4.40 Newmarket: Group 1, 2000 Guineas, 1m
If you’re prepared to oppose 6/4 favourite (at the time of writing) Auguste Rodin then the first Classic of the 2023 flat season appears to be a wide open affair.
In my view, including the favourite, there are serious question marks looming over all of the better fancied horses here, though. That adds to the intrigue but also difficulty to untangle the puzzle.
That may not be unusual, given it’s only May, and half the field didn’t have a run as 3-year-old colts yet. But it feels there are more profound question marks many have to answer this time than in preceding years.
Auguste Rodin has been hailed as a potential Triple Crown winner. You can see why. Three wins from four runs last year, he finished the season with a Group 1 triumph in the Futurity.
He’s expected to improve massively as a three-year-old, especially once he moves up in trip. Any rain would be a huge help to his chances as well.
On the other hand, the fact he hasn’t achieved overly impressive speed ratings yet – although, perhaps not helped having to run on heavy ground the last two times, as well as that he always stayed on strongly more so than having a blistering turn of foot – has me questioning his speed on better ground against proper milers.
Trained by Aiden O’Brien, who knows better than most what it takes to win the Guineas; nonetheless, the price is skinny and he appears beatable.
Stable mate Little Big Bear was crowned Europe’s Champion Juvenile after a demolition job in the Phoenix Park Stakes at the Curragh back in August. That was over 6 furlongs and he wasn’t seen again last year.
He looks a sprinter to me, even though the dam side gives some hope. Yet, he showed so much precocious speed as a juvenile, I have clear doubts that he stays a mile at Newmarket in a hot 2000 Guineas.
Chaldean progressed with each run last year, winning twice in Group class before his season culminated in a superb Dewhurst success. He achieved a 106 speed rating, which is “best in class” in this Guineas field.
He has his quirks, though, as evident at Newmarket when he started slowly, and also on his seasonal reappearance in the Greenham where he wore a hood to post, before becoming distracted by a rival starting right beside him, jinked to his left as a consequence, and unseated Frankie Dettori.
I have reservations on that basis, as well as over his stamina. He kept on well enough over 7 furlongs, but how much more is there to give over an additional furlong? The dam has produced largely speedier types.
Royal Scotsman was a superb juvenile. He ran on well for a close 2nd behind Chaldean in the Dewhurst. He got the trip, seemingly. Not sure how much scope he has to improve, given he started his career in early May last year.
A mile doesn’t look impossible on pedigree, but Sakheer is another one who may prove best over over shorter distances. He didn’t ran particularly fast on speed ratings either. Craven Stakes winner Indestructible can’t be easily discounted, given he has that CD record. But he may not be classy enough for a Guineas and it’s a quick turnaround after that big run only a fortnight ago.
Even though he is only 1/5, I quite like the look of Holloway Boy as one outrun his price tag and possibly finish in the placings. He can be upgraded for some of those placed efforts last year and is sure to progress as a 3-year-old, given he’s a son of Ulysses.
Charlie Appleby saddles two: Gimcrack winner Noble Style hasn’t been seen since August. I have major doubts over his stamina. You wouldn’t have any worries about stamina with stable mate Silver Knott, though.
A winner of three of his six starts last year, he progressed nicely through the season from a 4th place beaten behind Chaldean on debut, to winning the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at the Rowley Mile.
I can forgive him a poor showing in the Champagne Stakes when he finished a disappointing last of five. The ground got him beat. He definitely prefers better ground.
He showed a lot of class at Newmarket in September, though, when he beat smart Epictetus. The way he found another gear from two furlongs out, and then always just doing enough, impressed me, as he also ran to a 105 speed rating.
Silver Knott finished the year with a desperately unlucky runner-up performance at the Breeders Cup. He wasn’t the sharpest out of the gate, appeared plenty keen enough throughout, and got stuck behind rivals at a crucial stage. And yet, he only got beaten in a photo.
No doubt, he’s likely to be seen to best effect once he steps up to 10 furlongs – granted he has trained on, which we will have to see. He’s got solid stamina in his pedigree.
At the same time, he looked speedy enough as a juvenile, and showed a nice change of gear a number of times. The ground as it stands should be a huge bonus to his chances.
However, the rain forecast is a serious concern. How much is going to fall between now and then? The clerk watered the ground which is just bizarre given the forecast.
We’ll have to find out. I gamble on the fact that there isn’t enough precipitation to turn the currently as good to firm classified going to anything worse than good to soft.
Anything worse than good to soft would be a problem. But I can’t see that happening. Therefore, at the given prices, Silver Knott looms as a major value bet in my book.
10pts win – Silver Knott @ 12.5/1
1.35 Naas: Handicap, 5f
An Irish Handicap with 21 runners? I couldn’t think of anything less appealing as a betting proposition.
And yet I find myself incredibly bullish about the chances of Harry’s Hill. He was an eyecatcher on his last two runs against much stronger rivals. Yet, despite those two excellent performance he has been dropped a whopping 4lb (whopping by Irish standards) for those runs.
He came to my attention for the first on his seasonal reappearance at the Curragh at the end of March:
He was somewhat awkwardly away from the gate, but then showed blistering early speed to lead the field. He was going well for a long time before falling away in the final furlong.
To some extend it was a similar story last time at Cork. However, that time he also had to overcome a draw disadvantage, and was racing as part of a small group on the far side. He won on his side, and once again travelled very strongly for a long time.
On both occasions he was up against it on class terms. Both runs warrant additional upgrading because they came on extremely deep ground.
His record on ground not worse than yielding over 5 furlongs – it looks fair to assume the ground continues to dry as it’s quite warm, sunny and breezy here in Naas with no further rain of any significance expected – is excellent: 7-2-3.
This is an easier race, on his preferred ground and trip. The stiff finish is the only slight concern I have. Though, he won at the Curragh which also has an uphill finish, so perhaps it’s no big deal.
On speed ratings he looks also competitive off his current 73 mark, which is 3lb higher than his career best from last year, when he seemed to take his form to a new level.
He ran to a 71 speed last season, rating but I have well founded hopes that he could improve by another couple of pounds in ideal conditions once again.
10pts win – Harry’s Hill @ 9/2
There’s one more I quite like but have to decide in the morning, if there’s some positive vibes in the betting, and will update the post accordingly.