Coolmore and Godolphin dominate the 18 confirmations for Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
Aidan O’Brien is chasing an 11th victory in the first Classic of the season and already holds the record as the most successful trainer in the race.
The Ballydoyle handler has an exceptionally strong hand, led by St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley – the first two home in the Dewhurst at the end of last season.
Vintage Stakes winner Battleground, who missed the a large part of the summer before finishing second at the Breeders’ Cup, stands his ground, while O’Brien could also run Criterium International winner Van Gogh and Military Style.
Godolphin and Charlie Appleby look the chief threat to Ballydoyle, with two major chances.
He fields Craven Stakes winner Master Of The Seas and One Ruler, who will be making his seasonal debut but impressed in a recent workout on the Rowley Mile.
One Ruler beat Van Gogh in the Autumn Stakes before chasing home Jim Bolger’s Mac Swiney in the Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. Appleby could also run Naval Crown.
Following his Craven win William Buick has sided with Master Of The Seas, with James Doyle set to partner One Ruler.
“Five days out from the Guineas, I couldn’t be happier with them. One Ruler has been progressing nicely at home, while Master Of The Seas has gone to the races and put the score on the board,” Appleby told www.godolphin.com
“It wasn’t an easy call for William, who rode Master Of The Seas in the Craven and then sat on One Ruler in a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks last week.
“William asked some serious questions of Master Of The Seas in his race, and he was pleased with the response. I believed that’s what clinched it in the end. Of course, the final call comes at declaration time on Thursday.
“Master Of The Seas had three runs as a two-year-old. He suffered a setback after the National Stakes at the Curragh last September. We then took him to Dubai (second in the Meydan Classic), all the while with an eye on Europe in the spring. We did the same with Masar.”
He went on: “Master Of The Seas has taken a proven path to the Guineas, and has kept progressing, but the biggest change in him came after he ran at Meydan. He strengthened noticeably.”
As for One Ruler, he has been getting a helping hand from someone who knows exactly how to win the race.
“Things have also gone well with One Ruler. He is well in himself, and his work has been pleasing,” said Appleby.
“Kieren Fallon, who has been riding him all winter, took him for a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks on Saturday, and he was pleased.
“Kieren won the Guineas five times, so it’s great to have a rider with that experience on the team.
“We took One Ruler for a gallop at Chelmsford four weeks ago, and he also had a racecourse gallop at the Craven Meeting earlier this month. His prep has gone well, and this is the perfect starting point for his Classic season.”
Mac Swiney adds to the Irish challenge along with stablemate Poetic Flare, as does Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega, a Group One-winning juvenile, with similar comments applying to Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon, who only has two lengths to make up on St Mark’s Basilica from the Dewhurst.
Adding further spice to the mix is Charlie Hills’ Mutasaabeq, who has been supplemented following his taking reappearance win at Newmarket.
Richard Hannon’s Greenham winner Chindit, Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Albadri, Ralph Beckett’s Devilwala, Roger Varian’s Legion Of Honour and the Andrew Balding-trained Mystery Smiles complete the field.