The 2000 Guineas Stakes is the first classic of the flat season and opening leg of the Triple Crown (Saturday 3.50pm Newmarket). It looks an intriguing puzzle with the usual dangerous mix of hyped horses and dubious form lines.
At the top of the market is the unbeaten Kingman (6/4), trained by John Gosden (pictured). He was established as the clear favourite after his emphatic Greenham win. Unlike many of his rivals at Newbury he settled well and enabled James Doyle to ease him into contention. When asked for an effort he quickened in the manner of a really good horse without coming off the bridle, beating Richard Hannon’s highly regarded Night Of Thunder by four and a half lengths.
Gosden said afterwards that this son of Invincible Spirit has a higher cruising speed than any horse he has ever trained. He also warned that he is unlikely to line up if the ground is on the firm side. Last year Kingman had a bone chip in a fetlock that cut short his season. He won his maiden at Newmarket in June and followed up with a Group 3 victory in the Solario Stakes at Sandown in August. He didn’t look like anything particularly special until his reappearance as a three-year-old. He is obviously very talented but this will be his first attempt at a mile and, having suffered an injury in the past, a similar performance is not guaranteed.
Aidan O’Brien sends out two in the hope of gaining his seventh 2,000 Guineas win. His son Joseph has chosen to partner the heavily hyped Australia (3/1). If the rumours from Ballydoyle are to be believed he could be the next potential world beater – but then they said pretty much the same about the ill-fated St Nicholas Abbey, who was well beaten in his 2000 Guineas prior to having a stellar career as an older horse.
This son of Galileo is out of the Oaks winner and global superstar, Ouija Board. He commanded a price of over half a million as a yearling. His pedigree suggests that he may find a mile too short a distance to show his best but O’Brien is adamant that he has the necessary speed. Last season he won his maiden at the Curragh second time out and followed up with a win in the four runner Group 3 Juvenile Turf Trial Stakes at Leopardstown over a mile. He beat the 2/5 favourite, Dermot Weld’s Free Eagle impressively by six lengths. Australia started as the 5/2 second favourite suggesting that he hadn’t shown anything extraordinary at home at that stage. This will be his debut as a three-year-old.
Ryan Moore has been booked to partner the Ballydoyle second string, War Command (9/1). He has better form in the book than Australia and shocked connections when romping home at 20/1 in the Coventry at Royal Ascot under Seamie Heffernan. He beat Richard Fahey’s Parbold by six lengths and left his two more fancied stablemates, Sir John Hawkins (6/1) and Stubbs (5/2) trailing in his wake. Joseph O’Brien was on Stubbs. Has he chosen to ride the wrong horse again?
War Command ended his two-year-old campaign with a win in the Dewhurst (Group 1), beating Charles Hills’ Cable Bay by just over a length. This will be his first attempt at a mile but, as a son of War Front, the extra furlong should hold no fears for him. He looks to provide decent value here and has to be one for the shortlist.
Godolphin’s representative, Outstrip (28/1), was nearly three lengths behind War Command in third in the Dewhurst. This talented son of Exceed And Excel was last seen winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November, beating Aidan O’Brien’s Giovanni Boldini by half a length on firm ground. That was his only run over a mile as a two-year-old and he seemed to relish the extra furlong.
He won on his debut in a maiden at Newmarket in June and finished just a quarter of a length behind Toormore in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood a month later on good to soft. He went on to take the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September on a similar surface, beating Kevin Ryan’s The Grey Gatsby by three lengths. His trainer Charlie Appleby is in good form and has demonstrated his ability to get three-year-olds fit enough to win first time out. Appleby fancies his chances if the ground is on the fast side.
Richard Hannon sends out three runners. Toormore (8/1) is the most fancied and the choice of stable jockey Richard Hughes. This son of Arakan (sire of Dick Turpin) cost only 36,000 guineas as a yearling and is unbeaten in his four starts. He has already won £177K and proved that he can perform over a mile, posting a workmanlike two length victory over Kevin Ryan’s The Grey Gatsby in the Group 3 Craven Stakes here in April under Ryan Moore.
Last season Toormore beat William Haggas’ Ertijaal (33/1) by a neck in his maiden in May and went on to beat Outstrip by the same distance in the Vintage Stakes in July. In his third and final start as a two-year-old he beat David Wachman’s Sudirman by nearly three lengths in the Group 1 Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh in September. Toormore has never provoked superlatives from the commentators but is an effective, consistent performer who has gained the highest official rating of the field – 122.
Hannon’s Night Of Thunder (25/1) was outpaced by Kingman, finishing second in the Greenham under Ryan Moore. This son of Dubawi was unbeaten in his two runs last season in October. Both were over six furlongs, a maiden and a listed race, on soft ground. He has gained a rating of 109 and will have the assistance of Kieren Fallon.
Frankie Dettori takes the ride on the third string, Shifting Power (33/1). This son of Compton Place is unbeaten in his three starts and was last seen winning a listed race here in April. He beat Roger Varian’s Mushir by a head. This will be his first attempt at a mile and his first experience of top class company. Others appear to have stronger claims.
Roger Varian has an interesting runner here, the unbeaten Kingston Hill (12/1). This son of new sire sensation Mastercraftsman won his maiden and went on to take the Group 3 Autumn Stakes here in early October, beating Aidan O’Brien’s Oklahoma City by two lengths. Next he started as the 7/2 favourite in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy over a mile at Doncaster and stayed on strongly to beat O’Brien’s Johann Strauss by four and a half lengths. That was on soft ground.
Varian commands respect but this is likely to be Kingston Hill’s first experience of ground faster than good to soft. He would be a strong contender if ‘soft’ appeared in the going description on the day.
Two challengers from across the Channel are bidding to bag the spoils – Freddy Head’s Charm Spirit (25/1) and Mikel Delzangles’ Bookrunner (33/1). They both lined up in the seven furlong Group 3 Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte in early April. Charm Spirit succeeded in a blanket finish, beating Jean-Claude Rouget’s Kiram by a short head. Bookrunner was ridden prominently and dropped to fourth on the line. He won his only start as a two-year-old impressively over a mile and two furlongs on the all weather at Chantilly. Charm Spirit posted a win and came third in the Group 1 Grand Criterium at Longchamp at the same age.
Delzangles took this race in 2010 with the equally unfancied Makfi. Neither trainer sends horses over for the joy of a day trip. They may run well but it is difficult to assess their chances.
For the first time there is also a raider from Spain. Noozhoh Canarias (16/1) is a puller who has won from the front. It is pretty difficult to achieve that in this race (unless you are Frankel) but it would not be a surprise to see Enrique Leon Penate’s charge go well. He is unbeaten in his three starts in Spain and only found one too good in the Grand Criterium at Longchamp in October. He was beaten three quarters of a length by Jonathan Pease’s Karakontie on soft ground – Charm Spirit was a length behind him. He also won a listed race at La Teste de Buch over six furlongs in August. He should acquit himself with merit
2000 Guineas Betting Tips Conclusion
The 2000 Guineas betting market appears to be distorted by Kingman’s dazzling display in the Greenham. He may well reward his followers but 6/4 seems a short price based on just one performance in a field of this depth. The hyped Australia is also unappealing at 3/1. Form in the book is generally more reliable than rumour, making War Command the more attractive O’Brien prospect at 9/1.
However for the selection we venture to a horse that the bookies rate a rank outsider. For it is the form in the book that makes Breeders’ Cup winner, OUTSTRIP, seem outstanding value as an each-way bet, currently best priced at 28/1 with William Hill.