Each/way bets to chase home the favourite in 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
A scroll down the card for Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket suggests a strong, competitive renewal, with 15 horses spread across many of the big yards.
But closer inspection unearths a worthy, short-priced favourite who, on all known evidence, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Godolphin’s PINATUBO won all six of his starts as a 2yo, including two Group Ones. His performances in landing the National Stakes at The Curragh and the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood could only be described as breathtaking.
The powerful son of Shamardal is sure to get the Guineas mile, and has proved that he handles the track. He has also handed out two beatings already to one of his main rivals on Saturday, Aidan O’Brien’s assumed first choice, ARIZONA, while several collateral formlines underline his juvenile supremacy.
My only concerns would be very fast ground, which he has not yet encountered, and the fact that he endured a very hard race on his final assignment in 2019 when reeling in the aforementioned Arizona on testing ground in the Dewhurst Stakes last October. It was the kind of grueller that can ‘bottom’ horses, particularly at the end of a long, demanding campaign that, for Pinatubo, began as far back as early May.
However, it must also be stressed that the colt unquestionably possessed the physique to cope with such demands, and trainer Charlie Appleby has been at pains to tell is how well his Guineas favourite has wintered.
If he has trained on, my view is that he should be even shorter than his current shade of odds-on. Whether you choose to back him at such a price is a matter for personal preference. My lockdown finances won’t allow it, so I’ve hunted for each/way value to chase Pinatubo home.
The challengers are led by KAMEKO, owned by the race sponsors. Andrew Balding’s colt improved dramatically to sluice up in the re-routed Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle in November. But many of his rivals, most notably favourite KINROSS, looked uncomfortable on the all-weather Tapeta surface that day, and Kameko’s previous form, with the likes of ROYAL DORNOCH and AL SUHAIL, still leaves him with a bit to find on Saturday. Ralph Beckett’s Kinross, a stunning winner on debut, remains a lively outsider for the Guineas but lacks experience, while Royal Dornoch is regarded as O’Brien’s third string and Al Suhail, admirable performer though he is, plays second fiddle to Pinatubo in the Appleby pecking order.
Surprisingly, Richard Hannon relies on MUMS TIPPLE, rather than the potentially top-class Threat, who waits for Royal Ascot. The son of former Guineas winner Footstepsinthesand excited many with a wide-margin win in a modest Sales race at York, but had his limitations exposed when stepped up to Group One company next time.
The formbook suggests similar limitations are also likely to expose KENZAI WARRIOR, who is unbeaten in two starts, and the pedigree page suggests similar limitations are also likely to expose JUAN ELCANO, a son of Frankel who is bred for further than 1m.
All of which leaves me with a couple of lightly-raced contenders who not only displayed smart form as 2yos but also retain plenty of potential for further improvement, MILITARY MARCH and WICHITA.
The former, another Godolphin colt but saddled by Saeed Bin Suroor, achieved as much as most in the Guineas by defeating Al Suhail on only his second start in a Group Three here on the Rowley Mile last autumn. A grand, galloping sort, he will probably be seen to best effect over further than 1m, but if he can help turn Saturday’s heat into a stamina test, he will be staying on more strongly than most. The jockey-booking of Hector Crouch might concern some, but the youngster boasts a phenomenal record on Suroor charges. From 75 rides in the last five years, Crouch has booted home 21 winners at a strike rate of 28 per cent, while 29 of the rest have been second, third or fourth.
Wichita, another for O’Brien, who has trained four of the last five Guineas winners, is a similar sort to Suroor’s colt. Like Military March, he showed a penchant for Newmarket when winning a Group Three there in the autumn, and although he could manage only third behind Pinatubo and Arizona when returning for the Dewhurst, he got bogged down in the mud that day. This weekend’s faster ground will be much more up his street, and it is worth remembering that Ryan Moore chose to ride him, ahead of Arizona, in the Dewhurst.
MY 2000 GUINEAS 1-2-3
2 MILITARY MARCH
Twenty-four hours later, Newmarket stages the second Classic of the new-look racing season, the Qipco 1000 Guineas. Again, 15 runners line up and again, I am leaning towards the favourite, namely QUADRILATERAL, trained by Roger Charlton and owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah.
Unbeaten in three outings, the daughter of the mighty Frankel had the eyes of even the most hardened of racegoers popping out when she dismantled a fair field at Newbury last September. They weren’t so taken by her victory in the Group One bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket a month later, but the race represented a huge step-up in class and I felt it was encouraging that she unveiled very different qualities, namely grit and determination, to those on show at Newbury, where her win was all about pace and class. She did very well to get the better of a talented runner-up, Powerful Breeze, and relished the Rowley Mile’s uphill finish.
Beaten into third that day was Aidan O’Brien’s LOVE, a solid and reliable yardstick, who re-opposes on Sunday and whose profile neatly links the other main formline to consider -- that of the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes, also held at Newmarket last autumn.
On a line through Royal Ascot winner Daahyeh, Love is slightly inferior to RAFFLE PRIZE, who was runner-up in the Cheveley Park to MILLISLE, trained by Jessica Harrington. The front two lock horns again in the 1000 Guineas and both, curiously, have stamina questions to answer, given that they are daughters of superb sprinters.
The dam’s side of the two pedigrees suggests both will stay, but I reckon Mark Johnston’s fully can gain revenge on Harrington’s Irish raider. Her overall profile as a Royal Ascot-winning 2yo is far more enticing, particularly her performance against the colts when second to Earthlight in a red-hot Group One Prix Morny in France. Only a top-class filly could have managed that.
MY 1000 GUINEAS 1-2-3
2 RAFFLE PRIZE
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