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Guineas Weekend Preview

2000 Guineas preview: Toronado goes for glory

Not that sort of Toronado...!

It's Guineas weekend at Newmarket, dear reader, and that means top quality three-year-old could-be-anythings taking each other on for fat juicy prize money. More importantly for their owners, there's the prospect of a tilt at the Derby to follow and perhaps a lucrative breeding campaign subsequently.

But that's all in the future. First things first...

Saturday sees the chaps go to war, and it looks something of a two horse race. In the blue corner, we have the unbeaten-in-six, Dawn Approach. Formerly owned as well as trained by Jim Bolger - a man who is no stranger to Guineas glory - he is now only trained by the wily Irishman, with ownership passing to Godolphin.

That in itself marks what could be argued is a superb piece of timing on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, as this 'guest trainer' is untarnished by the shadow of suspicion and throng of whispers associated with Momo's salaried trainers just now.

In the red (ish epaulets) corner is Toronado, unbeaten in four himself, and perhaps less well known to punters and public. Richard Hannon's High Chapparal colt is bred for a Derby, but has the speed for a July Cup. He promises to be some horse but, to date, he's never tested himself in Group 1 company.

Because Toronado has led in three of his four runs, there is a suspicion that he needs to lead. This is not true, according to his helmsman, Richard Hughes, who contends it is more the fact that nothing in his races was capable of leading him previously. Indeed, Hughes would prefer a tow into the race, and might just get that from Dawn Approach's team mate, Leitir Mor.

Let's look more closely at the form of the two obvious contenders...

Dawn Approach is bred for this job. A son of Guineas second (beaten a nose), New Approach, out of a mare whose optimum trip was just shy of a mile, he's progressed from winning a five furlong sprint on his juvenile debut, up through Listed company; then winning a big field Coventry Stakes over six furlongs at Royal Ascot; and claiming two Group 1's when moving up to seven-eighths of a mile, first in the National Stakes at the Curragh, and finally in the Dewhurst Stakes on Newmarket's roll-y Rowley Mile.

Much has been made of the Rowley Mile in recent times, with the 'dip' - a micro-valley just under two furlongs from home, purported to unbalance many a horse - being the primary focus. But Hughes contends that it is not so much the dip as the incessant ridging on the Rowley piste which is causing problems for the runners. This, he asserts, is as a consequence of excessive watering, and he went as far as to say that Newmarket's early and late season course was akin to Yarmouth, which is famously blighted with ridges and undulations.

If he's right about that, then will we see notable absentees from late season juvenile Group races? Probably not, as the money/kudos of an ante-post Guineas favourite is too great, but it's an interesting observation.

In any case, both Toronado and Dawn Approach have spun over the course, and both have won with daylight in hand. Some commentators have questioned the length of time it took Dawn Approach to overcome Leitir Mor in the Dewhurst, citing the fact that he got unbalanced. He won by more than two lengths despite that, testament to how good he is.

The third from that race, George Vancouver, went on to win the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, an altogether different test, but a Grade 1 test just the same. That at least adds some ballast to the merit of the form, form which is unlikely to be franked by a couple of the other yokes in behind that day.

Again, Dawn Approach looks sure to be suited by the extra furlong, and it's impossible not to love his winning temperament. He looked beaten at Royal Ascot after veering under pressure, but battled on tenaciously to see off Toronado's under-study, Olympic Glory. He - briefly - looked in trouble in the Dewhurst, but picked up and went away.

Given the likelihood of his appreciating the extra furlong, he seems sure to run his race, with Jim Bolger's nags hitting the turf running this season, as they do pretty much every season.

Toronado on the other hand is harder to assess. He's more about potential than proven tip top form. His potential was shrieked across Newmarket Heath a fortnight or so ago, when he walloped Havana Gold by four lengths in the Craven Stakes. That it was a four runner race was hardly his fault: indeed, it may be a feather in his cap that he was so easily able to fend off very decent stayers (of the mile trip, at least) with such devastating aplomb, despite having to make it.

Hughes reported that James Doyle, aboard third-placed Dundonnell in the Craven, alleged he simply couldn't get near the winner from half way. Hughes further reports that Toronado has improved enormously in the last six weeks, from being "no Canford Cliffs" to "an aeroplane" just before the Craven.

Granted at least a bit more to come since then, and he must be in the shake up. The Craven is run over a mile, as is the Guineas of course, so there's no stamina reservation. Far from it, with the Derby looking like the next target for both he and Dawn Approach, irrespective of the result here.

Given that BetVictor are offering to double your winnings - up to a stake of £200 - if your pick wins both the Guineas and Derby, that's well worth considering. All the more so, given that Camelot achieved that feat last year; Sea The Stars did it in 2009; and Dawn Approach's daddy, New Approach, was just a neck away from doing it in 2008!

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Here's the link to BetVictor's site, if that's of interest to you.

Back to Toronado. He's done all he's been asked on the track, and he's been backed as though he cannot lose this last week. I had a little bit on when Hughes was so adamant on Tuesday evening, and I'd rarely be one for following a jockey's tip.

But the thing is that the Guineas is a race where we have to listen, because so much is about potential and the 'now' horse. Form in the book can often be caught and passed with a winter's growth on those respective backs. And some horses are the finished article at two. Toronado is clearly improving. Which is not to say that Dawn Approach hasn't also improved, nor that some other hitherto unconsidered beast has the measure of the pair of them.

Let's - at least, cursorily - consider the chances of the hitherto unconsidered beasts. A pair of O'Brien hosses, and a northern raider, make up the next trio in the wagering. The O'Brien pair are Cristoforo Colombo (CC hereafter), and Mars (Mars hereafter). The former has more in the book: he was third in Dawn Approach's Coventry, and went on to fail to score on three further starts.

It's interesting that he comes here to race over a mile, having previously not been seen in public over further than six furlongs. It is even more interesting that Joseph O'Brien chooses CC over Mars. What planet is he on?! It feels to me like something of an academic selection, with CC having at least some form of merit at top class.

Mars, for his part, could do no more than win a Dundalk maiden by almost five lengths from a horse called The Ferryman. That one was beaten almost ten lengths by Dawn Approach and, while such strict interpretations are always dangerous, especially with a surface shift and a class chasm between the two contests, it's the only substance we have in relation to the merit of Mars.

He was a big talking horse prior to his win that day, and presumably they feel he's very good - after all, he's running in the 2000 Guineas! - but he's not for me, though he's another which might be of interest to those considering a tilt at the BetVictor bonus cash for a Guineas/Derby double. After all, he's a son of Galileo out of a middle distance mare. And, perhaps more pertinently, he's already joint favourite for the Derby..!

So, if you reckon he has a chance in the Guineas, you could have up to £200 on at 11/1 with Victor, and return as much as £4,400 in real and bonus cash. Obviously, you could just have a fiver, or two quid even, or swerve him altogether. But he's probably the one with the most obvious Derby chance.

Garswood won't win a Derby. And I doubt very much he'll win a Guineas, despite reportedly being the best Richard Fahey's trained (and he's trained a lot. Heck, even this season, he's trained a lot!). No, I'd see this fellow ending up contesting Group 1 sprints, and probably winning at least one this term. Step back in trip, not up.

George Vancouver won't win a Derby either. But he might win a Guineas. He was impressive at Santa Anita and, while he was beaten fair and square by Dawn Approach here last term, the verdict was only three and a half lengths. Those lengths have been converted into an odds disparity of almost fifteen points, with Dawn Approach around the 6/4 mark and Georgie boy at 16/1. That's surely too big, despite Ballydoyle jockey bookings implying he's third choice.

After all, GV has done more than either CC or Mars on the track to date. If there is any value against the front two, and I'm not certain there is, then it's probably him.

One at any price you like is the aforementioned Leitir Mor. He's not going to win - not unless something apocalyptic happens - but he'll probably stay, and he's got Group 1 silver on this very strip. The race could be run to suit, with him getting an easy-ish lead and, with the non-stayers wilting, it might be a question of how many proper milers go by him. Some will, but I'd not be sure that plenty will. 66/1 is worth a shekel each way.

Most likely winner: Toronado
Obvious Danger: Dawn Approach
Best each way: George Vancouver
Huge priced bomb with a place squeak: Leitir Mor

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I previewed the 1000 Guineas back on 17th April, and very little has happened since to make me change my tune.

What A Name is the one for me, and I think there might be a chance of Sky Lantern reversing form with Hot Snap, given the latter was clearly straighter on the day of their Nell Gwyn trial.

Magical Dream is a big priced outsider worth considering if she takes her chance.

My full preview is here.

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Now then, how about a tipping competition? Two days, fourteen races, winner takes all. 'All' being a signed copy of Richard Hughes' biography, A Weight Off My Mind.

To enter, just click here and leave a comment with your name and your selections for each day. Simple as that. 🙂

Good luck!

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And finally, did you notice something different on the blog today? Yes? Well done! No? Look harder!! Yes, there's a small but quite fun change to the banner at the very top, with a currently unnamed horse and rider combo adorning the geegeez.co.uk strip. We'll maybe run another competition soon to name the jock!

For now though, who do you think will win this weekend? Leave a comment and let us know who - and, of course, why!

And tell me if you like the little jockey/horses dude. 🙂

Matt

QIPCO 1000 Guineas 2013 Preview/Tips

1000 Guineas Preview / Tips

1000 Guineas Preview / Tips

QIPCO 1000 Guineas 2013 Preview/Tips

There are little more than three weeks until the first two Classics of the British flat racing season, and in this post I'm looking for the value in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.

It's a fiendishly difficult task: many fillies are unraced as three-year-olds; of those which have run, it can be difficult to know how much they'll improve from those debuts; and there are always 'talking horses' crowding out the form horses at the top of the market.

Despite this, I've reviewed the profile of the last ten winners and runners up to see if there are any material patterns which might merit a wager.

Here's what I learned...

Early or late two-year-old debut?

The received wisdom is that all the good horses are unleashed in back end (i.e. September to November) maidens. The facts shoot that to pieces, at least in the context of the 1000 Guineas.

Indeed, sixteen of the twenty 1-2 finishers in the past decade made their racecourse bow in August or before. And eleven had run before the end of June.

Four of Ireland's six 1-2 finishers during that time had first set hoof on track by the end of May; and France's trio of gold and silver medallists debuted once each in May, June and July.

Exposed or unexposed?

How many runs should a filly have had in order to get competitive here? Well, naturally, there's a range of experience in the sample.

No filly has been able to trouble the judge after just one race, but four have managed it after two starts (one winner, three seconds). Still, the majority have been more exposed: typically, five runs for a winner and four for a runner up.

Now, as is logical, more runs does mean higher class in this context. That is to say, if a filly has had more than two runs, we should have expected her to have been tested in better races if she's going to be competitive in the 1000 Guineas.

Happily, the data bears that out: those having raced three or four times in their career had raced at least in Listed Class; and those with five or more career runs had already stepped up to Group 1 or 2.

Although this won't exclude too many young ladies, it looks extremely important.

Seasonal debut, or benefit of a run?

The first question is should we be looking for a race fit filly, or one having her first run of the season? Almost mockingly, half of the twenty winner and runner up horses are in either camp. And, even more unhelpfully, five each of the last ten winners and the last ten runners up were unraced that term, and the same were raced that term.

What I can say is that only last year's winner, Homecoming Queen, had more than one run. She was a bit of a fluke winner after a long delay at the start, and she failed to make the frame thereafter in two subsequent starts, despite being sent off favourite both times.

What are the best trial races for the 1000 Guineas?

There are three key trials for those having a run as a three-year-old: one each in England, Ireland and France.

In England, the Nell Gwyn Stakes has hosted the 1000 Guineas winner once, and runner up twice, since 2005. Interestingly, perhaps, the two most recent runners up in the 1000 Guineas which ran in the Nell Gwyn (Jacqueline Quest - won but demoted in 2010; and Starscope in 2012) were both well beaten in that trial.

If any inference can be drawn from that, it is that both improved their fitness significantly from that run.

This year's Nell Gwyn is run on Wednesday, 17th April, and the post will be updated with the result.

In Ireland, it's all about the 1000 Guineas Trial run at Leopardstown. Last year, Homecoming Queen won that for Aidan O'Brien before her shocking 25/1 victory at Newmarket. In 2005, the same trainer's Virginia Waters scored in both races, paying out at 12/1 for her streak across the heath.

And in between those two, Arch Swing won the Leopardstown race before running second to the shortest priced winner of the 1000 Guineas for many a year.

The winner this year, Rawaaq, is not entered at Newmarket and is far more likely to run in the Irish 1000 Guineas. The second placed horse is also not entered, but the third, Snow Queen, may make the trip for O'Brien. She's currently a best priced 33/1.

And in France, the Prix Imprudence has identified two winners and a runner up since 2003. Six Perfections, at 7/4 the shortest of the trio, was the one to get beaten; but both Special Duty and Natagora won, at fancied odds too - 9/2 and 11/4 respectively.

This year's Prix Imprudence was a muddling affair, and was won by What A Name, a 7/1 shot for the 1000 Guineas. She may be joined at Newmarket by third placed Spinacre, and fourth home, Peace Burg.

Which fillies have the best chance, of those to race this year?

The sort of question which is best answered with hindsight, of course. However, no bookie pays out after the event, so let's take a swipe at the form book and hope to land a contender or two. We'll start where we left off, with the Frenchies.

What A Name has ostensibly the best chance of the French contingent, and she's 6/1 joint favourite in many books, though a general 7/1 chance. Her chance looks to lie in the turf, which seemingly needs to be on the good side. Her three wins have all come on good or good to soft; and her two defeats have come on deeper ground.

In fairness, one of those losses was when a length and a bit second in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, against the boys. That was a good performace, albeit in a weakish race, and she's a player on decent ground in my view.

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The two other possible Gallic gallopers here are third and fourth, Spinacre and Peace Burg.

Spinacre was previously trained in Ireland by Kevin Prendergast before a private sale during the close season. She was good enough to win a Listed race over a mile there, but looked a little shy of pace when dropped back to seven furlongs for a Group 3 subsequently.

In running a half length third here, I feel she might have been flattered by the funereal pace, and I'd be surprised if she was able to finish ahead of Peace Burg again.

Despite favouring Peace Burg of the two, I wouldn't imagine she'd be good enough to win the 1000 Guineas. She was beaten in both of her last two starts either side of winter, and though she is bred for further, she might just lack a bit of the required zip to win a Classic.

From the Irish contingent to have run this term, Snow Queen leads the charge at around 33/1 for those with an entry. She was third, as mentioned, in the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown, and previously raced seven times as a juvenile.

This is far from uncommon for a Ballydoyle youngster, with last year's 1000 heroine, Homecoming Queen, having had eleven starts as a two year old, and two as a three year old! Moreover, O'Brien's 2011 runner up, Together, had had eight juvie runs.

In both cases, and in the case of Snow Queen, they'd raced in Group 1 company as a junior. Again, as mentioned, I feel that for the more experienced runners, a crack at top class is a significant pointer to perceived ability.

Snow Queen missed the break by at least ten lengths that day, used up a lot of energy to tag herself onto the pack, and then probably hated the good ground as well. Her chance looks to rest on there being plenty of rain in Newmarket between now and May 5th. That said, the balance of her form looks more limited than many of these, as well, as an official rating of just 99 implies.

Moth may also represent connections - she's a 12/1 shot in the betting - but would need to be supplemented. Although she was undoubtedly impressive when winning a maiden last weekend, that form is a furlong short of what's needed here and, despite the likelihood of plenty of improvement, she's hardly standout value given that she's not even entered at this stage.

One other Irish raced contender worth a throwaway comment is Scintillula. Good enough to be second in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes last year, he was outpaced in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes last back end (and interfered with as well), before a strange run in a ten furlong soft ground maiden when sent off a shortish favourite.

She might be more an Oaks than a 1000 Guineas type, but at 66/1 in a place she's not without a chance on form and profile. A true run fast ground mile could be ideal for her.

Of the home defence, Nell Gwyn runners look worthy of a second glance, and perhaps not the podium finishers either. Hot Snap won easily from favourite, Sky Lantern, and Winning Express best of the rest. This was a taking performance from a smart filly, bred for a mile and more, and it's no surprise to see her leap to the head of the market for the 1000 Guineas.

She'll bid to emulate Speciosa, the last lass to win the Nell Gwyn and also the Guineas, back in 2006.

Which fillies have the best chance, of those we've yet to see this year?

This is where life gets tricky/trickier. Trying to second guess which horses have 'trained on', improved and are fit is nigh on impossible. But what I think is interesting/unsurprising is that the average odds of those 1-2 Guineas finishers having their seasonal debut is 10.5/1, whereas those with form already that year had an average SP of almost 20/1.

The longest priced of the ten fillies to go 1-2 on seasonal bow was 20/1 Ghanaati, whereas fillies at 66/1, and 33/1 twice have run up in the last three seasons (one of them won, but was placed second) on the back of a priming run.

In a nutshell, then, I'm looking towards the top of the market with regards to unraced fillies this year. That brings in Just The Judge, Big Break, and Rosdhu Queen (likely runner in Fred Darling on Saturday).

Just The Judge is ante-post jolly, and it looks like it will take a smart performance from the Nell Gwyn to change that. Given that some of her vanquished rivals from the Rockfel - most notably Nargys - line up there, there's a reasonable chance she could solidify still further without a run.

JTJ is trained by Charles Hills, sone of Barry, and his old man - who is still very much part of the set up at the yard - saddled Ghanaati to win in 2009 and Maid's Causeway to be second in 2005. Materially, neither had had a prep run in that season.

So, this yard knows just what it takes to win first time up; the horse has strong form; and she made a nice early (June) debut last term. There's little margin for fun times in her price, but she's a leading contender if handling the bigger field she'll encounter here. The trip will be no problem.

Dermot Weld's Big Break has an entry in the Irish equivalent, and also an entry in a Group 3 the same weekend as the 1000 Guineas, so it's not certain this well regarded lass will line up here. If she does, her form chance lies on the basis of an easy win on easy ground in a Leopardstown Group 3. It's hard to project that into the context of a race like this, but the trainer is a fair judge and if he says she's a Guineas filly, she probably is.

Rosdhu Queen may well have run by the time you read this. She's entered in Newbury's Fred Darling Stakes, a race which was last won en route to Guineas glory by Wince in 1999.

Her trainer, William Haggas, has also got Lady Nouf entered for the 1000 Guineas, and she ran 11th in the Nell Gwyn. Rosdhu Queen's main problem may be stamina. Quick enough to win a five furlong maiden on debut - and a six furlong Group 1 on her last juvenile start - she'll have another 33% to race here, and while her breeding gives cause for optimism, the form book is keeping mum.

Four winners in the past decade started out over five furlongs, though only the very speedy Attraction won, so it's not impossible for Rosdhu Queen to step up in trip and claim this.

On a more speculative note, Magical Dream could be of interest if making the line up. She has yet to race this term, but was last seen when easily beating subsequent 1000 Guineas Trial winner, Rawaaq in a seven furlong Group 3. Prior to that, she'd run fourth in the Group 1 Moyglare and, if she's trained on, she might be interesting at 33/1.

Two notes of caution, though. She's entered in a ten furlong race this weekend, which doesn't suggest she's being targeted at the Guineas necessarily, and she seems to prefer cut in the ground. If it rains, and she runs, she'd have a decent chance.

What are your tips for the QIPCO 1000 Guineas?

The betting for the 1000 Guineas this year is wide open, and that means that whichever horse we like, if we're on the winner, we'll get a decent return. It's also clear from history that plenty of horses at big prices have made the frame, with a few of them - including last year's winner - taking the top prize.

As such, I'll take two from the top and two from anywhere else, as Countdown contestants might say.

My 'two from the top' are What A Name, a French raider which looks sure to appreciate conditions; one with strong form in the right race in the book; and one with top ratings for speed and overall form... and Hot Snap, representing Sir Henry Cecil and Khalid Abdullah. She'll bid to be the first Nell Gwyn winner to double up since Speciosa in 2006..

Two from anywhere else leads me more speculatively - naturally, given the prices - to Scintillula and Magical Dream. The first thing to say is that it's possible both of these won't run in the race. As such, if you can find a 'non runner money back' bookie, do use them.

With caveat emptor in place, what I can tell you is that both of these horses will stay the trip, and that they've both tested themselves against Group 1 opposition. Indeed, they ran 2nd and 4th behind Sky Lantern in the Moyglare over seven furlongs last September.

Magical Dream then went on to beat Rawaaq, the horse which won the 1000 Guineas Trial earlier in April. She's entered in a ten furlong Listed race on Sunday, and that tells us that connections perhaps feel she will be better over further. I'd hope she doesn't take up that entry and instead runs in the Guineas. If she does, I feel she's a player at odds around 33/1.

1pt win What A Name

1pt win Hot Snap

1/2 pt e/w Magical Dream

Total stake: 3 points

Click here for the latest betting on the 1000 Guineas

Below are some of my 'workings out' in case you'd like to run through it yourself. (Click the image to open it full screen).

1000 Guineas 2013 Preview, trends and tips

1000 Guineas 2013 Preview, trends and tips