With Cheltenham now a hazy memory, and the Grand National not too far away in the distance already thoughts turn to the upcoming Flat racing season and the likes of Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and the July Meeting at Newmarket as well as the season’s Classics.
The first of the six Classic races, the Qipco 2000 Guineas will be run on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket on May 6th, and the cream of the season’s juveniles will decend on Flat HQ to compete for the first leg of the Flat Triple Crown over the one mile trip.
Carrying a first prize of almost £300,000 to the winner, a strong field of runners is sure to line up for the classy contest in the hope of emulating the likes of Gleneagles, Frankel, Sea the Stars and Henrythenavigator in recent seasons; while further back in the annals of time, many legendary names have taken this prize.
Most eyes will be on Aidan O’Brien and the Ballydoyle maestro is sure to be well-represented as he bids to win the season’s first Classic for the sixth time this century; and O’Brien already has the front two in the ante-post market for the race in the shape of Churchill
) and Caravaggio, with the latter bidding to maintain an unbeaten record following four wins as a juvenile.
The former has tasted defeat just once, on debut when finishing third to Van Der Decken in a Curragh maiden last March; but the Galileo colt has gone on to win his next five starts which include Group One successes in the National Stakes at the Curragh when beating Mehmas, and at Newmarket when landing the Dewhurst from Lancaster Bomber.
Dewhurst winner Churchill heads up Aidan O'Brien's 2000 Guineas team.
Impressive on the latter start, he had some potential rivals in arrears – notably Rivet
(16/1, Sky Bet
) and Thunder Snow
(25/1, William Hill
) – and he looks sure to go well. However, at such skinny odds he isn’t a betting proposition, while stablemate CARAVAGGIO
(8/1, Paddy Power
) would have stamina to prove stepping up to one mile, although an entry in the seven furlongs Gladness Stakes in April may reveal more.
The Scat Daddy colt made a winning debut at Dundalk last April, beating Lundy; and he has progressed well since with a further trio of wins culminating in a defeat of Courage Under Fire to win the Group One Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on his last outing.
He had earlier produced an impressive performance to beat Mehmas in the Coventry Stakes, and he would boast strong claims if making the line-up. He shaped last time in Ireland as if this trip would be within range despite his sprinter-heavy pedigree, and he has shown a real change of gear in his races where he has looked to possess a big engine as he travels strongly through his races.
A line through Mehmas, whom he beat convincingly at Ascot doesn’t leave him with much – if anything – to find with his stablemate on that one’s run against the same rival, and assuming he gets this far then he is likely to be involved, although O'Brien himself has stated that Churchill - at this stage at least - is his number one Guineas horse and Caravaggio may well go sprinting.
The hopes of the Scat Daddy colt's Guineas chances likely rest on his performance in the upcoming Gladness Stakes over seven furlongs; if he wins that well, then O'Brien may well be tempted to try the one mile trip with him. While it is definitely a doubt that he'll even make Newmarket, he makes most ante-post appeal at this stage, and a Gladness win would likely see his price contract a couple of points.
Rivet bounced back from that poor run behind Churchill to win the Racing Post Trophy on his next start at Doncaster; winners of that race don’t have a great record in this contest however, and William Haggas’ charge has a bit to find on form with the Ballydoyle pair on a line through Thunder Snow whom he beat only by a head in the Champagne Stakes.
However, like most, the Fastnet Rock colt can improve and he’s certainly not written off in this contest as a likely outsider to trouble the Irish pair who set a stiff standard. A third Ballydoyle in War Decree
(16/1, William Hill
) adds further spice; while French raiders National Defense
) and the unbeaten Al Wukair
(33/1, Paddy Power
) of Andre Fabre’s team are others to note at this early stage.