QIPCO 1000 Guineas 2013 Preview/Tips
There are little more than three weeks until the first two Classics of the British flat racing season, and in this post I'm looking for the value in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.
It's a fiendishly difficult task: many fillies are unraced as three-year-olds; of those which have run, it can be difficult to know how much they'll improve from those debuts; and there are always 'talking horses' crowding out the form horses at the top of the market.
Despite this, I've reviewed the profile of the last ten winners and runners up to see if there are any material patterns which might merit a wager.
Here's what I learned...
Early or late two-year-old debut?
The received wisdom is that all the good horses are unleashed in back end (i.e. September to November) maidens. The facts shoot that to pieces, at least in the context of the 1000 Guineas.
Indeed, sixteen of the twenty 1-2 finishers in the past decade made their racecourse bow in August or before. And eleven had run before the end of June.
Four of Ireland's six 1-2 finishers during that time had first set hoof on track by the end of May; and France's trio of gold and silver medallists debuted once each in May, June and July.
Exposed or unexposed?
How many runs should a filly have had in order to get competitive here? Well, naturally, there's a range of experience in the sample.
No filly has been able to trouble the judge after just one race, but four have managed it after two starts (one winner, three seconds). Still, the majority have been more exposed: typically, five runs for a winner and four for a runner up.
Now, as is logical, more runs does mean higher class in this context. That is to say, if a filly has had more than two runs, we should have expected her to have been tested in better races if she's going to be competitive in the 1000 Guineas.
Happily, the data bears that out: those having raced three or four times in their career had raced at least in Listed Class; and those with five or more career runs had already stepped up to Group 1 or 2.
Although this won't exclude too many young ladies, it looks extremely important.
Seasonal debut, or benefit of a run?
The first question is should we be looking for a race fit filly, or one having her first run of the season? Almost mockingly, half of the twenty winner and runner up horses are in either camp. And, even more unhelpfully, five each of the last ten winners and the last ten runners up were unraced that term, and the same were raced that term.
What I can say is that only last year's winner, Homecoming Queen, had more than one run. She was a bit of a fluke winner after a long delay at the start, and she failed to make the frame thereafter in two subsequent starts, despite being sent off favourite both times.
What are the best trial races for the 1000 Guineas?
There are three key trials for those having a run as a three-year-old: one each in England, Ireland and France.
In England, the Nell Gwyn Stakes has hosted the 1000 Guineas winner once, and runner up twice, since 2005. Interestingly, perhaps, the two most recent runners up in the 1000 Guineas which ran in the Nell Gwyn (Jacqueline Quest - won but demoted in 2010; and Starscope in 2012) were both well beaten in that trial.
If any inference can be drawn from that, it is that both improved their fitness significantly from that run.
This year's Nell Gwyn is run on Wednesday, 17th April, and the post will be updated with the result.
In Ireland, it's all about the 1000 Guineas Trial run at Leopardstown. Last year, Homecoming Queen won that for Aidan O'Brien before her shocking 25/1 victory at Newmarket. In 2005, the same trainer's Virginia Waters scored in both races, paying out at 12/1 for her streak across the heath.
And in between those two, Arch Swing won the Leopardstown race before running second to the shortest priced winner of the 1000 Guineas for many a year.
The winner this year, Rawaaq, is not entered at Newmarket and is far more likely to run in the Irish 1000 Guineas. The second placed horse is also not entered, but the third, Snow Queen, may make the trip for O'Brien. She's currently a best priced 33/1.
And in France, the Prix Imprudence has identified two winners and a runner up since 2003. Six Perfections, at 7/4 the shortest of the trio, was the one to get beaten; but both Special Duty and Natagora won, at fancied odds too - 9/2 and 11/4 respectively.
This year's Prix Imprudence was a muddling affair, and was won by What A Name, a 7/1 shot for the 1000 Guineas. She may be joined at Newmarket by third placed Spinacre, and fourth home, Peace Burg.
Which fillies have the best chance, of those to race this year?
The sort of question which is best answered with hindsight, of course. However, no bookie pays out after the event, so let's take a swipe at the form book and hope to land a contender or two. We'll start where we left off, with the Frenchies.
What A Name has ostensibly the best chance of the French contingent, and she's 6/1 joint favourite in many books, though a general 7/1 chance. Her chance looks to lie in the turf, which seemingly needs to be on the good side. Her three wins have all come on good or good to soft; and her two defeats have come on deeper ground.
In fairness, one of those losses was when a length and a bit second in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, against the boys. That was a good performace, albeit in a weakish race, and she's a player on decent ground in my view.
The two other possible Gallic gallopers here are third and fourth, Spinacre and Peace Burg.
Spinacre was previously trained in Ireland by Kevin Prendergast before a private sale during the close season. She was good enough to win a Listed race over a mile there, but looked a little shy of pace when dropped back to seven furlongs for a Group 3 subsequently.
In running a half length third here, I feel she might have been flattered by the funereal pace, and I'd be surprised if she was able to finish ahead of Peace Burg again.
Despite favouring Peace Burg of the two, I wouldn't imagine she'd be good enough to win the 1000 Guineas. She was beaten in both of her last two starts either side of winter, and though she is bred for further, she might just lack a bit of the required zip to win a Classic.
From the Irish contingent to have run this term, Snow Queen leads the charge at around 33/1 for those with an entry. She was third, as mentioned, in the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown, and previously raced seven times as a juvenile.
This is far from uncommon for a Ballydoyle youngster, with last year's 1000 heroine, Homecoming Queen, having had eleven starts as a two year old, and two as a three year old! Moreover, O'Brien's 2011 runner up, Together, had had eight juvie runs.
In both cases, and in the case of Snow Queen, they'd raced in Group 1 company as a junior. Again, as mentioned, I feel that for the more experienced runners, a crack at top class is a significant pointer to perceived ability.
Snow Queen missed the break by at least ten lengths that day, used up a lot of energy to tag herself onto the pack, and then probably hated the good ground as well. Her chance looks to rest on there being plenty of rain in Newmarket between now and May 5th. That said, the balance of her form looks more limited than many of these, as well, as an official rating of just 99 implies.
Moth may also represent connections - she's a 12/1 shot in the betting - but would need to be supplemented. Although she was undoubtedly impressive when winning a maiden last weekend, that form is a furlong short of what's needed here and, despite the likelihood of plenty of improvement, she's hardly standout value given that she's not even entered at this stage.
One other Irish raced contender worth a throwaway comment is Scintillula. Good enough to be second in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes last year, he was outpaced in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes last back end (and interfered with as well), before a strange run in a ten furlong soft ground maiden when sent off a shortish favourite.
She might be more an Oaks than a 1000 Guineas type, but at 66/1 in a place she's not without a chance on form and profile. A true run fast ground mile could be ideal for her.
Of the home defence, Nell Gwyn runners look worthy of a second glance, and perhaps not the podium finishers either. Hot Snap won easily from favourite, Sky Lantern, and Winning Express best of the rest. This was a taking performance from a smart filly, bred for a mile and more, and it's no surprise to see her leap to the head of the market for the 1000 Guineas.
She'll bid to emulate Speciosa, the last lass to win the Nell Gwyn and also the Guineas, back in 2006.
Which fillies have the best chance, of those we've yet to see this year?
This is where life gets tricky/trickier. Trying to second guess which horses have 'trained on', improved and are fit is nigh on impossible. But what I think is interesting/unsurprising is that the average odds of those 1-2 Guineas finishers having their seasonal debut is 10.5/1, whereas those with form already that year had an average SP of almost 20/1.
The longest priced of the ten fillies to go 1-2 on seasonal bow was 20/1 Ghanaati, whereas fillies at 66/1, and 33/1 twice have run up in the last three seasons (one of them won, but was placed second) on the back of a priming run.
In a nutshell, then, I'm looking towards the top of the market with regards to unraced fillies this year. That brings in Just The Judge, Big Break, and Rosdhu Queen (likely runner in Fred Darling on Saturday).
Just The Judge is ante-post jolly, and it looks like it will take a smart performance from the Nell Gwyn to change that. Given that some of her vanquished rivals from the Rockfel - most notably Nargys - line up there, there's a reasonable chance she could solidify still further without a run.
JTJ is trained by Charles Hills, sone of Barry, and his old man - who is still very much part of the set up at the yard - saddled Ghanaati to win in 2009 and Maid's Causeway to be second in 2005. Materially, neither had had a prep run in that season.
So, this yard knows just what it takes to win first time up; the horse has strong form; and she made a nice early (June) debut last term. There's little margin for fun times in her price, but she's a leading contender if handling the bigger field she'll encounter here. The trip will be no problem.
Dermot Weld's Big Break has an entry in the Irish equivalent, and also an entry in a Group 3 the same weekend as the 1000 Guineas, so it's not certain this well regarded lass will line up here. If she does, her form chance lies on the basis of an easy win on easy ground in a Leopardstown Group 3. It's hard to project that into the context of a race like this, but the trainer is a fair judge and if he says she's a Guineas filly, she probably is.
Rosdhu Queen may well have run by the time you read this. She's entered in Newbury's Fred Darling Stakes, a race which was last won en route to Guineas glory by Wince in 1999.
Her trainer, William Haggas, has also got Lady Nouf entered for the 1000 Guineas, and she ran 11th in the Nell Gwyn. Rosdhu Queen's main problem may be stamina. Quick enough to win a five furlong maiden on debut - and a six furlong Group 1 on her last juvenile start - she'll have another 33% to race here, and while her breeding gives cause for optimism, the form book is keeping mum.
Four winners in the past decade started out over five furlongs, though only the very speedy Attraction won, so it's not impossible for Rosdhu Queen to step up in trip and claim this.
On a more speculative note, Magical Dream could be of interest if making the line up. She has yet to race this term, but was last seen when easily beating subsequent 1000 Guineas Trial winner, Rawaaq in a seven furlong Group 3. Prior to that, she'd run fourth in the Group 1 Moyglare and, if she's trained on, she might be interesting at 33/1.
Two notes of caution, though. She's entered in a ten furlong race this weekend, which doesn't suggest she's being targeted at the Guineas necessarily, and she seems to prefer cut in the ground. If it rains, and she runs, she'd have a decent chance.
What are your tips for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas?
The betting for the 1000 Guineas this year is wide open, and that means that whichever horse we like, if we're on the winner, we'll get a decent return. It's also clear from history that plenty of horses at big prices have made the frame, with a few of them - including last year's winner - taking the top prize.
As such, I'll take two from the top and two from anywhere else, as Countdown contestants might say.
My 'two from the top' are What A Name, a French raider which looks sure to appreciate conditions; one with strong form in the right race in the book; and one with top ratings for speed and overall form... and Hot Snap, representing Sir Henry Cecil and Khalid Abdullah. She'll bid to be the first Nell Gwyn winner to double up since Speciosa in 2006..
Two from anywhere else leads me more speculatively - naturally, given the prices - to Scintillula and Magical Dream. The first thing to say is that it's possible both of these won't run in the race. As such, if you can find a 'non runner money back' bookie, do use them.
With caveat emptor in place, what I can tell you is that both of these horses will stay the trip, and that they've both tested themselves against Group 1 opposition. Indeed, they ran 2nd and 4th behind Sky Lantern in the Moyglare over seven furlongs last September.
Magical Dream then went on to beat Rawaaq, the horse which won the 1000 Guineas Trial earlier in April. She's entered in a ten furlong Listed race on Sunday, and that tells us that connections perhaps feel she will be better over further. I'd hope she doesn't take up that entry and instead runs in the Guineas. If she does, I feel she's a player at odds around 33/1.
1pt win What A Name
1pt win Hot Snap
1/2 pt e/w Magical Dream
Total stake: 3 points
Below are some of my 'workings out' in case you'd like to run through it yourself. (Click the image to open it full screen).