Hugo Palmer continued his rapid rise through the training ranks with a stunning success for Galileo Gold in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.
Given a bold ride by Frankie Dettori, the son of Paco Boy found plenty for pressure, with only Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Massaat able to mount any sort of a challenge. Asked for his effort inside the two-furlong mark, Galileo Gold drifted toward the rail before galloping on relentlessly to win by almost two lengths, with Owen Burrows’ promising colt second, and Godolphin’s Ribchester back in third.
The victory sparked wild celebrations, though Palmer appeared totally stunned by the win.
A typically exuberant Dettori said: “It was brilliant. I had a lot of faith in this horse and new he would be in the first three. We had a bad draw but he's a great horse. My main thought was he stays very well and I wanted to be the first to make my way home. He galloped out really strong and he's done it really well.”
Palmer, who won last year's Irish Oaks with Covert Love, was full of praise for the jockey. He said: “Frankie was so alert to what was going to go on. He said nothing was coming from behind and if nothing was going to take him on he said he was going to do it himself and my god he did. There were no hard luck stories and it was a masterful ride with a very willing partner. I'm so lucky to have him. I've never believed in a horse like this one. He's beautiful and just gets better and better. He's quirky and you have to work with him and not against him and he's rewarded us.”
Air Force Blue was sent off a short-priced favourite, but on this occasion the Dewhurst winner failed to fly. The writing was on the wall when Ryan Moore could be seen niggling away before the two-furlong pole. He eventually faded tamely to finish second-last of the 13 starters. Maybe he’ll prove better over a shorter trip on quicker ground, or just maybe the son of War Front has failed to progress during the winter recess.
Though classed as good to soft, the winning time of 1m 35.9s compares favourably with previous years, suggesting the ground was less testing than anticipated, but also that the first two are particularly useful. Galileo Gold and Massaat look capable of dominating at around a mile, with the latter open to any amount of improvement having only had four career starts.
Talk soon turned to the Epsom Derby, and it seems likely that Palmer’s horse will take his chance, probably without a further run. Discussing future plans, Harry Herbert, representing winning owners Al Shaqab Racing, said: “We definitely could not rule the Derby out at this stage. You always want the dust to settle but the Derby is the Derby, so we'll give it serious consideration.”
On Sunday Palmer wrote in his Betfair blog, saying: “My dream is to win the Derby, but my job is to do the right thing for the horse. I would rather win an Irish 2,000 Guineas than finish sixth at Epsom. His pedigree gives you some hope that he will stay, he is out of a Galileo mare and from the family of Montjeu.”
Speaking on Sunday, Dettori appeared hopeful of a crack at the Derby, saying: “Galileo Gold is a special horse and certain to improve. The feeling he gave me yesterday tells me he's probably ready for ten furlongs. If you forced me to make a call now I'd say that for Epsom you need a top-class horse and I think Galileo Gold is top class so maybe I'd lean towards a crack. I don't want to give up my Derby crown without a fight, but the big question is whether he'll be ready for a mile and a half in less than five weeks. It could be touch and go.”
A Ballydoyle hotshot flopped on Saturday, but there were no fluffed lines on Sunday, when Minding stormed to a stunning success in the 1000 Guineas. Indeed, O’Brien cleaned up, with the first three home in the fillies Classic, thanks to Ballydoyle and Alice Springs chasing home the impressive winner.
Ryan Moore had the favourite towards the head of affairs from the start, and when asked to put the race to bed, the response was devastating. Ballydoyle finished strongly to snatch second with Alice Springs hanging on for third. Fireglow rather than Lumiere proved to be Mark Johnston’s best performer. She stayed on stoutly to finish fourth and looks sure to improve further for a step-up in trip. She’s currently 50/1 for the Epsom Oaks.
For the winner, all roads now lead to ‘The Downs’ and a shot at a second Classic. Minding is a short-priced favourite for the Oaks, and the daughter of Galileo looks to have the pedigree to complete the job. O’Brien has decisions to make over the paths of his two leading fillies, after Ballydoyle’s eye-catching late charge on Sunday. She’s as short as 6/1 for the Epsom race, though could be saved for a crack at the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.
It certainly proved a terrific weekend at Newmarket, with one established powerhouse dominant in the fillies’ division, but a new force proving just as powerful in the colts. It’s ‘high times’ for Hugo, with the promise of plenty more to come.