. He put in a taking performance at Newmarket at the Craven meeting but he did get an easy lead in the race and had the rail to boot. Clearly he was impressive, but this is a different kettle of fish. Connections can’t have been expecting such a strong performance first time out hence why they had to supplement hm. He’s entitled to take his chance but his current odds of 7/1 are a bit short for me now. With just two starts under his belt, I think he’s one for later in the season.
2000 Guineas Prediction:
The Dewhurst looks the key piece of form on offer here so I’ll side with two from that race. Wembley’s hard luck stories last season are well documented and it’s very hard to find chinks in his armour. With a clearer passage in both the Dewhurst and National Stakes, he could have had two Group 1s to his name as a two-year-old. He’s nicely drawn in eight here and with plenty of pace around him he should get a good tow into the race. I’d like to see him ridden close to the pace from the early stages of the race. It may be boring, but he’s got the best form in the race. 9/2 is still very fair.
Poetic Flare’s price is getting short enough now at 12/1 but he still rates a solid each-way bet with four and even five places on offer with some bookmakers. He was well beaten in the Dewhurst but considering it was just the second run of his career off a long break, I think he ran a very respectable race.
He’s a different horse now and a dominant performance in the Irish 2000 Guineas Trial doesn’t have him too far behind the market leaders. Since 2009 Jim Bolger has had four runners in the 2000 Guineas, with one winner and two places. He doesn’t send them over for the sake of it. Another step forward from Poetic Flare and I can see him running a big race.