It’s one of those year’s when we haven’t really got a truely outstanding candidate for any of the classics at this stage , there’s plenty of talented colts and fillies but certainly no Frankel from last season crop of youngsters. With the start of the turf season only a matter of weeks away there’s nothing better than getting out the recordings from last year , picking up the form books and readjusting ourselves with the names of those that may well make the headlines during 2014. With such an open looking set of classics at this stage does it make our task any easier or more difficult in finding the winners ? only time will give us the answer to that question , but to me it makes the study time and effort a little more enjoyable:
2000 Guineas ............... Newmarket , Saturday 3rd May:
The John Gosden trained Kingman: went in to the winter as market leader with just about all of the bookmakers. This son of Invincible Spirit is undefeated in two starts , an impressive six lengths win of a Newmarket maiden towards the end of June from the John Hill’s trained Adhwaa with a further five lengths back to the third horse Sea The Skies . He went in to many a notebook that day as a horse to follow in the future and looked a serious candidate for some of the bigger two year old contests for the remainder of 2013 , so it may have came as a slight disappointment that his only other outing came in the four runner Group 3 Solario Stakes at Sandown at the backend of August. Once again he won with something in hand even though the winning distance this time was just two lengths , beating the Godolphin runner Emirates Flight ( who went on to win the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan in January ). Kingman’s: dam Zenda was a winner of the French 1000 Guineas back in 2002 and there is little doubt that Kingman: himself will be suited by a trip of a mile as a three year old. He looks a colt of immense promise and his return will be eagerly awaited , but it must be remembered that Kingman: will need to show a fair rate of improvement if he is to prove a classic winner , and the current best quote of 6/1 does not have me reaching for my wallet.
Australia: looks to be one of the big hopes for 2014 for the Ballydoyle team and there’s no denying that on pedigree one would expect him to excel over further than a mile , being by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner , the big question is will he have the speed in the first week of May to take the colts first classic ? Australia: met with defeat on his debut over seven furlongs at the Curragh in June , going down by a neck to the Jim Bolger trained Renaissance Art , however he made amends three weeks later over the same C/D when getting the better of Carla Bianca by three quarters of a length in somewhat workmanlike fashion. He stepped up on those two efforts for his final start as a two year old when taking a Group 3 contest over a mile at Leopardstown in impressive fashion by six lengths from the highly touted and well thought of Free Eagle trained by Dermot Weld. If Australia: is to line up at Newmarket then his chance must but be taken seriously , but it must also be remembered that Aiden O’Brien will have other strings to his bow and I’m sure that connections will also have one eye on Epsom in June too. A likeable individual nonetheless.
Aiden O War Command: just happens to be one of the other strings to the Aidan O’Brien bow and he stamped himself a top class youngster when taking the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in the autumn , it may not have been the best of renewals but War Command: could do nothing more than win. That was his fourth success in five outings for the son of American stallion War Front and on pedigree should have little difficulty in seeing out the mile , and the experience of Newmarket will have done him no harm either. His chances should not be underestimated but my own view at this stage is that he may just find a couple too good for him.
The Richard Hannon Jnr trained Toormore: appears to be one of the leading home contenders and it would be great for the stable if Hannon could win a classic in his first year as a license holder. He made giant strides after taking a Leicester maiden over six furlongs towards the end of May , collecting the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood and then the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh both over seven furlongs , at the Curragh beating War Command’s conqueror Sudirman by a comfortable looking two and three quarter lengths. If staying the trip of a mile at Newmarket the Toormore: promises to be a tough nut to crack.
OLBG Park Stakes, OLBG Branding Kingston Hill: is a really likeable sort who is undefeated in three races so far and should stay at least ten furlongs in time , though I’d do have reservations about the Epsom Derby trip of a mile and a half. Winner of last year’s Racing Post Trophy in good style by four and a half lengths beating Aiden O’Brien’s Johan Strauss with a further two and a half lengths back to the useful but not top class Altruistic , Kingston Hill: stayed the mile strongly on soft ground and his two other wins ( A Group 3 and his maiden on his debut ) were also on softish underfoot conditions , it will be interesting to see how he acts on a better surface. He’s clearly a very talented colt but I do wonder if something may just have a little too much toe for him over the Guineas trip early on in the season , he’s sure to be guided down the correct route by his talented trainer.
Paul Cole is no stranger to big race success in the past and it’s hard to believe that over twenty years have gone by since his two British Classic successes , Snurge ( 1990 St Leger ) and Generous ( 1991 Derby ) but the season that lays ahead must surely be an exciting one. In the shape of the Mount Nelson colt Berkshire: the Master of Whatcombe has potentially in my opinion the best horse he has ever trained. Berkshire: made his debut at Newbury over six furlongs in the middle of May , looking in need of the outing he could only manage third behind the Richard Hannon trained Championship and the Brian Meehan inmate Man Amongst Men beaten around a length in total. He showed the benefit of that run five weeks later when taking the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot in good style from the useful Hannon trained colt Bunker who went off a well backed 11/4 favourite in a field of nineteen , the 16/1 that Berkshire: returned looked tremendous value as he flashed passed the post ( hindsight is such a wonderful thing ). He followed up that win with success in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket towards the end of September , there was no 16/1 available for him that day and he went off a well supported 11/8jt fav in a field of five with the Mark Johnston trained Somewhat , only a neck separated them at the line. Berkshire: looks the type to make up in to a very nice three year old and reports are that he has wintered well and that the 2000 Guineas is his big early season target. We already know that Berkshire: stays a mile well , and we know too that he possesses quality , what we will find out come May is if he has what it takes to win the colts first classic , personally I think he may just do so. Both sire & dam were Group 1 winners over ten furlongs so there should be a reasonable chance that Berkshire: may stay a little further than the Guineas mile. A very exciting horse for the months ahead. Sadly all the 20/1 and 16/1 has evaporated since the end of the turf season but the 14/1 available in a number of places is certainly still an attractive Each Way bet.
Selection ..... Berkshire .... EW @14/1 alternatives Toormore @8/1 & Kingston Hill @10/1:
1000 Guineas .............. Newmarket , Sunday 4th May:
As with the colts race the bookmakers have found it difficult to find a standout favourite in the 1000 Guineas and if you shop around you should be able to get 11/2 the market leader at time of writing. Either favourite or joint favourite in just about all the lists is the Andre Fabre trained filly Miss France: who sprang to prominence when travelling over to Newmarket to take the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes in September. She only had a head to spare at the line over Lightning Thunder but had travelled well throughout and seemed to do things pretty comfortably , she did however appear to idle a little in the last half furlong but was always holding the runner up. Prior to that run she had won a conditions event over a mile at Chantilly beating Indonesienne who later went on to take the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Arc day. Miss France: has the makings of a top class filly if she trains on and the plan at this stage is to send her to Newmarket for the Guineas and if she goes to post on the first Sunday in May then her chance should be given serious consideration.
Flat Race Horse Racing Tapestry: looks to be the Ballydoyle number one hope at the moment and sits second best at present in the bookmakers lists at no better than 8/1 following the sad passing of Chriselliam. Ladbrokes in fact have her as 5/1jt fv with Miss France , and given their apparently links to the O’Brien stable it does have me wondering if they may know something ahead of the start of the season. Tapestry: was a talented two year old, she won a maiden over six furlongs at the Curragh in July and then returned to the track to take a Group 2 over seven furlongs the following month. For her third and final outing Tapestry: was stepped up to Group one company , once again at the Curragh over seven furlongs where she ran third behind Rizeena and Kiyoshi in the Moyglare Stud stakes beaten just three quarters of a length and a head. She was promoted to second place after being hampered by the runner up. Tapestry: is by Galileo out of the Danehill mare Rumpelstiltskin so one would expect her to appreciate a mile and possibly further , but my slight concern is that her dam seemed not to train on at three with her only start being a well beaten seventh in Speciosa’s Guineas back in 2006 when starting at a well backed 3/1 favourite. It will be very interesting and possibly significant should her trainer decide to run Tapestry in a trial prior to Newmarket and it may also be wise to wait and see before backing her ante post.
Rizeena: was a real star for Clive Brittain last season , winning three times over five furlongs including the Group two Queen Mary at Royal Ascot as well as the Group one Moyglare Stakes over seven furlongs at the Curragh. She also showed that she stays a mile when runner up to Chriselliam at Newmarket on her eighth and final start. Her trainer considered that she may have been slightly over the top for the season that day and is eagerly looking forward to her three year old campaign. Rizeena: is a tough and talented girl and should not be underestimated should she make the starting line up. However my gut feeling is that there may be others with more improvement in them than her.
Flat Race Just five years ago owner Christopher Tsui was living in dreamland via the exploits of that great racehorse Sea The Stars and in My Titania: he has a daughter of the stallion who may just be up to reliving classic glories. My Titania’s: best performance came on her third and final outing last year when taking the Group 3 Weld Stakes at the Curragh over seven furlongs beating Chicago Girl by half a length with a further five and a half back to the potentially smart Dermot Weld filly Tarfasha. Prior to that she comfortably took a Leopardstown maiden over the same trip after finding the six furlongs on her debut slightly too short for her. My Titania: looks open to stacks of improvement and it may well be significant if John Oxx decides to send her to Newmarket. I recall her sire being sent over for the Guineas without a prep run and it wouldn’t worry me if that was the case with this filly , she should also have little trouble in staying a bit further too. At this stage though her form in the book does leave her with a little to find on her rivals and her top quote at the moment of 12/1 is based much on the potential rather that what she has achieved to date. A very promising filly nonetheless for the season that lays ahead and it could just be possible that she has improved enough over the winter to play a hand in the finish of the Guineas.
Ihtimal: showed steady improvement throughout last season and got off the mark at the fourth time of asking when taking the Group 3 Solera Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket in August. She followed that up with success over a mile in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes over a mile at the Doncaster St Leger meeting , quickening well inside the final two furlongs and staying on to beat Majeyda by two lengths with a further two back to Lady Lara. She struck me that day as a filly that would have no trouble in staying ten furlongs and may even stay the mile and a half Oaks trip. On her final start of the season she ran a very respectable third in the fillies mile at Newmarket behind Chriselliam and Rizeena beaten three lengths in total so has proven she is capable of mixing with the best. Proven too is the fact that she has trained on at three. Ihtimal: was sent to Dubai for the winter and in early February took the UAE 1000 Guineas in impressive style by just over three lengths from the Mike De Kock trained Mensoora. She travelled well and made smooth progress from the midfield and once she struck the front at the furlong pole the result was never in doubt. If Ihtimal: is to be aimed at our Guineas then she is another filly who could be capable of making her presence felt.
Lucky Kristale: is a daughter of Lucky Story and clearly a filly with plenty of ability. She’s won four from five races to date all over six furlongs and met with defeat on her third start when sixth of nineteen behind Kiyoshi in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. Lucky Kristale: does hold a decision over Rizeena when beating that filly by just over two lengths in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket when in receipt of three pounds , by then though Rizeena looked to be crying out for further. Trainer George Margarson put the filly away after the York August meeting after she had won the Lowther Stakes and it will be interesting to see if he chooses a trial prior to Newmarket to test out her stamina. But to me though Lucky Kristale: strikes me as the type to be better suited to trips less than the Guineas mile.
Doncaster 2012, St Leger, Encke, Camelot The Dubawi filly Kiyoshi: is another with stamina concerns. After taking the Albany Stakes she met with defeat in both her subsequent starts , firstly over seven furlongs in the Moyglare Stakes when disqualified from second place after being beaten three quarters of a length by Rizeena and then when dropped back to six furlongs when running third to the comfortable French trained winner Vorda in the Cheveley Park Stakes. She would need to run in one of the recognised Guineas trials over at least seven furlongs before I could even consider Kiyoshi: for the shortlist.
Talking of the Cheveley Park Stakes , it is the winner of that race which strikes me as the best value currently for the Guineas. Vorda: is a proven Group 1 filly , not only did she win the Cheveley Park but she also ran a cracking second in the Prix Morny at Deaville beaten only by the crack American colt No Nay Never with Rizeena three quarters of a length back in third. She also won the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin at Maison Laffitte by a length and a half from Omaticaya back in mid summer showing a nice turn of foot and winning with a little more in hand than was recorded. Vorda: finished her season at the Santa Anita Breeders Cup meeting when disappointing a little when only seventh behind Chriselliam in the Juvenile Fillies Turf beaten a total of six lengths. There was a lot of confidence behind her that day and she started a well backed 11/4 favourite. I would have been happier with a more prominent showing that day to be more convinced over her ability to stay the mile but she did strike me as not entirely suited by the tight track in America. Seven furlongs should not pose a problem but there is a question mark over the Guineas mile early in the season. It’s not known yet if she will take in a trial but her trainer Philippe Sogorb reports that she has wintered well and that Newmarket is still the plan , quite convinced that Vorda: will stay the trip. At 20/1 with a number of firms she represents more than a sporting Each Way chance particularly as she is already a Group 1 winner.
A couple of others worthy of a mention that may develop in to candidates for the fillies classic are Al Thakhira:. She’s a daughter of Dubawi that won the Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket before running a very disappointing last of fourteen in the Juvenile Fillies Turf , she’s surely capable of better than that effort and Amazing Maria: showed improvement throughout the summer months and put up a good performance when taking the Group 3 Prestige Stakes at Goodwood in August.She will need to improve again but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that she will line up at Newmarket.
Selection ......... Vorda EW @20/1 ....... alternatives My Titania @12/1 & Ihtimal @14/1: