Posts

Empress Josephine rules over Joan Of Arc in Irish 1,000 Guineas

Empress Josephine produced a relentless late charge to beat stablemate Joan Of Arc to victory in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien saddled three runners in his bid for a 10th victory in the fillies’ Classic, with Joan Of Arc very much his main hope following her triumph in the Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown a fortnight ago.

Empress Josephine was a 14-1 chance off the back of finishing second in a Listed contest at Gowran Park on her latest appearance and tracked 15-8 favourite Pretty Gorgeous for much of the way.

With the latter’s effort petering out on her belated first run of the year, it looked like Joan Of Arc would claim top honours after eventually mastering No Speak Alexander at the head of affairs.

However, Empress Josephine really found top gear in the last half-furlong and beat her stablemate on the bob by a short head – providing jockey Seamie Heffernan with his fifth success in the race.

No Speak Alexander finished third, with 125-1 chance Belle Image a close-up fourth.

O’Brien said: “We thought she was lovely – she’s a sister to Minding.

“We thought she was lovely when she won the first day and then she went to Leopardstown and they went too fast over seven furlongs.

Aidan O'Brien with Empress Josephine and Seamie Heffernan
Aidan O’Brien with Empress Josephine and Seamie Heffernan (PA)

“We ran her over nine furlongs in Gowran Park and had a lovely run, but we just felt the trip maybe caught her out.

“She’s quick and Seamus gave her a lovely ride. She’s a classy filly.

“It’s a long time since Seamus rode his first Group One winner for us. He’s a great fella who works with us day in day out.

“Joan Of Arc ran a lovely race. We were going to step her up to a mile and a quarter after today. She might go to the French Oaks.

“The winner might go for the Coronation, but we’ll speak to the lads and see what they want to do.

“She has the option of the French Oaks or coming back here for the Pretty Polly, but she’s not slow and I’d say a mile maybe suits her better than a mile and a quarter.”

Seamie Heffernan celebrates winning another Irish 1,000 Guineas
Seamie Heffernan celebrates winning another Irish 1,000 Guineas (Brian Lawless/PA)

Heffernan – who picked up a six-day ban for his use of the whip in the earlier Gallinule Stakes – said: “I thought I had got there. I had a willing partner.

“I should have won well, I got (knocked) sideways two (furlongs) down and it knocked her off balance. I was a lucky winner, but I should have won well.

“I’m delighted to be on this one. It’s my fifth Guineas, I’m as hungry as ever. I won on her in Naas on similar conditions and she’s very well bred – I’m delighted to be on a winner.”

Of Pretty Gorgeous, who had not been seen since her victory in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in October, Joseph O’Brien said: “I thought she ran very well.

“It’s a tough mile up there in that ground without a prep run and she was only beaten three lengths. We’re looking forward to the rest of the year with her.

“She’ll probably go to Ascot. It’s a long year.”

Fev Rover camp eye choice of Group One targets

Fev Rover has either the Irish 1,000 Guineas or the Prix Saint-Alary on her agenda after her big run at Newmarket.

Richard Fahey’s filly outran odds of 22-1 to be beaten only a length and a quarter into third by Mother Earth in Sunday’s 1000 Guineas.

Taking a keen hold from the stalls, Fev Rover disputed the lead for the first five furlongs before crossing the line a neck behind runner-up Saffron Beach.

Nick Bradley’s racing partnership owns the horse, and he was in attendance alongside a clutch of fellow shareholders.

“Fev Rover ran a great race,” he said.

“We decided we wanted to be handy, because there didn’t look to be much pace in the race.

“She was a little keen early doors, but we had her where we wanted her.

“She looked like she was going to drop away, but then she picked up out of the dip and ran really well.”

The daughter of Gutaifan had previously enjoyed both Group and Listed successes, having gained black type form in Sandown’s Star Stakes last season before taking the Prix du Calvados at Deauville.

Bradley has another tilt at Group One glory pencilled in this month, with both the Irish Classic at the Curragh and ParisLongchamp’s Prix Saint-Alary under consideration.

“I haven’t spoken to Richard (Fahey) this morning,” he said.

“But we’ll probably go for the Irish Guineas or the Alary next.”

Should the latter race be targeted, Bradley’s filly is likely to cross paths with another who did his silks proud at Newmarket on Sunday.

Mystery Angel gave rookie trainer George Boughey his highest-profile winner to date when taking the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes under Ben Curtis.

The length-and-three-quarters victory signified a change in fortunes for the daughter of Kodi Bear, who has been narrowly beaten three times in Listed contests.

Her efforts in the Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract, the Montrose Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix Rose de Mai all fell just short of the mark, with her subsequent run in the Prix Francois Mathet at Saint-Cloud ending in a fifth-placed finish.

“She’s been really unlucky,” said Bradley.

“From when Frankie (Dettori) rode her at Newmarket onwards, she probably should have won all those races.

Mystery Angel ridden by Ben Curtis wins the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes during 1000 Guineas Day, part of the QIPCO Guineas Festival at Newmarket Racecourse
Mystery Angel and Ben Curtis won the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Things didn’t quite go our way in each circumstance for different reasons, but yesterday she showed everybody how good she was.

“We knew she was that good, but the last one kind of knocked our confidence a little bit.

“She’s obviously a very good filly, and Ben (Curtis) gave her a great ride – the tactics were to take to the front and make it a stamina test.”

Next week’s Musidora Stakes at York is a possibility, but Bradley is more inclined to target the Prix Saint-Alary and a possible clash with Fev Rover.

“She (Mystery Angel) ran a great race and she will probably go for the Alary next,” he said.

“We’ll look at the Musidora, but it’ll probably be the Group One Alary in France.”

Monday Musings: Irish Domination

Where once there was meaningful rivalry, now there is renewed omnipotence. A picture spread through social media early this year of a grinning trainer talking on a mobile phone atop a dead horse has had even more effect than its horrified recipients throughout the horse world could have imagined, writes Tony Stafford.

Up until Cheltenham, the remnants of the Gordon Elliott stables, which had run 321 horses from the time jump racing resumed after the initial stopping through Covid19, was still punching most of its weight under the name if not the supreme control of Mrs Denise Foster.

Traditionally though, every late April/early May the Punchestown Festival has ended any wistful hope that the brash Elliott with his legion of major owners, most notably the O’Leary family’s Gigginstown House Stud, might finally gain a first Irish NH trainers’ championship.

Last week, respectable second place seemed a long way off, that eminence supplanted by the exploits of Henry De Bromhead, he of the surreal Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and Grand National hat-trick over the previous six weeks.

But now we were in Willie Mullins territory and the week was just perfectly situated to welcome back the trainer’s previously stricken stable jockey. Paul Townend had seen his advantage over the challenging and seemingly unstoppable Rachael Blackmore slip to less than a handful of winners with seven days to go.

Mullins doesn’t do Cross-Country races, of which there are four over the five days of Punchestown, but he does do everything else. And how!

Eight races are staged each day, leaving 36 to go for. Mullins, with five on the opening day and never fewer than three on the four succeeding instalments, put together the unbelievable tally of 19 wins from the available 36 – so more than 50%. He did have 87 runners, very often multiple chances, then, and another 21 of his horses made the first four, that’s 40 win or placed. Place money at the meeting goes down to sixth and he had another ten of those, so altogether 50 in the money.

In all, Mullins’ runners brought back a total haul over the week of €1,470,950. For the season his 182 winners brought almost €5.5 million.

Elliott’s monetary reward for his 155 wins was €2,863,875 at the time of his suspension. Add to that Mrs Foster’s 16 victories in 205 runs from 135 of the Elliott horses was another €412,860.

But the magic which initially lingered after the paper – if not actual – change of control all but died last week. Mrs Foster’s 36 runners at Punchestown brought no wins, three second places, two thirds and a single fourth and a mere total of €52k. Nineteen of her runners either finished outside the first ten or failed to finish.

You would think that everyone associated with the Closutton steamroller would have been delighted, but what was probably the most spectacular of his victories, in terms of style of performance and the circumstances behind it, was a cause of regret for that horse’s connections.

When Mark Smith first moved to his present house in Essex 40 years ago the one-time Foreign Exchange trader met a neighbour who was soon to become his best friend. Mark owned Balasani, a horse that won the Stayers’ Hurdle for Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival, and soon he and his friend, John Coleman, regularly went racing together.

Then a few years back John became gravely ill with cancer by which time he had bought Klassical Dream. Sadly he was never able to see the horse on the track – it raced in the name of his widow Joanne but was a family horse with his two sons and a nephew taking shares. They insisted that Mark should also accept a share.

It was bitter-sweet for the team when Klassical Dream won his maiden hurdle first time up at Leopardstown’s St Stephen’s Day fixture in 2018 and he duly went on to take three Grade 1 prizes, at Leopardstown in February, Cheltenham’s Supreme Novice, and Punchestown’s Champion Novice Hurdle.

The 2019/20 season proved a massive anti-climax, the ante-post Champion Hurdle favourite racing only twice and beaten at odds-on behind less talented stable companions. Cheltenham 2021 was originally on the agenda but that came and went without him, after which the plan was laid for Thursday’s big stayers’ hurdle over three miles. Klassical Dream had never raced over much further than two miles and would have a 487-day absence to overcome.

Mark spoke to Willie a few days before the race and on Thursday morning before leaving home for a funeral of another good friend he tried unsuccessfully to reach the trainer. Mullins left a recorded message when he could and Mark says it was very similar to the previous one.

I’ve heard it and in it Willie says he would be happy if the horse finished in the first six but above all the priority is that he comes home sound. Mark interpreted this to mean the trainer wasn’t sure he would make the first six.

Mark relayed the news to the other owners, and before leaving had what he calls a “suicide throwaway 50 quid” at around 17-1 when he first noticed the price was dropping. He had expected to be home in time to watch the race, but was still at the reception at the off, so watched it on his phone.

In what was described as the biggest gamble of the week, 20-1 down to 5-1, Klassical Dream under Patrick Mullins, and one of four stable-mates in the race, cantered into the lead going to the last hurdle and drew easily clear of Mullins’ James Du Berlais for a nine-length victory.

There was more than a degree of consolation that the horse had come back with such a bang, and not least for winning the €147,500 winner’s prize, but also some irritation that the message might have been a little more accurate.

These words will be written before Mark and the trainer have their next conversation. “I knew I shouldn’t talk to Willie, who has always been so helpful in all our dealings, as I would probably have lost my temper. None of the other owners are racing people in the way John was and of course I am, and their delight at their horse coming back in such a dramatic manner easily outweighs for them any irritation that they might have had a bigger bet if they knew a bit more beforehand”.

The Irish dominated Cheltenham and Aintree and it was the Flat trainers from that side of the wet divide who collected the first two Classics of the season at Newmarket.

First Jim Bolger, 79, and jockey and son-in-law Kevin Manning, 54, took the 2,000 Guineas with brave home-bred Poetic Flare, 16-1 and a son of Dawn Approach, also a Bolger home-bred and winner of the same Classic.

Then yesterday, Aidan O’Brien, a pupil and amateur rider for Bolger before embarking on his own stellar training career, made it seven wins in the 1,000 Guineas. His second string 10-1 shot Mother Earth, ridden by 50-year-old Frankie Dettori, made use of her greater experience to run past long-time race favourite and stable-companion Santa Barbara.

Like Love last year, who came to the “1,000” with three wins from seven juvenile appearances, Mother Earth put in plenty of creditable runs at two but in her case for just one win, although second at the Breeders’ Cup was hardly a negligible effort.

Unlike Love, though, who went on to Epsom and then York for two more emphatic wide-margin Group 1 victories, Mother Earth is being pencilled in for the Irish 1,000. Santa Barbara, who understandably showed signs of greenness - she raced only in one maiden as a two-year-old – goes straight to Epsom.

It was quite a weekend for big numbers and veterans. Bob Baffert, now 68 years old, made it a seventh Kentucky Derby when Medina Spirit, at just over 12-1, made all under John Velazquez, who is in his 50th year. The colt had won only once previously too, so it was stretching credibility after three defeats that he could win the most important three-year-old race of the year in the USA.

But it was even more amazing given that two runs back, in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, Medina Spirit had been crushed by eight lengths by another Baffert colt, Life Is Good, who was unable through injury to get to Churchill Downs.

The old prototype for winning the “Run For The Roses” was plenty of race-conditioning as a two-year-old, but Medina Spirit didn’t appear until January this year. That was also the starting-point for Life Is Good. That day, Medina Spirit came up short by only three-quarters of a length and he must have been energised when he noticed that his nemesis was not in the field.

Still pictures of the race finish show the Churchill Downs grandstands were packed. I just can’t wait for that to happen here - sooner rather than later I trust!

Chapple-Hyam thrilled by Guineas runner-up Saffron Beach

Jane Chapple-Hyam saluted the “genius” of Aidan O’Brien as she reflected on the fine run of Saffron Beach to take second in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

Winner of the Oh So Sharp Stakes last year, Chapple-Hyam’s New Bay filly reappeared on the Rowley Mile in the Nell Gwyn last month when she was second behind Sacred.

Hopes were high for a big performance in the Newmarket Classic, and she duly turned the form around with Sacred – but just found Mother Earth a length too good.

Chapple-Hyam said: “What can I say, Aidan O’Brien is just a genius. He is hard to take on – and I can’t wait for him to retire!

“It would have been the quickest ground she has been on. But she can handle it because she is versatile, as you saw in the Oh So Sharp on good to soft, and she has done it here on the quicker ground.

“We are just all thrilled, and I’m sure the owners are highly delighted because they have got a second in the 1000 Guineas. This time last year, she wasn’t even in training.

“She has seen the mile out 100 per cent. I knew she would get the mile and I know she will get a mile and a quarter as well. They (owners) will tell me where to send her, and I will just get her fit. There is a good one in her.

“We just have to place her properly now and we will see what the team wants to do.”

Richard Fahey was also proud of the third home, Fev Rover, running a storming race to be just a neck behind Saffron Beach and a nose in front of Santa Barbara.

The North Yorkshire trainer said: “We were delighted with her – it wasn’t a truly-run race really.

“Paul (Hanagan) felt the ground was a bit quick for her – she just rolled about a bit – but you’d have to be happy with that.

“She probably will go further in time, and a bit of juice in the ground doesn’t bother her at all.

“She’s in the Irish Guineas, and that was going to be the plan – that or Royal Ascot.

“We will step her up in trip at some stage. We’ll just see how she takes the race.”

Evergreen Dettori ‘getting the knack’ of Classic success

Frankie Dettori could not contain his excitement after Mother Earth provided the popular Italian with his 20th British Classic success with victory in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

It is 27 years since Dettori broke his Classic duck in the UK aboard Balanchine in the Oaks – the first of his five wins in the race.

Dettori, who celebrated his 50th birthday in December, has also won the Derby twice, the 2000 Guineas three times, six St Legers and now added a fourth 1000 Guineas victory to his glittering CV, following a dominant display by Mother Earth over the Rowley Mile.

Dettori, whose shrieks of delight continued from the track to the winner’s enclosure and into the weighing room, said: “I’m super excited.

“It’s a 20th Classic for me at 50 years old. I’m only 10 behind Lester (Piggott) – I’ve got plenty of time!

“Lester was 56 (when winning his 30th Classic), so I’ve got six years left, and Kevin (Manning, 54) won yesterday (2000 Guineas) – come on the oldies!”

“It’s great to do it at Newmarket. I’m extremely happy.

“I’m getting the knack of this now – it took me 30 years to realise what to do!”

While Mother Earth brought strong form to the table, having been placed in the Fillies’ Mile and at the Breeders’ Cup at the end of her juvenile campaign, she was the second string of two runners for Aidan O’Brien behind the much-talked-about Santa Barbara.

Frankie Dettori celebrates on Mother Earth after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket
Frankie Dettori celebrates on Mother Earth after winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket (Mike Egerton/PA)

The latter was the 5-2 joint-favourite off the back of a solitary run amid reports of “exceptional” work on the Ballydoyle gallops – but she had to make do with an honourable fourth as Mother Earth and Dettori stole the show.

“I didn’t have the pressure to ride the favourite and I had a very willing partner in a filly that I knew was going to give me everything,” Dettori added.

“Aidan gave me a lot of confidence this morning. He told me to forget about Santa Barbara and ride your own race.

“I followed her as she was the favourite, but when I got to the top of the hill I thought ‘I can’t wait for her all my life, I have to go’. It proved the right move.

“He told me to make sure I got cover, which I did. I kicked at the top of the hill, as Aidan said she’d stay very well, and I won – it’s as simple as that!”

O’Brien hoping ‘big call’ pays off for Guineas favourite Santa Barbara

Aidan O’Brien is banking on Santa Barbara’s “exceptional” ability to make up for her inexperience in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

While the daughter of Camelot made a big impression when winning on her racecourse debut in late September, few could have envisaged she would be a red-hot favourite for the first fillies’ Classic of 2021 off the back of that solitary outing.

The reason for her contracting odds in recent weeks have been the unusually bullish reports coming out of Ballydoyle this spring.

And speaking on a Qipco British Champions Series Zoom call earlier this week, O’Brien was again fulsome in his praise for what Santa Barbara has been showing at home ahead of her bid for glory on the Rowley Mile.

He said: “We always thought a lot of Santa Barbara. We didn’t want to over-race her and she’s just had the one run.

“Obviously it’s a big call for her, but she seems to be in good form.

“She always looked very special last year. Of all the two-year-old fillies, she was always at the top of the pecking order.

“She only had the one run, but on her home work she was always very impressive and very exceptional. She’s a very strong traveller and a big, powerful filly – through her work and through a race.”

O’Brien is well aware of what it takes to win the 1000 Guineas, having saddled four of the last six winners and six overall.

The trainer clearly feels Santa Barbara possesses the requisite talent, but admits her lack of racecourse experience is not ideal.

“It is only her second run – running down Newmarket on quickish ground. She will be green, so it will be interesting to see how she copes with it,” he said.

“Either way you’d imagine she’ll learn a lot from it – it will do her absolutely no harm.

“If she’d had another run, it might have been an advantage to her, but she’s a quick learner at home and very intelligent.

“No matter what we work her with, she always looks to be dominating them.”

Santa Barbara pulls clear of her toiling rivals at the Curragh
Santa Barbara pulls clear of her toiling rivals at the Curragh (PA)

O’Brien, who also saddles Mother Earth, added: “Whatever it (Santa Barbara’s price) is, it is. She doesn’t know, she only knows she’s getting ready for a race.

“Everyone will be excited to see what happens when she does come off the bridle. This is a Guineas and it’s going to happen at some point.”

The home team is headed by by the Andrew Balding-trained Alcohol Free, who rounded off her juvenile campaign with Group One success in the six-furlong Cheveley Park Stakes and made a winning reappearance over seven furlongs in the Fred Darling at Newbury a fortnight ago.

Jockey Oisin Murphy is hopeful the daughter of crack sprinter No Nay Never can prove her stamina as she tackles a mile for the first time.

He said: “I was really thrilled with her at Newbury. She was just ready to start off and did everything nicely in the race. I made her come back and wait and go through the gears and she did it all well.

“She’s come out of the race well. She hasn’t done any serious work since – it has all been routine, but she has passed every test so far.

“She got six (furlongs) very well and the Cheveley Park is a good Guineas trial. She got seven (furlongs) well in the Fred Darling too. She was in the firing line from two out and though the pace wasn’t very strong, she had to battle.

“We always felt she was a Guineas filly from last year.”

Sacred is in a similar position for trainer William Haggas and owner-breeders Cheveley Park Stud.

The Exceed and Excel filly mixed it at Pattern level over five and six furlongs as a two-year-old – and while she did win over seven furlongs on her return in Newmarket’s Nell Gwyn Stakes, connections admit only time will tell whether a mile is within her compass.

Sacred won the Nell Gwyn on her return to action
Sacred won the Nell Gwyn on her return to action (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Cheveley Park’s managing director, Chris Richardson, said: “She’s in good form. We all desperately need rain, but I’d be quite keen for there not to be too much before Sunday.

“Ryan (Moore) was pretty strong on the fact there was going to be a question about the mile, but there is only one Guineas and if she stays it gives us more options going forward.

“She broke her maiden at Newmarket and won the Nell Gwyn at Newmarket, so we know she acts on the track.

“It’s exciting to see how well she’s done physically from two to three and if she stays, she could run a big race.”

Chapple-Hyam relishing Guineas challenge with Saffron Beach

Jane Chapple-Hyam has never been afraid of a challenge and in Saffron Beach she has a genuine live chance in Sunday’s Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

It has been one-way traffic in the betting this spring for Aidan O’Brien’s Santa Barbara, who is set to go off an even shorter price for the Classic following the defection of Fillies’ Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous on Friday morning.

Saffron Beach has achieved more on the track, though. Unbeaten in two runs as a juvenile, including success in the Oh So Sharp Stakes, she looked sure to be suited by stepping up to a mile when second on her return in the Nell Gwyn, finishing behind the reopposing Sacred.

“From all accounts Adam (Kirby) was happy with her last time,” said Chapple-Hyam.

“It was a trial and he feels she was strong at the line and took a fair bit to pull up. With that in mind, we’re really looking forward to running her over a mile.

“Once the winner had flown a bit, Adam wasn’t too hard on her, so she had a good experience and didn’t have too hard a race. She wouldn’t have been fully wound-up there, either.

“She had a good experience. It was her third time on the track which can count for a lot in the Guineas, she picked up some more black type – which is important – and we’re looking forward to Sunday, when hopefully she can pick up some Group One black type.”

Given the positive reports from O’Brien about the favourite, Chapple-Hyam feels if they are correct, Santa Barbara could be a new superstar.

“Aidan’s no fool. If he feels she’s been galloping well against colts, that just says it all. Good fillies can go by colts,” she said.

“If she’s as good as that, then we might have a new Enable on the scene.”

Pretty Gorgeous misses out following an unsatisfactory scope.

The Joseph O’Brien-trained daughter of Lawman had been second favourite, but O’Brien said on Twitter: “Unfortunately due to an unsatisfactory scope Pretty Gorgeous will not be declared for the 1000 Guineas this weekend.”

In her absence, 12 were declared for the Classic, with Santa Barbara joined by stablemate Mother Earth.

Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free, winner of the Cheveley Park last season and the Fred Darling on her return two weeks ago, arguably heads the home defence.

She just held on from Statement and Vadream at Newbury and the three meet again.

Nell Gwyn winner Sacred represents Cheveley Park Stud and William Haggas, while Richard Fahey is sweet on the claims of Fev Rover, a Group Two winner in France last season in the Prix du Calvados.

Thunder Beauty, Lullaby Moon, Seattle Rock and Star Of Emaraaty complete the field.

Pretty Gorgeous to miss 1000 Guineas

Pretty Gorgeous will miss the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday following an unsatisfactory scope.

The Joseph O’Brien-trained daughter of Lawman was a major contender for the Rowley Mile Classic, having won three of her five starts as a juvenile including the Group One Fillies’ Mile over the Guineas course and distance in October.

However, Pretty Gorgeous was officially scratched on Friday morning, with O’Brien posting an explanation for her absence on social media.

O’Brien said on Twitter: “Unfortunately due to an unsatisfactory scope Pretty Gorgeous will not be declared for the 1000 Guineas this weekend.”

In her absence a field of 12 were declared for the Classic, headed by the much-vaunted Santa Barbara, trained by Aidan O’Brien.

Despite having just a maiden win to her name, Santa Barbara is set to go off a red-hot favourite due to some bullish comments emanating out of Ballydoyle this spring. Stablemate Mother Earth also runs.

Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free, winner of the Cheveley Park last season and the Fred Darling on her return two weeks ago, arguably heads the home defence.

Alcohol Free (purple) just held off Statement
Alcohol Free (purple) just held off Statement (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

She just held on from Statement and Vadream at Newbury and the three meet again.

Nell Gwyn winner Sacred represents Cheveley Park Stud and William Haggas, while Saffron Beach, who lost her unbeaten record when runner-up to Sacred in her trial, also takes her chance.

Richard Fahey is sweet on the claims of Fev Rover, a Group Two winner in France last season in the Prix du Calvados.

Thunder Beauty, Lullaby Moon, Seattle Rock and Star Of Emaraaty complete the field.

Santa Barbara headlines 1000 Guineas confirmations

Ante-post gamble Santa Barbara features among 16 fillies left in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday.

Aidan O’Brien’s daughter of Camelot has only been seen on a racetrack once in her life, when making a winning debut at the Curragh in September.

The Ballydoyle handler has been effusive in his praise of the filly in the build up to the race, describing her in a stable tour as “looking like a five-year-old colt” and that her work had been sparkling.

O’Brien also has Queen’s Speech, Mother Earth and Snowfall, while son Joseph could have the biggest danger in Pretty Gorgeous.

The latter enjoyed a fruitful season last year, culminating in victory in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.

Andrew Balding’s Cheveley Park winner Alcohol Free, who returned this season with a win in the Fred Darling, is the shortest-priced of the British-based runners.

Charlie Fellowes will let Vadream take her chance after she outran her 50-1 odds to finish third in the same race.

Alcohol Free was a winner on her return
Alcohol Free was a winner on her return (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She’s great. She’s going to gallop on Tuesday morning and that will put her spot on for Sunday. She’s in good form, she’s taken the race at Newbury perfectly and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

Nell Gwyn one-two Sacred and Saffron Beach will meet again after a good battle two weeks ago, with Fev Rover will representing Richard Fahey.

Baby Alya, Lullaby Moon, Seattle Rock, Star Of Emaraaty, Statement and Thunder Beauty complete the list.

Ryan Moore has high hopes for Classic challenger Santa Barbara

As Santa Barbara continues to be all the rage in the Qipco 1000 Guineas market, Ryan Moore is hoping the Aidan O’Brien-trained filly “has a big year ahead of her”.

The Camelot filly was seen only once last season, winning a maiden at the Curragh in September, but her odds for the Newmarket Classic have been in freefall ever since O’Brien spoke about her in glowing terms in a stable tour.

Speaking on Betfair’s Racing Only Bettor Podcast, Moore said: “She was impressive at the Curragh under Seamie (Heffernan), and I think there’s plenty of horses started to come out of it. She obviously got an awful lot to prove on the track, but everyone’s very happy with her at home. Let’s hope that she’s as good as we think she is.

“I had a sit on her and I’m very happy with her – she seems very straightforward in the mornings, hopefully she’s got a big year ahead of her and we want her right until the end. She’ll maybe have to start in the deep end, but hopefully she’ll prove herself up to it.”

Moore is likely to have a difficult choice to make in the colts’ equivalent, where Dewhurst one-two St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley could be joined by Royal Ascot winner Battleground.

Moore said: “St Mark’s Basilica is a horse with a lot of speed and he had some tough tasks, he had to go straight into a Group One on his second start and it was a messy sort of year for everyone.

St Mark’s Basilica (centre) winning the Dewhurst from Wembley
St Mark’s Basilica (centre) winning the Dewhurst from Wembley (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“But when you are trying to get two-year-olds into Group One races quickly, obviously it’s not easy. The build-up wasn’t ideal and he got better with every race and he’s a Dewhurst winner and he’s a very, very good colt who seems to be in a good place and hopefully he has a big year ahead of him.

“Everything points to him being a better three-year-old.”

As well as being second to St Mark’s Basilica at Newmarket, Wembley occupied the same spot in the National Stakes at the Curragh.

Moore said: “He’s a Galileo, you’d be pretty sure he’ll get better as he gets older and going up to a mile won’t be any problem for him at all. He only won the one race, but as we’ve said already, it was difficult for two-year-olds last year.

“He has a very high level of form and ability.”

Battleground showed enormous promise in his juvenile campaign
Battleground showed enormous promise in his juvenile campaign (Hugh Routledge/PA)

The beautifully-bred Battleground followed up his Chesham Stakes win with victory at Glorious Goodwood and lost little in defeat when second to Fire At Will in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland in November.

Moore said: “He’s a very strong horse and I think he’s a very talented horse, very similar to his dam (Found) – great attitude and very high class. He’s been lovely all through the spring and I think he’ll have a good year, no doubt.”

When asked about a possible Guineas bid, Moore said: “I haven’t heard that he’s not going to the Guineas, I think he’s definitely still in the mix.”

Moore also has every chance of Derby glory this year, with High Definition and Bolshoi Ballet one and two in the ante-post market for the Cazoo-sponsored Epsom Classic.

High Definition heads the Derby market
High Definition heads the Derby market (PA)

The rider said of the unbeaten High Definition: “When he won the Beresford, it never looked likely until the last 100 yards and then he won well at the line. He looks like a very obvious Derby horse and I think the plan is to have a run in one of the major trials and then go straight to Epsom.

“So all being well, the Derby is the dream for him.”

He added of Ballysax winner Bolshoi Ballet: “He is a good-moving colt, lovely mind, does everything right. It might not have been the deepest race on the day, but he did what he was asked to do and I think there is more to come from him. I think you’ll see him popping up in the major three-year-old staying races this year.”

Charlie Fellowes eyeing Guineas bid with Vadream

Connections of Vadream are thinking of running the lightly-raced filly in the Qipco 1000 Guineas following her fine effort at Newbury on Sunday.

The Charlie Fellowes-trained daughter of Brazen Beau belied her odds of 50-1 to take third place behind Alcohol Free in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes, a race better known as the Fred Darling.

Vadream is now a top-priced 33-1 for the fillies’ Classic at Newmarket on May 2, though a final decision on her participation will be made closer to the race.

“We were delighted with that. She has taken the race really well,” Fellowes said.

“We haven’t made a firm decision yet, but we’re leaning towards letting her take her chance in the Guineas.

“That was only her second start, running against a pretty experienced, and a pretty decent, field. The race developed over on the far side. We could have probably done with something taking her into the race a little bit longer, but we were very pleased with her.”

Fellowes’ main worry is if Vadream will stay the mile. She made a winning debut over six furlongs and the Group Three at Newbury was over seven.

“She is very quick. That would be my only concern, whether she will stay the extra furlong, but there is only one Guineas,” said the Newmarket handler.

“The owner has bred her and we can always drop back in trip if we feel she doesn’t stay.

“We’re leaning towards the Guineas, but it’s not confirmed at the moment.”

Snow Lantern to miss 1000 Guineas and wait for York

Leading Qipco 1000 Guineas contender Snow Lantern is to miss the Newmarket Classic and instead run at York’s Dante meeting.

The daughter of two Guineas winners in being by Frankel out of Sky Lantern, like her dam she is trained by Richard Hannon.

She was third-favourite for the fillies’ Classic having beaten John and Thady Gosden’s Derab – who Enable’s half-brother – by a length and three-quarters.

Hannon said on his website: “Following a discussion with connections, Snow Lantern will not be taking up her engagement in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and will instead be aimed for either the Group Three Musidora Stakes or the Listed Michael Seeley Stakes at York’s May meeting.

“With the Michael Seeley being run over a mile and the Musidora over a mile and a quarter, both of these races will give us options and gives her an extra couple of weeks.

“Either race will give us a good guide on where we stand for the rest of the season with her too. She holds entries in the Epsom Oaks and Prix de Diane, and these engagements will be dependant on her York performance.

“There are plenty of options coming up for her. She is a special filly, with a beautiful pedigree and has already proved an exciting prospect for her owner-breeders, Rockcliffe Stud”

On the same card, Hannon landed the Greenham Stakes with Chindit, who has now won four of his five outings with his sole defeat coming on soft ground in the Dewhurst.

“Chindit came out of the race brilliantly, he was in the pen most of the next day and has cantered this morning and he’s fine,” said Hannon on Tuesday.

“His form is solid and it looks like he’s going to be suited by the test of the Guineas. To me it looked as if he was crying out for a mile.”

Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham
Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

On the other side of the coin, however, was Happy Romance, who failed to see out seven furlongs in the Fred Darling and will now revert to sprinting.

“She just didn’t stay, so we’ll go sprinting,” said Hannon.

“I must admit I thought she was sure to stay, but she clearly didn’t.

“I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, it happens often enough. There are still plenty of races she can go for and she’s already won a Super Sprint, a Group Three and a sales race at York already and the owners have had a ball.

“There are many good days left in her yet.”

Guineas outing still to be confirmed for Snow Lantern

No decision has yet been made as to whether impressive Newbury winner Snow Lantern will line up in the Qipco 1000 Guineas.

The daughter of two Guineas winners in being by Frankel out of Sky Lantern, like her dam she is trained by Richard Hannon.

She is currently third-favourite for the fillies’ Classic having beaten John and Thady Gosden’s Derab – who Enable’s half-brother – by a length and three-quarters.

“We still don’t know if she’s going to run in the Guineas,” said Hannon.

“She’s a good filly, but we haven’t made up our minds yet. I’ll have to talk to the owners about everything and see what they say.”

On the same card, Hannon landed the Greenham Stakes with Chindit, who has now won four of his five outings with his sole defeat coming on soft ground in the Dewhurst.

“Chindit came out of the race brilliantly, he was in the pen most of the next day and has cantered this morning and he’s fine,” said Hannon on Tuesday.

“His form is solid and it looks like he’s going to be suited by the test of the Guineas. To me it looked as if he was crying out for a mile.”

Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham
Chindit (far side) got going late to win the Greenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

On the other side of the coin, however, was Happy Romance, who failed to see out seven furlongs in the Fred Darling and will now revert to sprinting.

“She just didn’t stay, so we’ll go sprinting,” said Hannon.

“I must admit I thought she was sure to stay, but she clearly didn’t.

“I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, it happens often enough. There are still plenty of races she can go for and she’s already won a Super Sprint, a Group Three and a sales race at York already and the owners have had a ball.

“There are many good days left in her yet.”

Classic ‘conundrum’ for Meade with Newbury runner-up Statement

Martyn Meade will not rush into making a decision on whether Statement will contest the Qipco 1000 Guineas following her narrow defeat at Newbury on Sunday.

A winner on her final juvenile start at the Berkshire circuit in October, the Lawman filly returned to action in the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Stakes – better known as the Fred Darling.

And while she was sent off at 18-1, she came mighty close to causing an upset – going down by just a short head to hot favourite Alcohol Free in a thrilling finish.

Meade said: “We were in front just before the line and just after the line, so it is frustrating.

“She ran up to expectations, which is really good. We always thought she’d improve from her two-year-old career and luckily she did – it certainly wasn’t surprise to see her run so well.”

The trainer admits it is not ideal that his filly had such a hard race just a fortnight before a potential bid for Classic glory on the Rowley Mile – and insists he will only let her take her chance if he is confident she is in peak condition.

“It’s never great coming second as they just tend to have a bit harder race than you would like,” he added.

“If the other horse hadn’t been there, she would have won easily and that would have been great – but as it transpired, she had to work hard to finish second.

“It’s obviously only two weeks until the 1000 Guineas and that’s the big conundrum. We’re just going to take it day by day and see how she comes out of it.

“She’s a really top-class horse and we really think a lot of her. I appreciate there is only one Guineas, but you can’t go into it lightly and I’d hate to run her back too quickly and end up struggling for the rest of the season.

“We’ll just see how she is. If she’s bucking and kicking then we’ll probably have a go, but if not, you’ve got the French Guineas the following week and races like the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.”

Ken Condon outlines Classic aims for star fillies

Ken Condon is preparing both Thunder Beauty and Miss Amulet for tilts at Guineas glory – with Thunder Beauty heading to Newmarket and Miss Amulet bound for France.

Thunder Beauty made a big impression on her racecourse debut at the Curragh last summer before going on to finish fifth in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh and seventh in the Prix Marcel Boussac in Paris.

The Night Of Thunder filly will be an outsider for the Qipco 1000 Guineas over the Rowley Mile on May 2, but Condon believes she could outrun her odds.

He said: “Thunder Beauty will go straight for the 1000 Guineas. She seems to be very well and is forward in her coat. Her fast work up to this point has gone very well. She’ll take her chance in Newmarket.

“She’s relatively lightly-raced. She won her maiden at the Curragh nicely and I thought she ran a lovely race in the Moyglare from an outside draw.

“I’d forgive her France. It was very bad ground and there was a bit of barging and scrimmaging in the straight. Billy (Lee) looked after her when her chance had gone.

“She’ll be a big price, but she’s by a nice sire and we’re happy with her.”

Stablemate Miss Amulet won three of her eight starts as a juvenile, including a notable Group Two success over Wednesday’s Nell Gwyn Stakes winner Sacred in the Lowther at York.

She rounded off her campaign with two excellent efforts in defeat – finishing second in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket and third at the Breeders’ Cup – and Condon views the French 1000 Guineas as a suitable target.

“Miss Amulet will hopefully start back in the French 1000 Guineas. She’ll go straight there on May 16,” the trainer added.

“She had a very good year last year and kept progressing. She finished off with a third in the Breeders’ Cup over a mile.

“Longchamp might be the most suitable place for her to run in a Classic. In future she may come back in trip.

“Hopefully she has trained on – you never really know until they run.

“She’s done well physically, she looks well and is training nicely. All the signs are pretty good. She’ll take her chance and we’ll make a plan after that.”

Two other three-year-olds Condon is looking forward to campaigning this season are Teresa Mendoza and Laws Of Indices.

Teresa Mendoza has not been seen since finishing 10th in the Moyglare in September, while Laws of Indices was not disgraced in finishing fifth on his reappearance in the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown last weekend.

Condon said: “Teresa Mendoza is another nice filly and she will start back in the Polonia (Listed race) in Cork on May 7.

“She looks a pacey filly and disappointed in the Moyglare. She won her maiden first time up and ran very well behind New Treasure on very heavy ground in a Group Three at the Curragh.

“Hopefully she gets on a nice surface and it looks a nice race to start her back

“I was pleased with Laws Of Indices at Leopardstown. I thought he ran well carrying a penalty.

“There are a few people involved and a decision will have to be made whether to run him over six or seven furlongs. He can be a bit slowly away from stalls.

“He could go for the Lacken Stakes (six-furlong Group Three at Naas on May 16), or the Jersey at Royal Ascot is an option over seven.”

Of his two-year-old squad, the trainer added: “We’ll probably run the first of them next week. We have a good team of them and there is a Bated Breath filly and a Hot Streak that are ready to go.

“It’s still early days, but they are shaping up well.”