It’s always tricky at this time of year to get an accurate line on form as the first Classics approach. Very few trials are actually run with the 1000 and 2000 Guineas in mind, and for the most part we are left to hope that juvenile form is upheld when Newmarket comes around.
It’s therefore refreshing for us punters that we have already had a number of pointers to the relevant strength of markets for the fillies’ Classics, especially the Guineas.
John Gosden has hit top gear in double quick time, and has already sent out several impressive fillies, two of which won well at Newmarket a week ago. Yesterday however it was the turn of a potential Oaks winner to advertise her talents at Epsom. So Mi Dar beat the boys in the Investec Derby Trial and is now second favourite for the Oaks in June.
The daughter of Gosden’s former classy inmate Dar Re Mi handled both track and conditions to fend-off Richard Hannon’s Humphrey Bogart. Though it’s tough to gauge the strength of the form, there’s no doubting the strength of the pedigree of this three-year-old, along with the dominance of her trainer.
The success followed on from a strong showing in the Craven Meeting at Newmarket. Gosden struck with two talented fillies on day one. Swiss Range is a weak leggy sort, yet was still able to dominate a decent looking maiden, winning by a comfortable five lengths. She’s clearly talented, though the trainer suggested that she would be stepping up in trip rather than heading for a guineas in England or France.
On the same card the Newmarket trainer was successful in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn with Nathra. She travelled smoothly through the race, and found plenty for pressure when necessary. The victory backed up the fine second place finish to Minding in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile at the end of her juvenile campaign. It also strengthened Minding’s place at the head of the market for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Gosden said after her victory: “This pays a huge compliment to Minding, who in my opinion is the most impressive Fillies’ Mile winner I’ve ever seen.” Nathra may well sidestep another clash with O’Brien’s filly and head to France for the French Guineas.
Should she take that option she may well bump into O’Brien’s other outstanding juvenile from last season; the talented Ballydoyle. She has a win and a loss from two clashes with her highly touted stable companion, and it would come as no surprise if the two were kept apart in the early stages of the season.
It’s interesting that Ballydoyle appears to prefer better ground, while Minding’s best performances have come in more testing conditions. It could just be that the latter is a stronger stayer. Ballydoyle has a win in France to her name whilst both have tasted success at Newmarket.
Whoever lines up at Deauville for the French Guineas could find Jean Claude Rouget’s classy filly Qemah a tough nut to crack. By Danehill Dancer out of a Rainbow Quest mare, she romped home yesterday at Chantilly. She was behind Ballydoyle in the Prix Marcel Boussac back in October, but finished strongly that day. She’s clearly trained on from two to three and looks sure to be a leading contender.
Though John Gosden has laid down a marker with his fillies, there’s no doubting that Aidan O’Brien holds a pair of aces with the Classics in mind. Minding is the one that left the greatest impression with her devastating victory in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket at the end of last season. By Galileo out of the 2010 Coronation Stakes winner Lillie Langtry, she heads the 1000 Guineas and Oaks markets.
Ballydoyle was similarly impressive in winning the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. She is another Galileo filly out of Butterfly Cove, who was also responsible for Irish Guineas winner Misty For Me. She looked to be outstayed by Minding when defeated in the Moyglare at the Curragh.
The two set the standard but now have to prove that they retain that juvenile ability and have trained on successfully from two to three. We’re likely to find out in the coming weeks.