The 2,000 Guineas betting market is headed by Aidan O’Brien’s champion juvenile, Churchill at 11/8, but he is untried as a three-year-old and the recent trials have unearthed some very credible opposition (3.35pm Saturday, Newmarket, live on ITV).
O’Brien typically claims to be very happy with his Dewhurst and National Stakes winner, describing him as ‘a big, powerful colt’ that he rates ‘very highly’. This son of Galileo certainly got the job done last season, always starting as the favourite and winning his six starts over seven furlongs. His only defeat was on his debut over an inadequate distance.
Stepping up to a mile should not be a problem for this colt but there are no guarantees first time out as a three-year-old as War Decree, the well-beaten favourite in the Craven, proved. O’Brien has won this race seven times but last year his 4/5 favourite, Air Force Blue, flopped and never achieved anything thereafter. Partnered by Ryan Moore, Churchill may merit his trainer’s opinion of him but other runners hold greater appeal.
Churchill’s stablemate Lancaster Bomber (25/1) finished second, only a length behind him in the Dewhurst. He went on to fill the same position in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, finding only Oscar Performance too good on the quick ground.
This son of War Front has proved he retains his ability, beaten only two lengths into fourth on unsuitably ‘muddy’ dirt in the UAE Derby in March after starting rather slowly. Lancaster Bomber is the second highest rated runner in the line-up and will love the quick ground. If he has benefited from the sunshine of Meydan and returned in good order Lancaster Bomber is very capable of filling a place at least under Donnacha O’Brien and is an attractive each-way prospect.
O’Brien also saddles Spirit Of Valor (50/1) who is difficult to assess. Another War Front colt, he won his maiden on his second try as a juvenile in mid October and was only beaten a length in a Group 3 over seven furlongs at Leopardstown a week later. His only start this term was also in the UAE Derby where he was tried in blinkers and beaten 12 lengths. Anything is possible but he looks well held by his stablemates.
A colt that has proved himself this season is Martyn Meade’s Eminent (7/1). This giant son of Frankel commanded a relatively modest £150K as a yearling (considering his sire’s covering fee is £125k), suggesting something must have been amiss with him at the sales but he is looking good now. Eminent only ran once as a juvenile, winning his maiden on the Rowley Mile in September, ‘readily’ by nearly three lengths.
Sent off at 8/1 in the Craven, Eminent was the pick of the paddock by a distance and won convincingly. He tested Jim Crowley’s arm strength going to post but was amenable in the race and quickened impressively, displaying his sire’s trademark length of stride. Eminent was going away crossing the line, beating William Haggas’ Rivet nearly two lengths with his ears pricked. Crowley has never taken so long to pull up but thought that Eminent had ‘a great mind’ and is sure to get further.
Meade was excited by his performance, admitting that he did not have Eminent ‘tuned completely’. No colt has put in a more visually impressive performance and, although this will be only Eminent’s third start, he has twice proved his aptitude for course and distance. His winning time of 1:35.15 was the fastest ever recorded in the Craven and it has only ever been bettered in this race once, by Mister Baileys in 1994 who clocked 1:35.08. Eminent is reported to have come out of the Craven well and has to have very strong claims.
Richard Hannon Jr won this race with Night Of Thunder in 2014 and has decent hopes of achieving his second success with Barney Roy (4/1). This more conventionally proportioned son of Excelebration was a £70K yearling who was bought by Godolphin for considerably more after he won his maiden impressively over a mile at Haydock in September.
In his second start in the Greenham, Barney Roy beat Dream Castle who carried his owners’ first colours. Barney Roy has appeared extremely relaxed in both his races but wakes up when asked. James Doyle was full of praise for the way he responded to ‘a couple of taps’, lowering himself and lengthening his stride to beat Dream Castle two lengths. Doyle thinks he will get a mile and a quarter, it took him ages to pull him up at Newbury.
The handicapper rates Barney Roy 4lb higher than Eminent, even though his Greenham winning time was not exceptional. This colt obviously has plenty of ability and can be trusted to relax and run his race but, untested at Newmarket, Barney Roy does not seem to offer great value.
His stablemate Larchmont Lad (33/1) won the Group 3 Somerville Stakes over seven furlongs on this course as a juvenile and was fancied to run well in the Greenham but was beaten four lengths in fifth. Owned by Cheveley Park, Larchmont Lad was the first home of the three horses in his group on the far side but weakened in the final 100 yards. Hannon’s horses do not usually lack on the fitness front but William Buick, who partners him for the first time, will be hoping that he can improve on that run.
Dream Castle (12/1) did not help himself by running with the choke out in the Greenham, prompting Saeed bin Suroor to try him in a hood here. Another son of Frankel, his enthusiasm is unsurprising and it did not stop him winning on his racecourse debut at the beginning of April. Dream Castle started as the 4/7 favourite in his seven furlong maiden at Doncaster and won ‘readily’ by over three lengths. The hood will need to work well to enable him to perform over this slightly longer distance on just his third start. Dream Castle will be carrying Godolphin’s second colours whilst his stablemate Top Score (66/1) will sport the red cap of the third set.
André Fabre is always a force to be reckoned with and has won this race twice, in 1993 and 1995. Fabre is confident that Al Wukair (9/2) will make the frame at least for Al Shaqab, owners of last year’s winner, Galileo Gold. This son of Dream Ahead has started as the favourite in his three runs and rewarded his followers each time. He took a seven furlong maiden in September at Saint-Cloud and won by a length and a half, albeit carrying 5lb less than the majority of his rivals. A month later he won a listed race over a mile at Deauville beating the useful filly Gold Luck who has since won a Group 3.
This season Al Wukair won the Group 3 Prix Djebel impressively, coming from last to first to beat the Group 1 winner, National Defense, a length. Fabre’s confidence is compelling but he admits that this colt’s lack of experience is a concern. We do not know how Al Wukair will handle the dip at Newmarket either, especially as he has a slightly high head carriage.
Our 2,000 Guineas Preview’s Betting Tip
Churchill may frank his juvenile form but, untested this season, does not appeal to this preview as a sensible betting tip at 11/8. In fact we would be more likely to lay the favourite at a betting exchange. His stablemate Lancaster Bomber (25/1) looks very interesting each-way but our preference is for a runner from a less venerated yard.
- Martyn Meade’s EMINENT produced an eye-catching performance in the Craven and, while appearances can be deceptive, the clock does not lie. Meade is not a name that instantly attracts money, contributing to Eminent’s relatively generous price of 7/1. Back him each-way with Bet365 who, unlike the majority of bookies, are offering ¼ the odds on the first three places. You will get also get ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’, which means if he starts longer you get the bigger odds.
- Check latest 2000 Guineas betting odds here.