Countdown to the 2000 and 1000 Guineas
Countdown to the Guineas Weekend
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The first two classics of the season are nearly upon us, with Newmarket’s Rowley Mile playing host to the 1000 and 2000 Guineas next weekend. The ante post market had been dominated by one horse, Too Darn Hot, winner of last seasons Dewhurst Stakes and unbeaten in four career starts. However, with that horse recently being deemed unready to run at Newmarket by trainer John Gosden, the race has been thrown wide open, a development that could make recent Guineas trials all the more informative.
Here is a guide to the major trials and the clues they could provide for this year’s running.
2000 Guineas trials
Craven Stakes, Newmarket (1 mile)
The traditional trial for the 2000 Guineas, being held over the same course and distance. No horse has backed up in the Guineas after winning the Craven since Godolphin’s Haafhd in 2004.
Masar carried the royal blue silks to an impressive 9 length victory last year. Things didn’t work out in the Guineas however, as he faded into 3rd in the last furlong. Still, no horse coming out of the Craven has run better in the last 5 years.
Skardu built on the promise of his maiden win last September. The William Haggas trained colt swept down the outside to record victory in a sedately run race, holding off a late challenge from Rodger Charlton’s Momkin, with the favourite Royal Marine only managing 4th. That said the favourite pulled hard early and was caught in a pocket when the pace quickened. A truer run race might see an improved performance from Royal Marine.
European Free Handicap, Newmarket (7 furlongs)
Held the day before the Craven.
Many wouldn’t consider this Listed contest to be a true Guineas trial, but horses from this race can often outperform their sizeable odds. For the last winner of the 2000 Guineas from this source you would have to look back to Mystiko in 1991. Several horses have run with credit in the Guineas in the last 5 years, notably, Home of the Brave 6th in 2015 and Shifting Power 4th the previous year.
In a performance arguably more impressive than anything we saw in the Craven itself, Andrew Balding’s Shine So Bright led from the front and never looked in any danger of being caught. While he won’t be able to dominate in the same way in the Guineas, the step up to 7 furlongs here was clearly relished and a mile might be within his compass. Strong Group 2 placed form (3 races) from last year suggests he is not too far off the standard required and could surprise a few if given a chance in the big race.
Greenham Stakes, Newbury (7 furlongs)
Held a week before the Craven.
In recent years perhaps the most reliable trial. Frankel started his three year old campaign in this contest, before his astounding destruction of the field in the Guineas of 2011.
Since then, 2017 saw impressive Greenham winner Barney Roy finish second, while in 2014 the great Kingman was memorably just touched off by Night Of Thunder, who the runner up had previously routed by 4 lengths when they contested their trial.
Marcus Tegoning’s Mohaather looked a smart winner at Newbury a few weeks ago. In a race that seemed to be run at an honest pace, Mohaather demonstrated both his high cruising speed and turn of foot to put the race to bed on quickening at a crucial stage. He still showed signs of greenness when wandering in the last furlong, suggesting that further improvement may be forthcoming. If seeing out the extra furlong in the Guineas he should be capable of at least running into a place.(Since writing this blog, Mohaather has been pulled out).
7 of the last 10 winners have been having their reappearance run. Of the other 3, Frankel and Night Of Thunder contested the Greenham. Makfi was a surprise 33-1 winner who had a reappearance run at Maisons-Laffitte in his native France.
7 of the last 10 winners have contested 3 or more races during their 2 year old career.
8 of the last 10 winners have won at Group 2 level or above prior to lining up in the Guineas. Of those 8, six had won Group 1 races.
5 of the last 10 winners had won the Dewhurst (3) or Racing Post Trophy (2) last time out.
5 of the last 10 winners were stepping up to a mile for the first time.
5 of the last 10 winners have been sent off favourite. Of the others 3 winners were priced at odds greater than 10-1 (2016 – Galileo Gold 14-1, 2014 – Night Of Thunder 40-1 and 2010 – Makfi 33-1).
No winner in the last 10 years had been attempting to step up from 6 furlongs to a mile. Night Of Thunder’s 2 year old runs were both over 6 furlongs but he reappeared in the Greenham over 7.
The statistics would seem to count against Craven winner Skardu, who had only won a maiden before his reappearance, while Shine So Bright didn’t quite reach the level of previous Guineas winners in his runs last year. Once again it looks like the Greenham could prove to be the best trial with winner Mohaather confirming the promise of last season. Despite a late debut, he steadily improved as a 2 year old culminating in a victory in the Horris Hill Stakes over 7 furlongs at Newbury in late October. While not bringing the same level of form as those who head the Guineas market, with the Aiden O’Brien pair Ten Sovereigns and Magna Grecia both having Group 1 victories to their name, Mohaather could still improve any amount from his Greenham run.
Indicators do point to one of the aforementioned pair being hard to beat. Magna Grecia was last year’s Racing Post Trophy winner, a race that typically provides strong Guineas performers. In contrast Ten Sovereigns who now, after the withdrawal of Too Darn Hot, won the Middle Park Stakes last time out over 6 furlongs. However, he has never competed over a longer trip and no horse has won the Guineas going up in trip from 6 furlongs to a mile in the last 10 runnings.
1000 Guineas trials
Nell Gwyn Stakes, Newmarket (7 furlongs)
Seemingly the most reliable trial for the fillies. Last year the race provided the Guineas winner with Billesdon Brook springing a huge surprise at 66-1. Further back 2013 champion Sky Lantern had this race as a prep, as did Jacqueline Quest who went on to be first past the post in the controversial Guineas of 2010. Speciosa in 2006 was the last runner to do the Nell Gwyn – Guineas double.
This year the Nell Gwyn could well provide the inside line to the big race. Rodger Varian’s Qabala returned an impressive winner last week, especially for a filly with only one run to her name. Starting slowly, she had to be content in the middle of the field as they were taken along at a moderate gallop, a position that could have overawed a filly with so little experience, but she proved of sound mentality coming through stylishly to win going away.
Qabala, a big, well developed, scopey looking filly, took a while to get into top gear in the Nell Gwyn but kicked away well towards the end suggesting the step up to 1 mile should be in her favour. She now heads the Guineas market at around 7-2.
Fred Darling Stakes, Newbury (7 furlongs)
Fred Darling runners have had a patchy history in the Guineas in recent years, partly because many winners have chosen to swerve the Newmarket feature. Last year’s winner Dan’s Dream could only manage 10th trailing in some 13 lengths behind eventual winner Billesdon Brook. In the last five years the only other Fred Darling winner to contest the Guineas was 2011’s Redstart who again was well beaten in 11th at Newmarket. The last time a contestant of this race went on to win in the Guineas was in 2000 when Lahan finished 4th, a fact that suggests the minor role of this trial.
Little over a week ago Dandhu just prevailed in a pulsating three way finish for David Elsworth and jockey Gerald Mosse. Though by no means looking the finished article, Dandhu came from behind with a promising looking run and showed good battling qualities to hold off Ballydoyle’s So Perfect towards the finish. The Irish runner, while holding high class 2 year old form, might be stretched by the Guineas trip. Another of mention was the steadily improving Iconic Choice who finished with a late flourish down the stands rail to nearly nail Dandhu on the post.
Only 1 of the last 10 winners has been sent off favourite. 5 winners have returned at odds more than 10-1 (counting Jacqueline Quest (2010) as first past the post).
7 of the last 10 winners have had a reappearance run, with 3 of the 7 being in the Nell Gwyn.
9 of the last 10 winners have had 3 or more runs during their 2 year old career.
6 of the last 10 winners had won at least a Listed prize as a 2 year old. 4 had won at Group level, with only Minding (2016) and Sky Lantern (2013) having won a Group 1.
8 of the last 10 winners had run previously over the Guineas trip of 1 mile.
Usually more open than the 2000 Guineas, the fillies equivalent again has that look to it, betting 6-1 the field barring favourite Qabala. Several runners bring top class form, with Skitter Scatter, Fairyland and Iridessa all having won Group 1s. Many others have Group 3s to their name and have been placed in higher level contests.
In contrast to the earlier classic, the 1000 Guineas seems to favour fillies with a reappearance run under their belt. Look to Qabala, Lady Kaya, Iridessa, Mot Juste and Dandhu at the head of the market, all who have appeared already this season. Last mentioned Dandhu, winner of the Fred Darling, looks to have improvement in her, but will need to over a longer trip that might prove too much for her. Ballydoyles’ Just Wonderful beat her as a 2 year old and re-opposes.
It would be quite a feat for Rodger Varian’s filly Qabala to beat some of these on just her third start. Winning would make her the first horse in 30 years to have only run once as a 2 year old and go on to claim the Guineas. Even with a reappearance run, only four horses in the last 30 years have had two runs and then won the Guineas. These stats suggest she is lacking requisite experience to triumph, but she downed previous Group 3 winners with some ease in the Nell Gwyn and while she needs to come on again from that run, improvement is clearly within her compass. She has the scope and statue of a filly that could just be a bit special.