Run on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, the 2000 Guineas is the first of Flat racing’s five Classics.
Aidan O’Brien is jointly the most successful trainer for the race with seven victories, five of which have come in the last dozen renewals. The boys from Ballydoyle took last year’s race with the outstanding Gleneagles. He went on to win the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. This year they have Air Force Blue at the head of the market, thanks in the main to a devastating performance in the Group 1 Dewhurst at the end of last season.
He’s undoubtedly a classy colt, bred in America, by War Front out of the Maria’s Mon mare Chatham. The Dam’s side of the pedigree suggests sprinting ought to be his game, and his trainer has said that the horse is particularly quick. His Sire has produced a number of classy types, with Declaration of War arguably the best of the bunch. He won the Queen Anne Stakes at a mile and went on to take the Juddmonte International at 1m2f.
Air Force Blue’s only defeat came at Royal Ascot when beaten into second place by Mark Johnston’s Buratino. The form was reversed at the Curragh, before he finished his juvenile campaign with a close second to Shalaa at Newmarket. That was a cracking effort against an outstanding sprinter, and many believe that the step up to a mile will suit. He’s by Exceed and Excel who has produced his fair share of speedy sorts, though was responsible for top-class miler Excelebration. Kingmambo appears on the dam’s side, and gives plenty of hope that Saturday’s trip will prove ideal.
Massaat has only won one of his three outings but got as close as any to Air Force Blue in the Dewhurst. It was a huge run from the inexperienced colt, and this son of Teofilo is expected to go well for rookie trainer Owen Burrows. “It’s extremely exciting to be contesting a Classic with only my tenth runner – I have to pinch myself to check that it’s true,” said Burrows. “I have been very pleased with how Massaat has developed physically over the winter. He did a racecourse gallop at Newmarket at the Craven Meeting and then did a very nice piece of work last Friday, so I am confident that he is in good shape.”
Improvement from two to three is of course the great unknown, but it would come as a surprise if he had improved enough to turn round the Dewhurst form.
Galileo Gold stands alongside Massaat in the betting and finished his juvenile campaign with a terrific third place finish in the Grand Criterium at Longchamp. He looks a strong stayer and is likely to be doing his best work at the end of the race. Whether he’ll have enough ‘zip’ to challenge the favourite is questionable, though should O’Brien’s charge falter late on, he could be the one to profit.
Marcel was another that finished his juvenile campaign with a cracking performance. Peter Chapple-Hyam’s colt ran out a huge priced winner of the Racing Post Trophy. The form from that run stacks up nicely. Second at Doncaster was Johannes Vermeer; he’d previously finished a close fourth in the Grand Criterium. He went on to beat Stormy Antarctic at Saint-Cloud, and that fella stormed home in the Craven earlier in the month. Further rain could aid Marcel’s cause, as he was another expected to head over the Channel for the French Guineas.
The Guineas has a habit of providing big-priced placed finishers. Bossy Guest just missed out last year when finishing fourth at 50/1, and a year earlier Night Of Thunder won the race at 40s. In 2013 Glory Awaits at 150/1 chased home Dawn Approach. The winner was of course the son of the Epsom Derby victor New Approach, himself a runner-up in the Guineas.
The sire is represented in Saturday’s renewal by Herald The Dawn, and he may well be this year’s long-priced surprise package. His juvenile form was pretty solid, though he has to improve plenty to be competitive. He chased home Air Force Blue in the National Stakes, then ran rather flat in the Grand Criterium. Jim Bolger is a master at training horses for these major events, and at 33/1 the horse is worth a small wager to sneak an unexpected place.
Aside of the favourite, the race looks wide-open, and should Air Force Blue fail to spark any number of these could go close. I’m coming down in favour of Godolphin, and along with Herald The Dawn will be on the side of Buratino for the outstanding Mark Johnston.