Tag Archives: Guineas

Sunday Racing Review

Upset in the 1000 Guineas – Winter won the first ladies Classic of the new season! Or was it even an upset? Maybe not so much because she was subject of substantial market support over the last week or so and some outspoken experts voiced their keenness on the Aiden O’Brien trained filly

Fact is she ran pretty well in the Leopardstown Guineas trial and with natural improvement and enhanced fitness she had always a chance to go close in what appeared to be quite an open renewal beforehand.

Winter got a fine no-nonsense ride by Wayne Lordon – who already sat on her last season when she was still trained by David Wachmann – and once hitting top gear she put lengths between herself and the field.

Stable mate and favourite Rhododendron didn’t enjoy the clearest of runs but finished strongly to claim second eventually.

At the same time I was over at Leopardstown for the Irish Derby Trial Day. Sunny Dublin presented itself from the best side and that made the day at the races so much more pleasant.

The Group 3 Amethyst Stakes went Custom Cut’s way, who finally got his head in front again – it took him nearly two years to do that since he took the Boomerang Stakes here at Leoapardstown back in 2015.

A 1000 Guineas Trial only in the name, because the actual field was poor and I’d be surprised if any of the contestants line up up in the Classic. Jim Bolger trained Jim Feasa won the race – a 99 rated individual not goo enough to land a Gowran Maiden at the fifth time of asking only a week ago. Tells you all about the quality of this race.

Quality was delivered in the main event, the Derby Trial. Two highly regarded and talked about Ballydoyle colts were thought to battle it out – though in the end both Capri and Yucatan had to settle for minors behind stable mate Douglas Macarthur.

I loved to see those famous Jooste colours from South Africa in the winners enclosure. Got a nice colt there with Douglas Macarthur who proved it was no fluke when he ran 2nd in the Ballysax where he also beat Yunatan and Capri.

For the future it might well be Yucatan then who turns out to be best of the trio. He didn’t quite get a clear run – though I felt he had every chance nonetheless – and battled hard to the line. A step up to the Derby trip should not be an issue and he looked simply stunning in the parade ring today.

 

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3.40 Southwell: Class 5 Handicap, 6f

Captain Bob is a very infrequent winner, in fact his last “1” dates back to 2014. However a falling mark seems to have reinvigorate him, particularly on the All-Weather were he has been placed in all his three starts which all came earlier this year.

He also took relatively easily to the Southwell fibresand. In fact he produced a strong performance over 6f when only beaten by a head in the end. This piece of form looks rock solid and judged on it he appears now to be potentially well handicapped.

He followed up with a fine 3rd place at Brighton subsequently on fast ground over 6f but I feel it this more stamina focused test over the same trip at Southwell suits him slightly better, and probably even more so as we now know he acts on the surface and Captain Bob himself has learned how to race on fibresand.

He’s got a good draw and a red hot apprentice in the saddle, so this may represent the best chance in a very long time to finally get his head in front.

Selection:
10pts win – Captain Bob @ 4/1 Bet365

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5.10 Southwell: Class 6 Handicap, 5f

This is a shockingly poor contest given an 11 year old is favourite and a 20 times maiden is thought to be closes pursuer. However it is the still winless Kodimoor who seems overpriced in this race, despite his desperate record.

Reason to believe he can be very competitive is the fact that he dropped markedly in the weights and finished a decent third in an Apprentice Handicap over CD in January, trying fibresand for the first time.

That form gives him a big chance of effectively 5lb less, given his mark dropped 3lb since then and the change of jockey allowance taken into account – while it is fair to say 7lb claimer David Egan is quite competent and no worse than Ms. Malune who claimed 5lb the other day.

Selection:
10pts win – Kodimoor @ 7/2 Bet365

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7.50 Windsor: Class 4 Handicap, 1m 2f

Lightly raced Shergiah should have more to offer now stepping up in trip after a decent comeback run at Lingfield over a mile where a sprint finish did not suit him.

However he looked quite good on his final run in 2016 when he landed a decent maiden at Ripon in impressive style, given how well he picked up once asked for full effort.

This good looking gelding has still a bit of scope to improve and in this not overly strong race he could get his season off to a flyer.

Selection:
10pts win – Shergiah @ 10/3 Paddy Power

Sunday Tips

The flat changes gear – we saw that today. The 2000 Guineas finally kicked the new season really off and it did so in style. The race produced a blockbuster finish with the better end for the 6/4 favourite Churchill.

It was another superb ride by the master that Ryan Moore is, as he made sure Churchill was in the best position when it really matter, grabbing the rail, to keep the colt focused and in line, which was an advantage.

At least compared to some of the other well fancied rivals, like Al Wukair or Barney Roy for example. The French horse had to go wide around the whole field, found that certainly not easy but finished strongly in his own right. Barney Roy looked still a bit green.

I’d love to see a rematch of the Guineas main contenders this year, and I’m sure we get it. Will be interesting whether it’s gonna be the same outcome? I’ have my doubts.

Sunday will be another massive day. The 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and the Derby Trial at Leopardstown, plus a handful of other Group races and good Handicaps.

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1.50 Newmarket: Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f

This is a hot contest with some really good horses lining up. Favourite Big Country is an exciting improver who looks certain to bring his All-Weather form to the turf. His last Kempton win is excellent form and the lightly raced son of High Chaparral could easily defy a 10lb rise in the mark.

However at prices I prefer top weight Frontiersman. Yes, it’s a tough task to run of 101 and 9st 10lb in a Handicap. However this lad looks pattern class. He has filled his huge frame nicely over the winter, strengthening further after a fine 3yo campaign last season that saw him win a nice Handicap over course and distance.

He clearly needed the run on his reapearance at Doncaster last month and should be primed now. Fast ground seems key, which he gets here at Newmarket. He takes plenty of beating in my mind.

Selection:
10pts win – Frontiersman @ 5/1 Paddy Power

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3.55 Leopardstown: Handicap, 7 furlongs

He’s never won on turf, nonetheless Split The Atom looks incredibly well handicapped here. It’s not like that he doesn’t act on grass, in fact he’s been placed six times, however never found the right opportunity.

It looked like he could break the duck at Navan a fortnight ago. He travelled much the best and finished like a train but was arguably an unlucky runner-up.

He’s got a chance to race off the same mark, however with a 5lb apprentice in the saddle and over his preferred 7f trip on fast ground where he has a four out of six place strike rate.

The wide draw is not a problem because he’s a hold-up horse anyway, however it is not easy to win from far back at Leopardstown, so that is an obvious question mark. Nonetheless on RPR’s an time speed figures he has a tremendous chance and I’m happy to go risk at a big price.

Selection:
10pts win – Split The Atom @ 7/1 Bet365

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4.55 Hamilton: Class 5 Handicap, 8.5 furlongs

Kevin Ryan’s Al Hawraa seems judged on a poor seasonal reappearance but it’s likely she’s going to be much sharper this time. We don’t know yet how good (or bad) daughter of Iffraaj is, though there was some indication last season that she is not totally  without talent.

She was able to finish a good runner-up on debut behind subsequent dual winner and she managed to finish in the placings another two times in maiden company. It’s fair to say she looked bad in her two handicap runs, however her opening mark was potentially on the stiff side.

She dropped down to 63 now and judged on her maiden form that could give her a chance to be competitive if she can respond well for the slight step up in trip. Ground looks fine and Kevin Ryan tends to do pretty well at Hamilton even more so if Kevin Stock is in the saddle.

Selection:
10pts win – Al Hawraa @ 14/1 Bet365

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The Irish 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown looks a shocking race on Sunday. What’s the chance that even one of those runs in the actual Classic? On the other hand the Derby Trial is intriguing. Capri versus Yukatan.

Yukatan is held in high regard by the ‘Brien camp. However I actually like Capri a bit better at this stage. The big grey was not suited by the slow pace on his reappearance and it’ll be interesting to if things pan out differently and if that sees him closing the gab to Yukatan.

1000 Guineas Preview

Guineas Weekend Preview

Guineas weekend has firmly arrived – the first Classics of the new flat season nearly upon us…. time is flying – studying the four miler at Cheltenham feels like yesterday!

But it’s great. I love flat racing. I love Newmarket, I love Guineas weekend. It’s when dreams are still dreamed, when the summer starts to make its presence felt and the mind gets fully focused on the flat and all those good looking, fast horses that now emerge on a near daily basis.

My allegiance in the 2000 Guineas is not a secret. I shouted it from the roof for weeks: Al Wukair will give hot favourite Churchill plenty to think about. I stick to my guns and nothing has changed my opinion – I’d be surprised if the French horse doesn’t go close.

Sunday – 1000 Guineas:

Not until last night I made up my mind up on the fillies’ equivalent. Because let’s face it, this is quite an open contest. Yes, another Aiden O’Brien inmate says ‘HI’ from the top of the betting, but  you got to be a brave man to back Rhododendron for what seems quite a skinny price.

With fillies you never know whether they have trained on, whether they are still in love with the game or whether they have set their mind on other things in life. That aside, we haven’t seen Rhododendron since last season, whereas we have seen a number of other intriguing contenders already racing in the last weeks, proving they have trained on.

Also even if you do believe strongly in her juvenile form, it’s probably fair to say that it does tie in with a handful of other runners in the field, and it’s not like that she ran all of them down in the manner of a far superior individual.

Nonetheless it appears that the Irish have a very strong hand in the 1000 Guineas on Sunday, Aiden O’Brien in particular – not only because of Rhododendron.

Big market mover in recent days was stable mate Winter, and you can easily see why. It was a huge run in the 1000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown from her. She had a wider than ideal trip throughout, yet nearly beat stable mate Hydrangea who in contrast had the run of the race from the front.

They grey has plenty of scope and is clearly talented. However the good prices are long gone. Is Hydrangea better value, given she won the trial? Yes, possibly. A good filly, a willing partner for whoever jockey sits atop, a filly that has a fair chance, though she is far from flashy and you wonder whether she can improve from Leopardstown.

The Leopardstown form has been franked in no uncertain terms by third placed Rehana in the meantime – that enhances the chances of Winter and Hydrangea, no doubt. Rehana has been impressive in the Group 3 Athasi Stakes at Naas last weekend.

IMO this piece of form, the Leopardstown Trial, is therefore key in determining the winner of the 1000 Guineas. In saying that the filly that came fourth that day is clearly the one of most interest to me.

Intricately providing young Joseph his first Classic winner? What a story that would be. She is still a whopping price, which puzzles me, particularly because the vibes from the yard seem positive.

Anyway, Leopardstown was clearly an occasion where  the main aim was to get a run under her belt. Still she ran a perfectly fine race. She raced off the pace which wasn’t ideal in this particular contest, but she travelled well enough through the race and eventually finished less than 2 lengths beaten, without getting a hard ride at all.

It should put her right for when it really matters. Lest we forget, Intricately already is a Group 1 winner! She beat Hydrangea in a tight finish in the Moyglare last season – Rhododendron was nearly two lengths back in third.

The one mile trip won’t be an issue for her. Yes, she was disappointing at Santa Anita, but that was right at the end of the season. You could draw from that performance that quick ground is a slight concern, though. However in terms of stamina, I don’t worry too much. She looks a filly that cries out for an extra furlong.

In summary, Intricately looks a big price – too big. She has the right profile, is well bred for the job, has race fitness on her side and is clearly classy given she is a Group 1 winner – so Intricately @ 18/1 is my selection for the 1000 Guineas.

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5.00 Goodwood: Class 5 Handicap, 10f

Duchess Of Fife looks an intriguing contender for a red hot yard. The filly was pretty raw with plenty to learn in all her three maiden runs last season, however as an April foal she should have scope to improve this season. She has quite a big frame to fill too, so a winter may have done her the world of good.

A hood is applied for the first time, so she does try the 10f trip. Her maiden form looks solid rating wise, giving her every chance of an opening mark of 65. She will need to find improvement for the distance, headgear and maturity, but if she does make a step forward she should go very close here.

Selection:
10pts win – Duchess Of Fife @ 9/1 Bet365

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6.50 Doncaster: Class 2 Handicap, 7f

Bottom weight Aardwolf is a very interesting contender after an excellent comeback run on the back of a gelding op during the winter. With his WFA allowance and prominent racing style he could steel the race.

Nonetheless a safer pick is Gallipoli who looks certain to progress after a classy victory at Leicester last moth. The four year old is still quite lightly raced and had only three starts over this 7f trip, with legitimate excuses the first two starts over this trip where didn’t quite perform too well.

Gallipoli has course form – he got off the mark on debut here over 5f on fast ground. So conditions are sure to suit him. Hopefully there will be enough pace, as it seems not too many want to go forward. However he showed in the past to be able to track the pace and change gear.

Selection:
10pts win – Gallipoli @ 10/3 William Hill

Thursday Racing

Not all Frankel offspring can be classy. Seven Heavens certainly isn’t. I felt he deserved his chance dropping in trip in the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot yesterday afternoon. However he finished weak. No excuses this time.

However this proved to be the perfect test for Blue Point. Trained by Charlie Appleby, the Dewhurst third enjoyed the return to sprinting and looks an exciting prospect for this division this season. You’d have to think the Commonwealth Cup is the ideal target for him.

Mill Reef Stakes winner Harry Angel ran a big race in second, pulling hard. If he learns to settle there is a lot of upside for this Dark Angel colt.

In the meantime the declarations for the 2000 Guineas are in. It’ll be the smallest field since 1988 – with only ten horses going to post! Churchill remains the overwhelming favourite. He’s a general 6/4 chance.

I’m still happy with my selection, though. Al Wukair has been my ante-post fancy ever since he romped home in the Prix Djebel, and I remain confident that he’ll give me a big run for my money.

There is also a nice article on Al Wukair on the Racingpost website for further reading.

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4.00 Redcar, Class 5 Handicap, 1m 1f

Some interesting horses in this race. Favourite Teodoro could improve big time for the trip on handicap debut while Ronnie The Rooster looks the form choice.

However bottom weight Turning Gold is the most attractive price. He had three maiden runs in quick succession last year, totally unfancied SP’s ranging from 50/1 to 200/1.

However given connections, this Prescott runner is bound improve. The handicapper thinks the same and has allotted a rather biggish mark of 58 – where did he get that from, given the shocking maiden form?

Doesn’t matter, because it could still be not enough to stop this Pivotal son on handicap debut. He steps up to 9f which looks within range on pedigree. Turning Gold was also a very late foal, born in May, so he’s likely to be better with age and experience.

It seems significant that Luke Morris is in the saddle who rides plenty of winners for Mark Prescott and has only this one ride today.

Selection:
10pts win – Turning Gold @ 10/1 Bet365

Al Wukair a serious Guineas Contender?

Did we see the 2000 Guineas winner today? Well, the answer is: maybe! Certainly Al Wukair made a big impression at Maisons-Laffitte when landing the Group 3 Prix Djebel.

The two year old son of Dream Ahead dawdled along in the rear of the field but once switched to the outside by rider Gregory Benoist the colt produced a stunning turn of foot and won rather handily going away in the end without being all out.

This, big scopey lad looked still a bit green, which is fine as it was only his third start – though also his third win! He finished last season with a 100% two for two record, culminating in a really nice Listed race win at Deauville where he proved to stay the mile.

Seven furlongs today was no big deal either but he was probably slightly taken out of his comfort zone by the pace and a return to the eight furlong trip will suit him. This form appears to be very strong, given runner-up National Defense is the reigning Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere champ.

Trainer Andre Fabre was pleased stating in the aftermath “it was a useful race, I was delighted by the style in which he won; seven furlongs is a bit sharp for him so, with all that put together I am happy and we will go for the Guineas,”

With these French horse but more in general with Guineas contenders you don’t know how they take to the quirky test that Newmarket racecourse provides. It may well be a bit of a culture shock for Al Wukair too, however I crunched the numbers for Dream Ahead offspring which are quite encouraging, actually.

Albeit a limited sample size, it looks still significant: over a mile from 9 starters 3 have won and overall 5 were in the money. That is quite healthy output given the average SP for those starters was 7/1.

In summary there is plenty to like about Al Wukair. He was a promising juvenile but has clearly trained on and filled his big frame as we’ve seen today. He’s classy, has a turn of foot and on pedigree should be okay at the Rowley Mile. He’ll come into the 2000 Guineas race fit and it can’t be a disadvantage to be trained by the master that Andre Fabre is.

Al Wukair is already as short as 5/1 with some firms, but 8/1 is still available. It won’t last. Whether favourite Churchill can be beaten remains to be seen, but he’s a very short price and let’s not forget what happened to the red hot favourite of the same stable last year when everyone thought he was unbeatable.

At 8/1 I’m happy to put a big ante-post wager each-way on Al Wukair. He showed me today anything I wanted to see from a potential Guineas star.

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2.00 Lingfield: Maiden Stakes

Favourite Eagle Creek looks hard to beat if ready to go on his seasonal reappearance. He ran well on debut last season but was put away subsequently. He’s destined for better and this race is most likely only a stepping stone.

From a good family by Raven’s Pass and Listed race placed dam Blue Angel, a half-brother to listed race winner and multiple Meydan winner Viren’s Army, he should be too good for this lot at Lingfield.

The All-Weather surface is unlikely to pose a threat and connections must clearly feel he’s here to win as Atzeni comes for only this one ride and his record in Lingfield maidens when he’s having only a single ride on the day is marvellous

Selection:
10pts win – Eagle Creek @ 2/1 Bet365

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3.10 Pontefract: Class 3 Handicap

The books seem to have the wrong horse favoured in the betting in my book. William Haggas’s Battered looks a far better chance at a bigger price. Battered run well in four starts in his juvenile campaign. Won a competitive maiden at Yarmouth and lost little in defeat when runner-up in a hot Handicap at York.

He had subsequent Listed places Tomily behind him who is now a 99 rated individual. RPR’s also suggest Battered is likely to be well in here off his current 82 mark.

Further to that he did better than one would expect as a two year old given sire Foxwedge progeny seems to do better as three year olds. With a track that favoures prominent runners sure to suit this pacey lad I feel he takes the world of beating.

Selection:
10 pts win – Battered @ 2/1 PP

Racing Weekend Review

A weekend of superlatives – nothing less you can call it. The main dish certainly delivered. Aintree the only place you wanted to be on Saturday quarter past five. But summer racing isn’t far away. Leopardstown staged Guineas trials and Naas saw the return of proper Group 1 stars. Here’s a review of the weekend’s action.

Grand National Delivered the Goods

Touted as one of the widest open National fields in a long time, the biggest horse race on the planet didn’t disappoint. It had it all: great build-up, excellent TV coverage on ITV’s National maiden gig, sunshine weather and a dramatic finish to the race. What more can you ask for?

It was 14/1 chance One For Arthur who eventually stayed on incredibly strongly after a voyage through the whole field in the hands of ultra cool Derek Fox. This big, powerful horse, ready made for the war of attrition the Grand National is. A triumph for Scotland they said, a triumph for Irish breeding it is.

One For Arthur was born and raised on the green island. In fact here it was where he also tasted first racing success.  In an Irish point to point that was, where he – what a nice coincidence that is – beat yesterday’s fourth Blacklion.

There is also Derek Fox, the young rider, who now only 24 years of age instantly became a legend of our game. The Sligo man who kept his nerves throughout, who didn’t panic when he still had a lot of ground to make up two out. Did anyone ever check: he must have balls of steel surely?

Safety First, Spectacle Second

The Grand National the way we know it these days may not hold the same fascination for traditionalists due to the modifications of the fences in recent years. It’s something heard often in the days leading up to the race. It would not be as special anymore. It’s not as much of a test as it used to be. It’s just another staying chase.

Well, to some extend that could well be true. But no one can deny the fact that The Grand National is as safe a race for horses as it ever was. And that can only be a good thing. In fact this was already the fifth year since the most drastic changes have been made and it’s no coincidence that it is also the fifth year running without a fatality. That is not by chance, that#s because of wise decisions made in the last number of years.

Becher's Brook

It’s great. I love it. I feel so much more passionate about the race knowing it’s so much safer. And honestly, is it really so much less of a spectacle? Not at all if you ask me. Those fences are still huge! I’ve been there, two years ago, stood in front of them – believe me when I say they are huge! They still warrant plenty of respect and they still provide a true test of jumping ability.

And that’s why it is still a unique race. One that captivates us racing fans but also many people who aren’t big time into the sport. And that is great. It’s great because we as fans can comfortably talk to our non-racing friends about the race, where they are equally as fascinated by the spectacle – and be it only for this one day a year – but where the talk afterwards is not about animal cruelty but about sport.

Big Performances all round 

A massive performance it was by Cause Of Causes who finished runner-up. He didn’t get the smoothest of runs but last month’s Cross-Country Chase hero at the Cheltenham Festival battled his way through under yet another excellent ride by the “Coddfather”.

If there’s anything like moral winners than Blaklion must go down as one. He was heavily backed into 8/1 favouritism before the off and travelled through the race most powerfully! In fact I’d say he probably travelled to well!

Blaklion pulled his way too the front with quite a bit to go and suddenly lead the field by a couple of lengths with still a good mile to go or so. It was inevitable that he would not get home. In the end he finished fourth, around eight lengths beaten. The same margin he was beaten nearly four years ago in an Irish point to point by One For Arthur…. in the aftermath it all looks so obvious.

The Flat Gains Momentum

Guineas trials took place at Leopardstown on Saturday. Aiden O’Brien took first and second in both the Classic trials for the boys and the girls. Most noteworthy was Orderofthegarter’s success who followed up with another impressive performance on his Naas romp a fortnight ago. He seems to be Ballydoyle’s Nr.1 for the Irish 2000 Guineas  – and after these two highly impressive performances he must have a prime chance.

The one to take out is runner-up Taj Mahal, though. First time tongue tied, he found the pace a bit too hot and didn’t get quite a clear run entering the home straight, but once manoeuvred into open space he stayed on very nicely.

He’s has quite allot of experience already, yet only won a Dundalk handicap of a mark of 86 so far, then finished the year on a positive note with a decent fifth only three lengths beaten in the Group 1 Criterium De Saint-Cloud. He looks physically improved over the winter and the tongue tie seems to help. He might be able to win a nice race this year.

Naas on Sunday saw the highly anticipated return of Alice Springs and US Army Ranger. All looks good with the filly. She ran a nice race in second place behind late sweeping Diamond Fields.

The Ranger is a different cattle of fish and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of him. This race doesn’t help. He appears to be hugely talented but after his excellent runner-up effort in last years Derby things have not gone to plan. Is it attitude, did he turn sour because of being rushed to the Derby, or is he simply not as good as previously thought?

He travelled well enough today but was a bit short of room at a crucial point of the race. So you can make an excuse. He did find not as much as hoped once in the clear though. And while that could be down to lack of fitness the fact that he was more than three lenghts beaten by a Group 3 animal is slightly concerning.

Now that the National is behind us the flat finally kicks in. Monday sees the return of the traditional Windsor meeting while Redcar is on offer too. Regular flat racing is back – oh how I missed it!

That says the jumps make a return to our thoughts once or twice again: The Irish Grand National on Easter Monday is here to mention – I’ll be going if work doesn’t prevent it. And then Punchestown of course is not too far down the road either. Great times to be a racing!

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One interesting selection for Monday – 5.25 Redcar: The top weight Livella Fella makes plenty of appeal dropping back into class five on her turf reappearance. She didn’t ran badly on the All-Weather over the winter but is clearly much better on the green grass and I suspect she’ll enjoy the conditions here.

A fair pipe opener after a break at Newcastle last month means she should be ready to go over a trip she loves. She has form at Redcar too and judged on past form appears to be on a pretty fair mark.

Livella Fella @ 10/1 bet365

Preview: 1000 Guineas

Before a detailed look into the 1000 Guineas, let’s have a quick word about the first classic of the 2016 flat season. One could probably say the 2000 Guineas didn’t finish the way many would have foreseen it. Even though, hailing my own judgement, I called out Galileo Gold as a big runner as long as he handles the track. He clearly did!

Now, I still didn’t selected him to win, but that’s okay because as the world’s biggest Paco Boy fan I just get a thrill out of it solely on the emotional side of things. My beloved all-time favourite horse finally got his first Group 1 winner on the board as a sire. He stands for a small fee at Highclere Stud these days – this will hopefully see him getting some classy mares in the future.

Back to the 2000 Guineas winner, Galileo Gold. He didn’t have it all that easy from his draw, but Frankie gave him a peach of a ride. The horse travelled like a dream throughout and quickened in taking style. You got to be impressed! Next stop Derby? Maybe. Connections believe he could stay the much longer trip

I’m not in the same camp yet, have to see it to believe it. Let’s not forget Paco Boy himself was a star miler, but probably got the trip only because of the patience of his rider, Richard Hughes. In my book he was always a 7 furlong specialist, stretched out to the mile.

The red hot favourite Air Force Blue was brutally disappointing. “Probably overtrained” was the explanation from Aiden O’Brien. Maybe he simply didn’t trained on at all? I’ll give him another chance because in all fairness, when I saw him at the Curragh earlier this year, he looked like a bigger, stronger horse, ready to do some damage in top class company this year.

I loved the run of stable companion Air Vice Marshal. He ran a heck of a race and I expect him to come on dramatically for the run. Once he gets quicker ground I can see him definitely being up to win a big race this year.

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Preview: 1000 Gunieas

It’s the fillies’ turn today. The ground has dried out further – we’ve got genuinely good conditions at Newmarket. Again it’s a red-hot favourite from the Ballydoyle camp greeting from the top of the market: Minding.

And rightly so. On her two year old form you can’t oppose her. You can’t! A two-times Group 1 winner, ready to go on any ground, proven to get the trip as well as handling the Rowley Mile. A big, scopey filly, she looked super at the Curragh at the end of March too.

But we’ve seen it only 24h ago, that all can count for nothing. The performance today is what matters. And we don’t know whether she has improved over the winter until we see her showing it on the race track. Also, with these fillies, things are less straightforward than with the colts. I got to oppose her given her super short price-tag, even though I readily admit I may look foolish in a couple hours time.

What else’s in the race? 15 other fillies! A big field, and look no further for exciting opposition than Mark Johnston’s Lumiere. Winner of the Chevely Park Stakes, she’s got talent and speed but should also prove to have enough stamina to get the mile. Only thing is, her dam hasn’t produced anything of note yet.

Aiden O’Brien’s second and third string aren’t taken lightly. Ballydoyle – the filly – took longer than expected to hit full stride last season but finished the year on a high note landing a big Group 1 in France. She looked not quite as good as Minding when the two meat in the Moyglare, but it’s far from impossible that she’s able to turn the form around.

What I don’t like, and I said the same about Air Force Blue yesterday, is the tongue-tie, applied for the first time. There is often a reason for this, and it can be an indicator for some sort of a breathing problem. Doesn’t have to be, but can be and I’d be cautious.

Alice Springs is the least fancied of Aiden’s, though I like her allot! She was busy in the second half of 2015, a bit an unlucky runner-up in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf but clearly talented, scopey frame and there wasn’t much wrong with her return earlier this month; a fair third at Leopardstown in a Guineas trial. In fact it looked a lovely pipe opener in my eyes.

That day, on bottomless ground, it was difficult to make up ground from behind so the bird was flown early on but Alice Springs stayed on nicely. The mile trip doesn’t pose any concern, but the good ground is something she’ll definitely like.

Nell Gwyn winner Nathra is an exciting prospect. She has a run under her belt, has clearly trained on and is open to further improvement. Plus I really loved the way she cruised through the field in the Nell Gwyn, gliding through like a hot knife through butter. But you wonder whether a hotly contested mile is a bit too far for her stamina wise?

The Nell Gwynn looks a key trial nonetheless. Robanne stayed on late in third after being pretty badly outpaced from over three furlongs out. She gives the impression of a filly crying out for a trip. Mix And Mingle was right there too, finished 4th but looked outpaced as well and very much laboured. Both don’t strike me as Guineas winners.

Jim Bolger had plenty of placed runners but no winners for quite some time now. He’s due to win one pretty soon. Can Turret Rocks be the one? She was a smart juvenile – winner of the Group 2 Marry Hill and runner-up to Ballydoyle in the Prix Marcel Boussac. Her current rating puts her right in the mix here, although she’s certainly not a flashy type.

Whether French raider Midweek can transfer her best to drying Newmarket ground is debatable. I’d be concerned. Her best form came on very soft ground up until now. The same goes for Jet Setting. A fine winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas trial, though on heavy ground. Her only other win also came on a very deep surface.

I should mention speedy Zoffany daughter Illuminate. Already a multiple Group winner over 6f, she wasn’t disgraced at the Breeders Cup when stepping up to a mile. That day she seemed to hit a wall in the closing stages and I find it hard to see her getting the trip.

Verdict: On last years form it’s hard to look past Minding. But she is short enough to take her on, particularly with equally exciting stable mate Alice Springs, who certainly overpriced at around 20’s.

I do like Nathra a lot, though the drying ground and step up in trip is a concern and making a second selection here against the hot favourite I prefer the Bolger filly Turret Rocks. She probably gets further in time and seems very much one paced, but at the same time she’s tough and genuine and can outrun her price tag of 25/1.