2000 GUINEAS MISSING LEADING CONTENDERS
For the hardcore turf aficionado, an occasional glance at the table of past winners of a Classic race is a feature of life. One may want to see who held the time record, or who won at the longest odds or some other trivial tit-bit. However, the bare result of the race referred to does not tell you who was absent. For example, few would dispute the fact that A.P. Indy would have won the Kentucky Derby of 1992 had he not developed lameness on the morning of the race. With the passage of time, these missing candidates for honours sometimes get overlooked.
One wonders what the turf follower in the year 2070 A.D. might make of the 2019 Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. One after the other, the leading candidates have toppled like ninepins due to changes of plan or setbacks that have occurred at just the wrong time! First to defect was last season’s second-ranked juvenile, Godolphin’s Quorto (by Dubawi), who suffered a soft tissue injury in mid-March while wintering in Dubai.
The biggest blow came when leading trainer John Gosden ran out of time to get pre-race favourite Too Darn Hot (also by Dubawi) ready for the Classic, scheduled to be run at 3:35 p.m. (8:05 p.m. in India) on Saturday, May 4th, over the Rowley Mile. Hints of his infirmity first appeared when he was forced to miss the Classic trial, the Greenham Stakes, on April 13th. At that stage it looked as if he might still make the big race, but it was not to be.
Meanwhile his stablemate, the highly-promising Calyx (by Kingman), took a long time returning to action after his last public appearance in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June 2018 and it proved impossible to give him the prep race he needed to be “spot on” for the Guineas, so he was switched to a smaller event (which he won handsomely).
The next absentee was the Andre Fabre-trained Persian King, whose connections chose to remain in France for their equivalent after the Kingman colt had advertised his claims by scoring in the Prix de Fontainebleau. Also, Mohaather (by Showcasing) – who continued his progress when annexing the Greenham in which Too Darn Hot had failed to line up – himself suffered a bone bruise!
No true professional likes to see rivals get hurt, but opposing trainers would have been less than human had they not taken note of these developments with a degree of quiet satisfaction that their own wards had remained intact. In fact, the numbers have been boosted by the supplementation of Godolphin’s unbeaten Al Hilalee (yet another by Dubawi), who has not been seen out for 259 days. He represents the “in-form” team of Charlie Appleby and William Buick but might be better with a run under his belt.
The top two spots in the betting have been taken by the Ballydoyle pair of Ten Sovereigns (by No Nay Never), at 10 to 3, and Magna Grecia (by Invincible Spirit) – at 9/2. With Ryan Moore choosing the former, he has contracted in price while the latter has eased. Aidan O’Brien has a phenomenal record in the race, having sent out 9 previous winners in the past 21 years! Neither contender has been seen this season, which is no handicap as Saxon Warrior showed last year, but keen observers feel that Ten Sovereigns might find it a shade too far, while Magna Grecia, who will be ridden by last year’s champion jockey in Ireland, Donnacha O’Brien, could need further to shine.
Sheikh Hamdan’s Madhmoon (by Dawn Approach) lost a bit of his lustre when beaten half a length in the Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial Stakes in Ireland in early April, but it’s possible he needed the run. Moreover he still had a wintery coat. Of late he has been shining in his preparatory workouts. Last year, he had impressed one and all with his scope and talent while picking up a pair of winning brackets from his two starts. Associated with the same professionals that guided the same owner’s Awtaad to an Irish 2000 Guineas triumph – Kevin Prendergast and Chris Hayes – he could well do the trick at 7 to 1.
One to keep an eye on is the Bahrain-owned Skardu (by Shamardal), who is 2-for-2 for William Haggas. One does not know quite know how talented he is – although we do know that he is well up to Group standard as he demonstrated when winning the Gr.3 bet365 Craven Stakes over course and distance last month on only his second start. The muscular chestnut with a turn of foot will surely benefit from the presence of James Doyle in the saddle and is attractively priced at 7 to 1.
With both the principal Gosden entries out of the picture, Frankie Dettori was free to ride outside his stable and his services were snapped up by Martyn Meade for his high-class Advertise (by Showcasing), who races under the Phoenix Thoroughbreds banner, an outfit floated by Amer Abdulaziz. Never out of the first two, the colt has not raced for 203 days and is sprint-bred to boot. While he is certainly a contender, the others named earlier have better credentials.
Amongst the more exposed of the 19 runners is Godolphin’s other runner, Royal Marine (by Raven’s Pass), a Group 1 winner at two. Fourth at both his starts this term, he has something to make up on Skardu which would be tough as it is and is doubly so as the last-named himself will have improved. Also, the last 16 winners have all won or placed at their most recent start prior to the Guineas, so that seems to rule him out.
Gosden is not empty-handed as his recent Fielden Stakes hero Kick On (by Charm Spirit) takes his place here sporting the Qatar Racing silks with their retained rider Oisin Murphy astride. Odds of 20 to 1 are on offer. Momkin (by Bated Breath) is at 33 to 1 but showed a great attitude when a close runner-up in the Craven, beaten only a neck. Seamie Heffernan takes a breather from his Coolmore duties to ride him.
Overall, it is an open race although it probably contains one or more runners that progresses to the upper echelons of the Turf. Only time will tell.