AIDAN O’Brien holds the key to the first two Classics at Newmarket this weekend, saddling favourites Camelot and Maybe, but recent results point to big-priced runners filling the frame. Camelot has been at short odds to give O’Brien his sixth 2000 Guineas scalp since making mincemeat of his rivals in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. Similarly, Maybe has traded at a skinny price for the 1000 Guineas after stringing together five unbeaten runs in a flawless first season, so the enterprising approach may lie in identifying a lively each-way outsider, especially if the mud is flying.
Frankel turned last year’s colts’ classic into a procession, with Dubawi Gold (33-1), Native Khan (16-1) and Slim Shadey (200-1) following in his jetstream. Twelve months earlier, French outsider Mafki (33-1) got the better of Dick Turpin (16-1), Canford Cliffs (12-1) and Xtension (25-1), underlining the point made earlier that it is well worth excavating a value bet.
French trainer Mikel Delzangles caused an upset with Mafki and this year he sends over HERMIVAL (3.10). The son of Dubawi, himself an Irish 2000 Guineas winner on a yielding surface, scored on heavy ground as a juvenile at Saint-Cloud and Delzangles insists Hermival will strip a lot sharper for his prep run in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Lafitte (a race Mafki won en route to Newmarket glory). Hermival finished third that day, one place behind Abtaal, who reopposes here with an obvious chance for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget.
O’Brien is worried soft ground could blunt Camelot’s brilliance but stablemate Power has no such worries. He beat Dragon Pulse in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh on soft ground in September and displayed great grit and determination to repel Roman Soldier in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.
There is plenty of value elsewhere, too. Richard Hannon, typically, has been quick out of the blocks this spring but his horses are often overpriced by bookmakers in the first Classic. According to the bookmakers, his principal contender is impressive Newmarket scorer Trumpet Major but stablemate Bronterre should go well at a loud price. Certainly, Bronterre must leave behind his disappointing effort in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, when only third behind Caspar Netscher, but there may have been mitigating circumstances. He took a fierce grip and Ryan Moore had little option but to give him his head. After doing the donkey work on testing ground, Bronterre was a sitting duck that day and Saturday’s larger field should permit more restraint, tactics which worked so well when Bronterre romped home by five lengths on softish ground at Goodwood last season. Born To Sea, a half-brother to Sea The Stars, could give John Oxx a memorable family double in a race that is more open than the betting suggests.
Elsewhere on Saturday’s card at HQ, Andre Fabre’s MEANDRE (2.30) is another top cross-Channel challenger and will be hard to beat in the Jockey Club Stakes. The grey missed the Arc after finishing second in one of the traditional Paris trials, the Prix Niel, but earlier scored at Longchamp to complete a hat-trick of impressive victories. St Leger hero Masked Marvel will serve it up to the Gallic raider, while Delzangles has a very interesting runner in Dunaden, who has enjoyed a long break since winning the Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Vase. Sir Michael Stoute’s Fiorente and Quest for Peace, representing Luca Cumani, add lustre to a terrific middle-distance contest.
With the emphasis on stamina at soggy Goodwood, mudlark TAIKOO (3.30) will be in his element in the 1m 6f Betfred Mobile Sports Handicap. Campaigned in winter on the deep Fibresand at Southwell, Taikoo likes it bottomless on turf, winning at Ayr (heavy) in September and almost defying a 4lb rise when second the following month at Haydock (heavy).
Earlier on the card, Sir Henry Cecil’s smart mare VITA NOVA (2.15) will be a short price to outclass her rivals in the Betfred-sponsored Listed event. A reproduction of her second to Blue Bunting in the Yorkshire Oaks would make her very difficult to overturn in this lesser company.
In Sunday’s 1000 Guineas, Maybe is a very worthy favourite and the most likely winner. However, stablemate HOMECOMING QUEEN (3.15) could well outrun her current odds of 33-1. She is the most battle-hardened filly in the line-up (this is her 14th start) and a proven ability to handle testing conditions is a huge plus factor. Homecoming Queen beat Fire Lily at Leopardstown three weeks ago, a fine effort considering Fire Lily finished runner-up in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at the Arc fixture last autumn.
Unbeaten Moonstone Magic’s penchant for soft ground has seen her heavily supported all week but this is a big step up in class. French-trained Mashoora is a more likely candidate in my book, having chased home Elusive Kate at Deauville in late August. Mashoora’s sire, Barathea, enjoyed some cut in the ground and Hamdan Al Maktoum’s raider should go well under Christophe Soumillon.
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