Aidan O’Brien’s trio of Battleground, Van Gogh and Wembley are among 15 colts declared for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The Ballydoyle handler has saddled a record 10 winners of the Rowley Mile Classic and launches another formidable assault on Saturday.
Wembley is officially the highest-rated of his three runners on what will be his first appearance since being touched off by stable companion St Mark’s Basilica in the Dewhurst at Newmarket in October.
Battleground was last seen filling the runner-up spot at the Breeders’ Cup, while Van Gogh has been off the track since landing Group One honours in the Criterium International at Saint-Cloud.
St Mark’s Basilica does not head to Newmarket, with O’Brien confirming on Thursday he is instead being aimed at the French equivalent.
Speaking on a Qipco British Champions Series Zoom call, the trainer said: “We’re just splitting them up. The plan is to train St Mark’s Basilica for the French Guineas, with a view to maybe going to the French Derby after that.”
Assessing the chances of his three 2000 Guineas runners, O’Brien added: “Battleground had very good form last year and finished off with a very good run in America.
“Van Gogh’s form progressed as the season went on and he finished off with a lovely run in France.
“Wembley’s last run was in the Dewhurst, which we were delighted with really.
“They all seem to be in good form. It’s only their first run of the year and it’s a great place to start.
“It’s lovely to be getting good ground and we felt they all deserved to take their chance.”
Joseph O’Brien, Aidan’s son, has a leading contender in Thunder Moon. The son of Zoffany beat Wembley when winning last season’s National Stakes at the Curragh, but was behind the same rival when third in the Dewhurst.
Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega and Poetic Flare, from Jim Bolger’s yard, complete the Irish contingent.
Bolger did not, however, declare Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Mac Swiney.
“They are both very well. It was a tight question as to which would go as I only want to run one, in which case Mac Swiney will go to either the French Guineas or the Derrinstown at Leopardstown,” Bolger told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast.
“It was nothing to do with the ground, but having said that I always favour good ground because it’s safe for horse and rider.
“Poetic Flare always looked very smart and won the first two-year-old race of the year, but then he decided he wasn’t big enough and he began to grow, which didn’t stop until July.
“I didn’t have him cherry-ripe for the Dewhurst and it transpired he needed the race.
“I wouldn’t be that good a trainer that I could tell you how fit he was first time out, but what I can tell you is he has improved massively since then. A mile will be no problem.
“Dawn Approach winning (in 2013) was very satisfying and I have the same confidence in this horse.”
The home team includes three Charlie Appleby-trained hopefuls in One Ruler, Master Of The Seas and Naval Crown.
Naval Crown inflicted a shock defeat on Master Of The Seas in Dubai earlier in the year, but the latter bounced back to winning ways in the Craven Stakes over the Guineas course and distance a couple of weeks ago.
With William Buick deciding to stick with Master Of The Seas this weekend, James Doyle partners One Ruler, who rounded off his two-year-old campaign by finishing second in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.
The Charlie Hills-trained Mutasaabeq was mightily impressive when winning a conditions race at the Craven meeting, which ultimately led to connections supplementing for the Guineas earlier this week.
Richard Hannon’s Greenham Stakes winner Chindit, Ralph Beckett’s Devilwala, the Roger Varian-trained Legion Of Honour, Mystery Smiles from Andrew Balding’s yard and Jane Chapple-Hyam’s rank outsider Albadri are the other hopefuls.
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