Tag Archive for: 2000 Guineas

Monday Musings: Of Bubbles Burst

When they get beat, the Coolmore Classic hotpots, especially in the 2000 Guineas, they make a proper job of it, writes Tony Stafford. Auguste Rodin’s capitulation a year ago, preceding as it did two Derby victories, had a variety of explanations to soften the apparent finality of it. City Of Troy’s tame drift away from the action from a long way out, may be less easy to explain.

I wasn’t the only one with egg on my face, having championed his two runs on the same piece of Suffolk real estate, albeit a few furlongs apart, last year. The Superlative Stakes win from Haatem was, well, superlative. His Dewhurst romp was a tour de force, leading all the way then sprinting up the last furlong with Haatem again well behind.

So how could Haatem turn that around so emphatically, third behind only previously unbeaten Godolphin horse Notable Speech and his own stable-companion, second favourite Rosallion? Just over three lengths behind Charlie Appleby’s second and William Buick’s first 2000 winner, he was now 13 lengths in front of the odds-on favourite, who trailed in ninth of eleven.

Aidan O’Brien professed himself shocked and so would most of the massive crowd, one which gridlocked the always slow-motion Newmarket High Street for hours before the 1.10 p.m. meeting start. Talk might have been of records but there were a few there when Nijinsky started his Triple Crown journey more than 50 years ago, too, and not quite as many cars either!

The filming media behaved as if they were there to attend a Royal family meltdown or a PM taking his leave in front of Number Ten. Apparently unflappable as he was being saddled, there was a paparazzi feel as the lenses pointed his way right in his eyeline as the final touches were being completed. Agitated Newmarket staff shooed away many of the regular Coolmore supporters across to the other side of the horse path, but the cameras were allowed to stand their ground.

Considering this was a race with several previously unbeaten opponents, including the winner – three for three at Kempton, so making his turf debut – his price was either dangerously short (as it proved) or even a little generous, given the expectations.

If anyone can bring a horse back from such an unexpected reverse, Aidan O’Brien is the man and he has before, but talk of another Frankel now looks fanciful.

It’s four weeks to the Derby and we were all talking in the paddock beforehand that his pedigree is more that of a Derby horse than a Guineas type. We’ll have to see. He’s 8/1 now. Last year after a similar reverse, Auguste Rodin was only 3/1 and we know what happened at Epsom with him!

The Coolmore boys stayed up late on Saturday night to watch the Kentucky Derby in which they had two interests, a 100% involvement in second-favourite Sierra Leone and 75% of the Todd Pletcher-trained Fierceness. Todd’s runner faded away after a prominent start but the Chad Brown trainee Sierra Leone must be rated a very unlucky loser.

Held up on the rail around a dozen lengths behind the pace set by Track Phantom until making a move at the end of the back straight, jockey Tyler Gaffalione found himself in a tight position around the turn and was forced to go very wide.

Meanwhile Mystik Dan under Brian Hernandez made a run for home on the rail while Sierra Leone began his wide, late and rather erratic surge in company with the Japanese-trained Forever Young on his inside.

By the time they reached the post, the camera showed there were pixels between the trio and a verdict of nose, nose in favour of Mystik Dan, trained in Lexington by Kenny McPeek, gained the verdict. That nose makes a massive difference: initially £1.7 million between the two top prizes but also his potential as a stallion when he departs racing, presumably to Coolmore’s US branch, Ashford Stud in Lexington. Ashford is home of the only two Triple Crown winners of the last half century, American Pharoah and City of Troy’s sire Justify. They expected two more – one here and one over there.

It truly was the Maktoum family’s weekend, for after the success of Sheikh Mohammed’s Notable Speech on Saturday, Ahmed Al Maktoum, his younger brother won the 1000 Guineas with 28/1 outsider Elmalka, trained by Roger Varian and ridden by Silvestre De Sousa.

In a wide open market, in contrast to the one-eyed appearance of Saturday’s Classic, the fillies’ equivalent offered the prospect of a quintet of potential winners as they came to the last furlong. Until just before the line, two young overseas trainers were entitled to believe their fillies would win.

Ramatuelle (Christopher Head, France) looked sure to hold on but she was challenged late, initially by Porta Fortuna, Donnacha O’Brien/Tom Marquand, but only too briefly as Elmalka finished fastest of all having trailed the field early in the 16-runner contest.

Two others merit a mention. Fourth under a typical, but in this case just too late, Jamie Spencer ride was the David Menuisier filly Tamfana, while Ylang Ylang kept on well for fifth under Ryan Moore, the Aidan O’Brien inmate not getting the clearest of runs. She’ll be set for running over further, maybe in the Musidora next time at York – just guessing on that one.

Elmalka, a daughter of Kingman, was third previously in the Fred Darling Stakes (or whatever appellation it now goes by) at Newbury, where she had rallied to finish close up behind Folgario and Regal Jubilee. The Fred Darling runner-up also started at 28/1 yesterday but finished well down the field for the Gosdens. No doubt Marco Botti, trainer of Folgario, must have wondered why she wasn’t in the line-up.

Unbeaten in five starts as a juvenile initially in Italy (four wins) and then one in France, trained by Marco’s relative Stefano, she has the Coronation Stakes as her sole entry at this stage. Six races unbeaten will make her an interesting wildcard into that always-significant Royal Ascot midsummer Group 1.

I must thank the Editor for drawing my attention to, and therefore helping me follow, this tortuous link. Back in 2007 the most impressive winner of the Coronation Stakes, and a filly that never raced again, was Indian Ink. Trained by Richard Hannon senior, ridden by Richard Hughes, and in the colours of Raymond Tooth – she won by six lengths slaughtering such as Finsceal Beo, and the rest.

Yesterday, in the colours of Clipper Logistics in the 40k newcomers’ race for 2yo fillies, her daughter River Seine (by Soldier’s Call) ran a highly promising second for Karl Burke to Godolphin’s Mountain Breeze, Buick’s pick of three for Charlie even if she sported the nominally third-choice red cap. River Seine could well make a visit to the scene of her mother’s finest hour, but she will have to find a fair bit to turn yesterday’s form around. Karl Burke will give it a go, no doubt.

Of all the performances over the two days at Newmarket, I have to point to Hughie Morrison’s Ben and Sir Martyn Arbib homebred Stay Alert, who ran away with the 1m1f Dahlia Stakes, tracking the Gosdens’ 6/4 favourite Running Lion into the dip and then drawing away with the rest trailing behind.

Hughie Morrison kept her to high-class opposition last year when her best performance had been a two-length second to Via Sistina in the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh. Most observers thought she was an unlucky loser that day and the subsequent exploits of the winner which precipitated a sale for 2.7 million guineas at last year’s December sale made her the one to beat yesterday.

Via Sistina was bought by Australian interests and has already won and been second, the latter in the Queen Elizabeth Cup at Randwick in Sydney last month. Her debut win at £310k was worth more than either Guineas race and her second place of £454,000 in the QE Cup was only 130 grand short of the combined total of our first two Classics.

If she had won, the prize would have been £1,577,000. No wonder my good friend and one of the most experienced observers of the racing scene here and overseas for many years says, “We’re a laughing stock! Just get rid of off-course bookmakers – they won’t let anyone have a proper bet anyway – and our racing, which is the best in the world, will take off.” 

* Just a note. While talking of bookmakers who won’t take a proper bet, I’ve just received a copy of well-known former Rails bookmaker Stephen Little’s entertaining autobiography. He was someone who did take a bet as “From Bicycle to Bentley” reveals.

The foreword is by his long-time friend Sir Mark Prescott and it’s published by Pen and Sword Books in Barnsley S70 2AS. My pal Sir Rupert Mackeson has been instrumental in getting Pen and Sword to fill what had become an alarming gap in the production of books with a horse racing theme. Well done, Rupert. As much of it overlaps my time in racing, for me it’s a great reminder of those wonderful days.

  - TS

O’Brien shocked by City Of Troy’s Guineas flop

Aidan O’Brien could offer no immediate excuse after City Of Troy’s bubble was well and truly burst in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The son of American Triple Crown hero Justify carried all before him as a two-year-old last season, with debut success at the Curragh followed by successive Newmarket raids as he pulverised his rivals in both the Superlative Stakes on the July Course and the Dewhurst on the Rowley Mile.

O’Brien, whose staggering Classic haul includes 10 2000 Guineas wins and nine Derbys, has never hidden the regard in which he holds City Of Troy, stating after his Dewhurst success: “We’ve never had a horse like him, that’s the way it is – he is the best two-year-old we’ve trained, there’s no doubt.”

Following a seemingly trouble-free run-up to his three-year-old debut, the crowds packed around the Newmarket parade ring to catch a glimpse of the much vaunted colt before he cantered down to post aiming to become the first odds-on winner of the 2000 Guineas since Frankel 13 years ago.

But while Frankel lit up Headquarters with a performance for the ages, 4-6 shot City Of Troy became upset in the starting stalls and while he jumped out quickly to grab the early lead, it was clear from halfway he was struggling to maintain the gallop and he weakened late on to finish ninth of 11.

“He got upset in the stalls before, which he never did before, then he jumped and Ryan just said the pace was on and he was in the middle of the pace and he just flattened on his first run,” O’Brien said.

“We’ll see, it was unusual he got upset in the stalls because he was very happy before. He was in last, but he wasn’t in last by design, that’s just the way the stall things fell.

“There’s no doubt about that (the run was too bad to be true), he wasn’t over-blowing. We’ll take him home and see, sorry about that.

“Of course (I’m shocked), obviously we wouldn’t be here if we thought he was going to do that. Obviously it’s not his run and we’ll see what happened and why it happened.”

While dreams of Triple Crown glory have gone up in smoke for City Of Troy, O’Brien can take heart from the fact Auguste Rodin failed to fire as a hot favourite for last year’s 2000 Guineas before bouncing back to claim Derby glory at Epsom and the Curragh.

The trainer added: “Everything was always straightforward with him, so we’ll try to find out what happened and try to not let it happen again, isn’t that it?”

Richard Hannon admitted to having mixed emotions after seeing Rosallion and Haatem finish second and third respectively.

The East Everleigh handler had been bullish about the prospects of his Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere victor Rosallion in the lead up to the first Classic of the year and he travelled powerfully for much of the way before having to give best late on to the impressive Notable Speech.

Rosallion (right) in action at Ascot
Rosallion (right) in action at Ascot (Adam Davy/PA)

Rosallion’s Craven Stakes-winning stablemate Haatem also emerged with plenty of credit in picking up the bronze medal.

Hannon said: “Both my horses ran great races, I’m disappointed to get beaten but you can’t be disappointed by how they ran.

“Rosallion travelled so well and ran a huge race. I’m not going to lie, when I saw City Of Troy fading out of it I thought ‘there’s the main one gone’.

“I’m disappointed to get beaten, but maybe if he wins wherever we go now it will make it even sweeter.

“It’s probably one of the best Guineas there’s been for 10 years and both of my horses have shown they’re Group One horses – one (Rosallion) has won a Group One and the other one will, so there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Notable Speech strikes Guineas gold

Notable Speech was a surprise winner as City Of Troy failed to land a blow in the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt was sent off the 4-6 favourite after an unbeaten juvenile campaign which culminated in an impressive success in the Dewhurst Stakes.

However, he looked under pressure early on in the hands of Ryan Moore and faded out of the race entirely, leaving 16-1 chance Notable Speech to take up the lead.

Under William Buick, the Charlie Appleby-trained chestnut pulled away in the final furlong to win comfortably by a length and a half.

The Richard Hannon-trained duo of Rosallion and Haatem took minor honours, with a length and three-quarters between them at the line.

William Buick salutes the Newmarket crowd
William Buick salutes the Newmarket crowd (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Notable Speech did not run as a juvenile and had only raced on the all-weather prior to his Classic success, winning each of his three outings at Kempton.

“You don’t see too many come off an all-weather success to a Guineas success, we’ve given him all the time, thinking he was a good horse,” Appleby said.

“He was given that time, a few lads sat on him last year in August time, when you start to see these horses developing more, and they were just saying ‘he’s a nice horse’.

“He was still far too weak to do anything with, as always I’m in the very privileged position to be allowed to give the horses the time that they need, with no pressure.

“He came out on the all-weather there and we all know what he did – he was three from three – in that last start, I think he put a bit of a ‘wow factor’ into what he achieved, with his acceleration.

“William did say ‘I think he’s a French Guineas’ horse because he’s quick, and so therefore we toyed with whether to go there. We were waiting for the Craven to see how the Guineas picture would formulate and we decided to put him in the Guineas.

“We brought him here for a racecourse gallop to give ourselves more confidence in running the horse and that morning here, he was exciting.”

William Buick and Guineas hero Notable Speech
William Buick and Guineas hero Notable Speech (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Appleby admitted he was not confident of beating City Of Troy, but gained plenty of encouragement from that racecourse workout last month.

He added: “William was very impressed with him after this last start and when we brought him here for the racecourse gallop, he put that ‘wow factor’ back in.

“I worked him with a good horse, I told William I was going to put some speed into the gallop and he fired this horse into the dip and out of it, and he flew out of it – Will said he didn’t even know it was there.

“We came here after that with confidence that we had the right horse to be here. I wasn’t saying he was going to win a Guineas off the back of what City Of Troy had done as a two-year-old, but I just felt we had the right horse to be in the field and be competitive.”

Royal Ascot now looks likely to be the next port of call, with Appleby keen to stick to a mile with the Godolphin-owned colt.

William Buick was winning the 2000 Guineas for the first time
William Buick was winning the 2000 Guineas for the first time (David Davies/Jockey Club)

He said: “I’d be surprised if we went beyond a mile. I would imagine it will be Royal Ascot (St James’s Palace Stakes) next, but as always we’ll let the dust settle and let everyone enjoy themselves and speak to all connections.”

The success was Buick’s first in the 2000 Guineas and he was incredibly impressed with how Notable Speech performed.

He said: “I’ve never won the 2000 Guineas before, so it’s really special to do it and Notable Speech is a very, very good horse.

“He took a different route into the Guineas, I would say he was a late bloomer, but he did everything right today.

“I’ve not known him for that long, I came back from Dubai and rode him in February and here we are, but I’ve not often believed in a horse as much as I have this guy.

“I’ve had that much belief in him, sometimes you go home at night and think you have lost the plot altogether!

“That’s just how he does things, he finds it so easy and his change of gear is incredible. I’m over the moon.

“He’s an out-and-out miler, he’s got a lot of speed and I really think he’s a horse that’s going to keep improving as well.”

Rosallion ready to rumble after winter of content

Richard Hannon is ready to unleash Rosallion as he attempts to mark the 10-year anniversary of his first Qipco 2000 Guineas success in style on Saturday.

Hannon saddled Night Of Thunder to deliver a 40-1 shock over the likes of Kingman and Australia in 2014, but now feels he has a colt of the highest order on his hands and one who could be the best to ever walk through the gates of his Wiltshire base.

The son of Blue Point won three of his four outings as a juvenile and after a promising start that saw him scoop Listed honours on just his second run, allayed the disappointment of a first defeat when delivering a statement victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.

Having skipped the early-season trials in preference to completing his Newmarket preparations behind closed doors, the colt is now burdened with the mantle of Britain’s best hope of downing City Of Troy in the opening Classic of the season.

“Mine don’t usually go to the Guineas without a run, but Rosallion has been to Kempton twice and he also went to Newbury the other day, when he had a nice breeze on the bridle,” said Hannon ahead of the British Champions Series event.

“He’s had a coat on him all winter like Paco Boy used to have, almost looking like a snake, and he has the same attitude Canford Cliffs had, as he couldn’t care less.

“It’s a proper Guineas and whatever wins will be a champion. It’s not all about City Of Troy either, as there are others you could fancy too, but I couldn’t be happier with Rosallion. I know he’s the best horse in the yard, and we’ll find out on Saturday if he’s the best horse in the race.”

While Rosallion was tucked away avoiding the early-season action, stablemate Haatem was out causing a shock in the Craven to put himself in the Guineas picture and give Hannon a handy second string to his bow.

Haatem winning the Craven at Newmarket
Haatem winning the Craven at Newmarket (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“Haatem doesn’t work anything like so well as Rosallion, but he’s different,” continued Hannon.

“He’s not a showy work horse, but he goes out and grinds them into the ground and that’s what impressed me in the Craven. He loved the mile there, and he’s a bit of a dark horse.”

Also getting a taste for the Rowley Mile during the Craven meeting was Karl Burke’s Night Raider, with his handler keen for him to have a feel of the turf having excited in two outings on the Southwell tapeta.

Burke said: “He pleases me every time I see him, obviously we don’t ask him to extend in every piece of work, but we’ve got a horse like Flight Plan who is rated 113 and Night Raider can put him to bed pretty quickly.

Night Raider following his racecourse gallop at Newmarket
Night Raider following his racecourse gallop at Newmarket (Adam Morgan/PA)

“He’s got a lot to prove and he’s got a lot of things against him. It’ll be his first run on turf and his first proper gallop on turf was at the Craven meeting, but he came out of that really well.

“Danny Tudhope loves him and I wouldn’t mind having a bet there’ll be nothing travelling any better than him a furlong and a half out and we’ll see what he does after that.”

Another bringing smart all-weather form to the table is the unbeaten Notable Speech, with the son of Dubawi the sole Charlie Appleby-trained representative after dazzling at Kempton last month.

He will be ridden by William Buick, who said: “I haven’t seen much of him since Kempton, but I think he has pleased everyone since and I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s very hard to say until the day (if he can improve again) but I certainly think he deserves to take his chance.”

Ghostwriter also possesses a 100 per cent record and the apple of Clive Cox’s eye brings smart course form to the table after claiming last year’s Royal Lodge with authority.

That was the last time he was seen on the racecourse, with Cox electing to tune-up his son of Invincible Spirit at home.

“We’re very happy and we’re looking forward to Saturday now, the sooner it comes the better,” said Cox.

“We’ve done all we need to do and he’s in good form and we’re looking forward to seeing him run.

“It’s a Guineas, it’s a hot race and that’s what a Guineas is. We really like Ghostwriter, but fully respect all of the quality and strength in depth of the Guineas which you would expect.

“We hope he can equip himself well and show the promise he has shown before. He has course experience he has to put into place and we’re just looking forward to the day.”

Alyanaabi garnered plenty of experience on the Rowley Mile as a two-year-old, winning the Tattersalls Stakes in September before returning to chase home City Of Troy in the Dewhurst.

Owen Burrows’ candidate has has three and a half lengths to find with the odds-on market leader, but was amongst those to get an April sighter of the course in the hands of his big-race pilot Jim Crowley.

Alyanaabi has smart course form
Alyanaabi has smart course form (Tim Goode/PA)

“He came up to Newmarket’s Craven meeting for an away day and I think it really helped him, like so many horses that really sparked him back into life, he’s been a lot sharper since that at home,” said Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell.

“They’ve been happy with him at home and I don’t think it will matter too much if it rains, he got through the ground all right on Dewhurst day. I think it will be unlikely to be that soft anyway.

“We’re hopeful he’ll run a big race. He was second to the good horse (City Of Troy) last year and obviously he has a bit to make up to beat him but he seems in good form, so we’re going there hopeful that he’ll run a big race and it will tell us a bit more with regards the rest of the season.

“He’s not necessarily an out-and-out miler. It’s Too Darn Hot’s first crop so we don’t know so much but he’s out of a Kitten’s Joy mare from the family of Height Of Fashion, so he could easily go further, but at the same time he showed enough boot last year. It’s a finding out mission.”

Meanwhile, Task Force also finished his season with a silver medal at HQ, behind Vandeek in the Middle Park.

Ralph Beckett’s son of Frankel now steps up to a mile attempting to emulate his sire and provide owners Juddmonte with back-to-back 2000 Guineas triumphs.

“He’s all set to go and we’re looking forward to it, he’s in good form and Ralph is happy with him,” said Juddmonte’s Barry Mahon.

“It’s obviously a big task to take on the top two in the market, but as I read somewhere earlier in the week, there’s only been one odds-on winner of the Guineas in the last 30 years and that was Frankel, so upsets do happen.

“We’re happy with our colt, we’re looking forward to seeing him at a mile and hopefully we’ll have a good result.

“You’d like to think on pedigree he will stay. Last year he was a little keen at times, hence we went six furlongs. But when you watch the Middle Park back, he got caught for a bit of toe between the two and the one and stayed on up the hill and hit the line very strong, which is encouraging.

“You can never be confident until you try it, but we’re hopeful.”

National hero Murphy relishing Rosallion’s bid for 2000 Guineas glory

Timmy Murphy is no stranger to being centre of attention, enjoying success on the big stage. But he could now cut a proud figure from his sofa if Rosallion downs City Of Troy in Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas.

Richard Hannon has made no secret of the regard in which he holds Rosallion, but it is perhaps the former jockey who knows Britain’s main hope for the opening Classic of the summer best and the man with the pleasure of putting the son of Blue Point through his paces at Hannon’s Everleigh base.

Murphy rode over 1,000 winners in Britain during his time in the saddle, returning to the Cheltenham Festival winner’s enclosure eight times and perhaps enjoying his finest hour aboard Comply Or Die in the 2008 Grand National.

Timmy Murphy kisses the Grand National trophy
Timmy Murphy kisses the Grand National trophy (Peter Byrne/PA)

However, the 49-year-old has been happy to play a low-key role since his retirement in 2018 and is now content to take a back seat and enjoy his behind-the-scenes position with Rosallion from afar.

Murphy said: “I won’t be there on Saturday, I’ll watch him on the television. He won’t be running any faster because I’m there.

“It’s different to being a jockey where you turn up on the day, do what you do and enjoy your success. But when you’re involved with him day in, day out, it’s pretty satisfying when you see them strut their stuff on the track.”

Rosallion’s talent has been obvious from an early stage, starting off like so many of Hannon’s best alumni at Newbury before blitzing the opposition to claim Listed honours on just his second start at Ascot.

That Pat Eddery Stakes success saw him sent off odds-on for the Champagne Stakes, but it was Doncaster disappointment on that September day as he could only finish third on the soft Town Moor going.

If not a case of bubble burst, there were a few moments of soul-searching for Hannon, whose assertions Rosallion was the real deal faced their first serious test.

He need not have worried as the old adage of form is temporary, class is permanent rang true just two weeks later in Paris, with the colt reigniting Classic dreams with a bloodless display in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.

Now those Classic hopes and dreams are ready to be put to the test, with Murphy expecting Rosallion’s temperament to prove the trump card as the “cool kid” of Wiltshire faces his date with destiny.

He said: “He’s a very straightforward horse who has no issues. He’s very honest, he has a great temperament and he’s just so straightforward so my job is really easy.

“My only instructions when I got on him was to mind him – ride him properly, getting him using himself and keep him safe.

“His main quality is his temperament, nothing fazes him and he’s just like a cool kid who takes everything in his stride. He wouldn’t be bothered by the big day – he’s just a professional.”

Not only is Hannon certain on the talent that Rosallion possesses, he has no doubt about the importance Murphy has played in his development from precocious two-year-old to leading Classic contender.

“Timmy rides him every day and has done a fantastic job,” said Hannon.

“He can be a little bit keen and Timmy is one of those who is a horseman’s horseman. He looks after him every day and he has no interest finding out how good he is.

“He rode him last year and has been absolutely instrumental in the horse’s preparation.”

Victory would be the perfect way for Hannon to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Night Of Thunder’s shock victory over Kingman in the 2014 2000 Guineas.

Night of Thunder (left) caused a shock in the 2014 2000 Guineas
Night of Thunder (left) caused a shock in the 2014 2000 Guineas (Steve Parsons/PA)

That was Hannon’s first Classic victory in the very first season after taking over the licence from his decorated father Richard Hannon Snr and he would go on to add the fillies’ equivalent with Billesdon Brook in 2018.

However, both were far from fancied and having foregone taking Rosallion to one of the early-season trials, Hannon is hoping to strike with a horse he feels could be the best to ever set foot in his family’s historic stables.

“Night Of Thunder was 40-1, Billesdon Brook was 66-1, so it would be nice to win a Guineas with one I think could win,” he said.

“I’ve been very happy with him. It was going to be soft ground at both Newmarket and Newbury and it would not quite have been a rush to get him to a trial, but I would rather make sure everything is right for Guineas day.

Richard Hannon has always held Rosallion in the highest regard
Richard Hannon has always held Rosallion in the highest regard (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I’m capable of getting them beat in a trial then winning the Guineas. But we’ve done loads with him and he will go there as fit as a fiddle. He’ll be fit enough, it’s just if he’s good enough.

“We’re very happy with him and his preparation has been pretty much unhindered by anything.”

The fly in the ointment to any coronation of Rosallion at Newmarket comes in the form of a certain City Of Troy, Aidan O’Brien’s all-conquering two-year-old who answered every question with interest throughout the 2023 season.

He is the only horse ahead of Rosallion in the Guineas market and despite him proving a potential spanner in Hannon’s grand plan, both trainer and work rider retain full belief in the hand they possess.

Rosallion will take on City Of Troy at Newmarket
Rosallion will take on City Of Troy at Newmarket (Adam Davy/PA)

Hannon said: “He’s already a Group One winner, so I’m pretty much convinced he is the horse I think he is. But these Irish come over and they can get in the way sometimes.

“City Of Troy looks a very good horse, but I’m hoping mine is and I’m looking forward to the Guineas as much as anyone and if he gets beat, we’ll just have to pick ourselves up and move on to the next one.”

Murphy added: “His form is really solid, but nobody will know until the day basically.

“Two-year-olds can improve or disimprove as a three-year-old and who knows really. We couldn’t be any happier with Rosallion though, physically he has done well, his work is very good and we go there very happy.”

City Of Troy tops 11-strong list for 2000 Guineas

Ballydoyle’s potential superstar City Of Troy heads a field of 11 in Saturday’s Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket.

Unbeaten in three outings last season, he has sparked Triple Crown dreams once more for Aidan O’Brien and his Coolmore owners.

Having come so close with in 2012 with Camelot, who won the Guineas and the Derby before finishing a three-quarter-length second to Encke in the St Leger, winning all three Classics remains an itch O’Brien would love to scratch. No horse has won it since Nijinsky in 1970.

City Of Troy, by an American Triple Crown winner in Justify, looked imperious when winning the Dewhurst last season.

His main danger according to the bookmakers is the Richard Hannon-trained Rosallion, who was very impressive in claiming Group One glory in France last autumn. Hannon also runs the cosy Craven scorer Haatem.

Night Raider following his racecourse gallop at Newmarket
Night Raider following his racecourse gallop at Newmarket (Adam Morgan/PA)

There are plenty of other unbeaten colts with untapped potential and perhaps at the top of the list is Karl Burke’s Night Raider who has had just two outings on the all-weather, winning by nine lengths on the first occasion and five lengths at the second time of asking.

His jockey Danny Tudhope said: “He obviously wasn’t up against much in either of his races but he couldn’t have been more impressive.

“His work at home has been absolutely outstanding, and he’s really maturing into himself. I sat on him on Tuesday morning for a little breeze, and he felt a million dollars.

“He had a gallop on grass for the first time at the Craven meeting and I thought he handled the track unbelievably well.

“You might say there’s a question mark over him getting the mile, but from the way he’s finished his races, I’d say he’ll stay no problem.”

Ghostwriter won the Royal Lodge last year
Ghostwriter won the Royal Lodge last year (Tim Goode/PA)

Charlie Appleby’s Notable Speech has followed a similar path to Night Raider with three wins at Kempton, while Clive Cox’s Ghostwriter is sure to be staying on stronger than most given the way he won the Royal Lodge at two.

Charlie Hills’ Iberian had Rosallion behind him when winning the Champagne Stakes and the Owen Burrows-trained Alyanaabi got closest to City Of Troy in the Dewhurst.

Kevin Ryan’s promising Inisherin, Ralph Beckett’s Task Force and Ed Walker’s Ten Bob Tony, the mount of Saffie Osborne, complete the list.

The only three not declared at the 48-hour stage were Diego Velazquez, Henry Longfellow and River Tiber, all trained by O’Brien.

‘Solid chance’ for Marquand to make Guineas impact this weekend

Tom Marquand is confident Iberian and Porta Fortuna have what it takes to make their presence felt in their respective bids for Guineas glory at Newmarket this weekend.

Four years on from breaking his Classic duck aboard the Joseph O’Brien-trained Galileo Chrome in a behind-closed-doors St Leger at Doncaster, the leading rider is delighted to have a chance of “swinging the bat” in both the Qipco 2000 Guineas on Saturday and the 1000 Guineas 24 hours later.

The Charlie Hills-trained Iberian won two of his first three starts last season, most notably seeing of a pair of subsequent Group One winners in Sunway and Rosallion in the Group Two Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.

Having subsequently bounced back to his best with victory in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, Rosallion is widely considered the biggest threat to red-hot favourite City Of Troy in the colts’ Classic, whereas Iberian is a 25-1 shot after failing to fire behind the latter in the Dewhurst Stakes in October.

However, Marquand is happy to forgive the Lope De Vega colt one disappointing performance and believes he can outrun his odds after delighting connections in a racecourse gallop at the Craven meeting last month.

“He showed up to a good level on a couple of occasions last season and was probably most impressive in the Champagne. He’s got a good turn of foot and I galloped him on the racecourse the other day and he felt great,” he said.

“Without that last run, he probably wouldn’t be the price that he is. He’s a nice-sized horse so you’d like to think improvement will come from a winter under his belt and I’m looking forward to getting back on board him.

Iberian after galloping at Newmarket
Iberian after galloping at Newmarket (Adam Morgan/PA)

“To be perfectly honest I think he’s pretty versatile with ground. I’ve galloped him on faster ground and when I rode him in the Champagne it was quite hard work that day. I think his run in the Dewhurst was more down to the fact he’d danced a couple of big dances and it might have just caught up with him.

“I’d like to think he’ll run a big race, he’s put Rosallion, who is one of the big talking horses in the Guineas, behind him before. Obviously they thought Rosallion underperformed at Doncaster, but it still gives you a bit of confidence that the form has held up and the Champagne winner going into their three-year-old season is something to look forward to.”

In the fillies’ version, Marquand is set to partner Donnacha O’Brien’s Cheveley Park Stakes heroine Porta Fortuna for the first time.

The daughter of Caravaggio’s stamina is not assured, but she was only beaten half a length into second over a turning mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita on her most recent outing and Marquand feels the fact she is already a Group One winner on the track is a huge positive.

He added: “It’s a massive ride to pick up. That course form counts for plenty, as we all know, and she was only beaten half a length in America, which was obviously a great run.

“It’s great to be getting the leg-up on what is a class filly. There is a question mark about the trip, but Newmarket is a track where if you don’t have enough speed equally you’re in trouble.

“She’ll need to prove she stays over a straight mile, hopefully she can.”

Porta Fortuna (right) winning the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket
Porta Fortuna (right) winning the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket (Tim Goode/PA)

Following another profitable winter campaign in Australia, Marquand admits it would be the perfect start to the British season if he can bag one of this weekend’s Rowley Mile Classics.

“We all look at this meeting as when our really busy period starts and the two Guineas are the first real ‘biggies’ that you come across at the start of the season,” he said.

“It’s hard to find horses for races like that and I’m hoping that I’ve found two that will at least give me a solid chance of swinging the bat in both races.”

City Of Troy tops 14 contenders for 2000 Guineas gold

City Of Troy will face a maximum of 13 rivals when he puts his unbeaten record and huge reputation on the line in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

The Justify colt carried all before him as a juvenile, with debut success at the Curragh followed by successive Newmarket wins in the the Superlative and the Dewhurst Stakes, with trainer Aidan O’Brien stating after the latter success: “He is the best two-year-old we’ve trained, there’s no doubt.”

City Of Troy will be prohibitive odds to provide the master of Ballydoyle with an 11th victory in the first colts’ Classic of the season on Saturday, but will find several talented rivals lying in wait.

The clear-second favourite is the Richard Hannon-trained Rosallion, not seen since landing the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at ParisLongchamp in October, while Clive Cox’s Royal Lodge hero Ghostwriter is another who brings high-class course and distance form to the table.

One of the most intriguing runners is undoubtedly Night Raider, who has twice dominated his rivals on the all-weather at Southwell and trainer Karl Burke is in no doubt he possesses the required ability to make the huge step up to the top level this weekend.

He said: “He’s a lovely animal and whatever he does on Saturday, he’s going to keep improving through the year. He’s got a lot of scope, he’s a high-class animal and I’m sure he’s a Group One horse in the making.

“Whether Saturday comes a bit too soon for him, and obviously it’s a high-class race as well, we’ll have to wait and see, but he’s a horse with a lot of potential and a lot of ability – I don’t think I’ve seen a horse work better up the Polytrack in Middleham in the 23 years since we’ve been here.

“He’s just got an awfully high cruising speed and he can quicken off it as well. Clifford Lee rode him for the first time in a long time this morning and he said it’s like driving a car with 10 gears – every time you time you move on him he goes forward.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him run, there’s no real pressure with him. There’s a few horses with bigger reputations than him going into it and hopefully we can burst a few balloons.”

Night Raider following his racecourse gallop at Newmarket
Night Raider following his racecourse gallop at Newmarket (Adam Morgan/PA)

While Burke insists he has the “utmost respect” for the opposition, the Spigot Lodge handler is certainly not running scared.

He added: “Rosallion put up a fantastic performance in France, the negative for him is the rain that’s about this week – Richard has stated that he doesn’t want soft ground for the horse and I don’t think it will be any better than proper good ground. He’s obviously a high-class horse and I know his owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid (owner) is very excited by him.

“When Night Raider won first time up at Southwell, there was a lot of talk about it being the eighth best debut of the year, so I went back and watched the other seven debuts, including City Of Troy’s, and he got four or five good smacks on the backside to go and win his maiden.

“How much improvement is there, I don’t know. He’s obviously won very impressively, but he’s been asked to go and do his job.

“Our fellow possesses a lot of speed and I hope we’re drawn near City Of Troy so we can sit and follow him through the race.”

Another unknown quantity is Charlie Appleby’s Notable Speech, who has not been seriously troubled in three starts so far on the all-weather at Kempton.

Other likely contenders include Dewhurst runner-up Alyanaabi, trained by Owen Burrows, Ralph Beckett’s Middle Park second Task Force and Hannon’s Craven winner Haatem.

O’Brien has also left in Henry Longfellow and River Tiber alongside City Of Troy, although the former is widely expected to wait for the French 2000 Guineas the following weekend.

City Of Troy remains ‘in great form’ after latest work-out

Aidan O’Brien’s Qipco 2000 Guineas favourite City Of Troy pleased connections in a gallop on Friday ahead of next week’s Classic.

The unbeaten Justify colt sparked Triple Crown dreams so impressive was he in his three races last season.

While the intention remains to try him on dirt at some stage to provide Coolmore with an elusive super-sire of dirt and turf horses, his initial priority is the first Classic of the season next Saturday.

“He’s in great form, he worked today and we’re very happy with him. Dean (Gallagher) was delighted with him, Aidan was delighted with him, fingers crossed he gets there in one piece, but it is all systems go,” said Paul Smith, son of Derrick Smith, one of the Coolmore partners, on ITV Racing.

“He’s grown a little bit, you’ll see that at Newmarket next week. He’s got a beautiful temperament, he had that as a two-year-old and still has it now, he takes his work very well, he’s just a joy to be around. They are very happy with him.

“It (dirt racing) is a possibility, it’s the old cliché of taking it a race at a time, see how he does next week, go from there, perhaps the Derby and see where he goes then.

“We’re looking forward to it.”

Footage of the work-out was posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, by Coolmore and connections were clearly delighted with the gallop.

Gallagher declared he was “very happy with his work” and stated: “He travelled with a very high tempo.”

The rider added: “The paces were very solid from the word go and he found it very comfortable…he quickened up off the bend…and he galloped strongly to the line, even getting harder and stronger at the line.”

Whilst watching City Of Troy run, O’Brien commented: “See the happy head, see when their ears come forward straight away – there was no blow, see his ears pricked.

“Happy, relaxed and smooth – moved brilliant, delighted yeah!”

Al Musmak aiming to outrun Guineas odds

Al Musmak will try to defy his outsider status when he lines up in the Qipco 2000 Guineas on Saturday week.

Roger Varian’s son of Night Of Thunder brings smart form to the table with a Listed win in Haydock’s Ascendant Stakes sandwiched by highly-creditable placed efforts behind Rosallion at Ascot and then on his final start of the year when second to Ghostwriter in the Royal Lodge.

A return to the Rowley Mile for the opening Classic of the season has been on the cards ever since, with the Carlburg Stables handler happy to send his colt into big-race action on his first start of the campaign.

“It’s our intention to run Al Musmak in the 2000 Guineas and he’s training nicely at home,” said Varian.

“He’s got some very solid form from last year, finishing runner-up to Rosallion in the Pat Eddery Stakes and winning a strong Ascendant Stakes where the second, third and fourth all run at Sandown in the Classic Trial and we’ll be keen to have a good look at that form. Then he wasn’t beaten too far by the Clive Cox horse (Ghostwriter) when second in the Royal Lodge.

“He’s a 108-rated, strong performer and it’s always been our intention to go straight to a Guineas with him and we’re looking forward to doing that.”

Al Musmak is currently rated a 50-1 shot for the Guineas by the bookmakers and although that may underestimate the strength of his juvenile form, Varian hopes he is capable of finding the improvement required to do himself justice on May 4.

Al Musmak has some smart form to his name
Al Musmak has some smart form to his name (Tim Goode/PA)

“There are a lot of good horses from those autumn races and he’s got solid form,” added Varian.

“He’s 108 not 118, so he needs to improve to bring home a 2000 Guineas. But he’s going into the race fresh, he’s wintered well and he looks a stronger horse – it’s not beyond him to run well.”

Meanwhile, Varian is still to decide if either of his two entries in the following day’s Qipco 1000 Guineas will face the starter.

Both True Cyan and Elmalka were seen in trial action last week, with the former finishing a respectable fourth having struggled for cover in the Nell Gwyn and the latter an eye-catching third in the Fred Darling, flying home in the closing stages to be beaten only half a length.

True Cyan has run twice at Newmarket
True Cyan has run twice at Newmarket (PA)

The Newmarket trainer was pleased with both fillies, especially Elmalka, and a final decision on their Classic participation will be left as late as possible.

Varian continued: “Elmalka finished off really well (at Newbury). She was a bit green and hit a flat spot and I think she would have been nicely on top with another 100 yards, so it was a very good run and we were delighted with her.

“We’ve got no commitment on either at the moment and will see how they both train over the next seven days, then we will be in a better position come the time next week when we have to decide.

“It’s still on the table for both fillies and they were left in at Tuesday’s forfeit stage and have both come out of their races well, but I don’t know yet if either will line-up.”

Task Force out to emulate exalted parents in 2000 Guineas

Task Force will be primed to perfection for his Qipco 2000 Guineas tilt after thriving in a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Monday.

The Middle Park runner-up found just sprint star Vandeek too good when visiting Newmarket last autumn and is preparing to step up to a mile on his return to the Rowley Mile for the opening Classic of the season.

Although solely racing at six furlongs in his three starts at two, the Ralph Beckett-trained son of Frankel is bred to be a Guineas contender, with not only his sire a champion at the home of racing but also his dam Special Duty, who was the 1000 Guineas victor in 2010.

Having begun putting the finishing touches to his Guineas preparations with a racecourse sighter over six furlongs, connections are now eagerly looking forward to Task Force’s shot at glory on May 4.

Ralph Beckett took Task Force for a racecourse gallop on Monday
Ralph Beckett took Task Force for a racecourse gallop on Monday (Mike Egerton/PA)

“The gallop went well and the horse did everything Ralph wanted him to do,” said Barry Mahon, European racing manager for owners Juddmonte.

“He worked six furlongs and Ralph came away happy with the horse and it leaves him on track for the Guineas on Saturday week.

“He is bred to win a Classic as he’s by a Guineas winner out of a Guineas winner and there are not many horses who boast a pedigree like that. He’s a nice horse and showed good form last year.

“He’s done well from two to three and has changed shape a lot. We feel he definitely doesn’t look a sprinter and last year he was a bit keen and a bit mentally immature, so we kept him to six furlongs and he had the talent to be able to perform over that distance. Now we’re looking forward to seeing if he can be just as effective to win over a mile.”

Task Force is as short as 12-1 for the 2000 Guineas and with no horse leaping out of the pack with a statement performance during the recent trials, connections hope they are in possession of one of the unexposed candidates who can shape up well against the formidable might of City Of Troy and Rosallion.

Mahon continued: “We’re under no illusions and it’s going to be a hard task to beat the two at the top of the market who both look exceptionally talented colts, but it’s a Classic and we have a horse who has shown Group One form and who we think will stay a mile so we have to give it a go and we’re excited to run him.

“We won’t find out until the day whether we’re up to that standard or not, but it’s nice to be able to partake and if there are any weaknesses in the top two, then we hope we are there to pick up the pieces.”

However, there will not be any Juddmonte representation in the Qipco 1000 Guineas, with the Beckett-trained fillies Skellet and Indelible to sit out the Newmarket action.

Skellet (left) will miss the Qipco 1000 Guineas
Skellet (left) will miss the Qipco 1000 Guineas (Nigel French/PA)

Skellet was last seen finishing a neck second to Nell Gwyn runner-up Dance Sequence in the Oh So Sharp Stakes but has met with a setback and although the form of Indelible’s two appearances late last year have a smart look to them, her team are keen not to rush her into Classic action.

Both fillies will be given plenty of time to flourish over the next few weeks, with the French and Irish versions of the Guineas possible options available moving forwards.

“They are coming along in their own time and are a little bit behind,” continued Mahon.

“Indelible has just taken a bit of time and Skellet had a small setback that has caused her to miss a couple of days training – nothing of any real significance, just a nuisance of a thing which has meant she’s had to have two or three days off.

“We just said we would sit tight and let them come to themselves and you have a French Guineas 10 or 12 days after the English Guineas and then you have an Irish one in another 10 or 12 days after France and there is no point fitting a square peg in a round hole if they are not ready for Newmarket.”

Burrows believes Alyanaabi is ready for 2000 Guineas bid

It is “all systems go” in Alyanaabi’s 2000 Guineas bid after pleasing trainer Owen Burrows in a racecourse gallop at Newmarket.

The Too Darn Hot colt won on his debut at Salisbury last June and followed up that run when finishing fourth of 10 in the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot.

On the latter occasion he was beaten by a subsequent Group One scorer in Richard Hannon’s Rosallion and, after winning the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket, he then crossed paths with perhaps the highest-regarded horse in training in City Of Troy.

The meeting was in the Dewhurst Stakes, widely considered to be an early Classic trial, and although City Of Troy’s significant reputation was not dented, Alyanaabi still impressed when coming home as runner-up behind him.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt is the clear favourite for the Qipco-sponsored Guineas after an exemplary two-year-old campaign, with Alyanaabi headed for the same race after working well in a racecourse gallop ahead of the Craven meeting.

“He came out of that fine, he did a bit of work on Saturday as the ground was beautiful at home last weekend,” said Burrows.

“We’re getting a drop of rain again but nothing too measurable and I think he appreciated the nice ground on Saturday.

“He’s in good form and, touch wood, it’s all systems go now.”

Whilst the Shadwell owned and bred Alyanaabi will hold out for the Guineas, other contenders have contested a trial beforehand and added more context to his juvenile form.

Alyanaabi
Alyanaabi, second left, winning the Tattersalls Stakes last September (Tim Goode/PA)

One such horse is Hannon’s Haatem, fifth in the Dewhurst and then the clear winner of the Craven Stakes at Newmarket last week.

Reflecting on the outcome of the trials, Burrows said: “Richard Hannon’s horse won well at Newmarket, he was behind us in the Dewhurst but it’s a new year.

“I shouldn’t think Aidan has lost too much sleep, we’ve all got City Of Troy to beat if he turns up in the same form he was in as a two-year-old.

“We’ve all got to take him on, but you can’t run from one horse.”

Straight to the 2000 Guineas for Rosallion, says Hannon

Richard Hannon’s Group One winner Rosallion will head straight for the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

Hannon and owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid had been weighing up whether to take in a trial en route to the Newmarket Classic, for which the Blue Point colt is a best-riced 6-1 second-favourite behind City Of Troy.

However, they have decided the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner will avoid a testing run in soft ground and go there fresh.

“We have made the call that due to the unbelievable amount of rain we have had over the past months, Rosallion will not have a prep run and will head straight to the 2000 Guineas in May,” said Hannon on his website, www.richardhannonracing.co.uk.

“It has been a tough decision for both myself and his owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, but with the ground as testing as it currently is, a run now would be too hard for him to recover in just two weeks.

“Rosallion has been in great form at home and we have given him two away days now where he has looked very impressive. He is fit and well and we are confident that he goes to Newmarket ready to take his chance.”

Cox undecided on Guineas trial for Ghostwriter

Clive Cox is “open-minded” as to whether to give his unbeaten colt Ghostwriter a prep run ahead of the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

The son of Invincible Spirit won each of his three starts as a juvenile, completing his hat-trick with a taking Group Two victory in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket in September.

Cox is delighted with how his charge has wintered and is now readying the Jeff Smith-owned three-year-old for a tilt at Classic glory on the first Saturday in May.

“Ghostwriter is really pleasing me, we’ve had a great winter with him and he’s trained well through the spring,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.

“I’m not sure about a trial, I think we’re open-minded. We definitely need to have him on fire for the Guineas in the first week of May and the going will play a part in whether we do have a trial or whether he has a racecourse gallop.”

Ghostwriter also holds an entry in the Derby at Epsom on June 1, with Cox optimistic he will stay further than the straight mile of the Guineas.

He added: “He won over a mile at two and being out of a Champs Elysees mare, I think he could stay a little bit further.

“He’s got an entry in the Dante as well, so we’ve got longer trips in mind, but obviously he’s got a bit of class to win like he did at two and we’ll feel our way as we go regarding that (trip).

“I think he’s quite versatile ground-wise, but he’s only run on a quicker surface.”

Teal plotting direct 2000 Guineas route for Dancing Gemini

Roger Teal’s Dancing Gemini could start his campaign in either the French or the English 2000 Guineas.

The Camelot colt was twice a winner as a juvenile, taking a Newbury maiden and then the Listed Flying Scotsman at Doncaster.

He then stepped up to Group One level to contest the Kameko Futurity Trophy back at Doncaster, a mile event run on heavy ground in October.

There he finished fifth as Charlie’s Appleby’s Ancient Wisdom took first place, a run Teal has taken the positives from as Dancing Gemini gained experience ahead of his three-year-old campaign.

Dancing Gemini (centre) impressed in Listed company
Dancing Gemini (centre) impressed in Listed company (Tim Goode/PA)

“Conditions were soft when we won the Listed race but it wasn’t as bad as when we ran him in the Group One,” he said.

“We perhaps committed him too soon and then there was the horse that got upset in the stalls, so there was a delay as they’d all been loaded.

“He probably used up a bit of nervous energy, but he didn’t run bad at all in those conditions.”

Teal is pleased with how the colt has developed over the winter and is taking aim at either the French or English Guineas as his opening run of the season.

“He’s taken his work very well, he looks like he’s come forward so we’re really happy,” he said.

“He’s in both Guineas, French and English, so that’s what we’re aiming at. We’ll see a bit closer to the time which one we’re going to go for.

“He’s by a Derby winner and out of an Australia mare, so he’s bred to get the trip. Fingers crossed he goes well in the Guineas so we can start to dream big.

Dancing Gemini (right) in action at Doncaster
Dancing Gemini (right) in action at Doncaster (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“He was a bit of a frame last year but he was always growing, he was a bit bum high but he seems to have levelled off now.

“He’s done very well, we’re very happy with him. He’s not a massive horse but he is a nice stamp, a nice athletic animal.

“He’s a Camelot and he tends to stamp them as good-looking horses.”