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.
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.
10pts win – Duchess Of Fife @ 9/1 Bet365
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.
10pts win – Gallipoli @ 10/3 William Hill