Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Newmarket, Punchestown, Thirsk and Uttoxeter. View selections below
Newmarket had 8mls of rain on Friday morning and clerk of the course Michael Prosser described conditions as good to soft ahead of today’s first classic of the season the 2000 Guineas. Earlier in the week rain was forecast for HQ today but the met office are now suggesting showers rather than longer periods of rain.
Air Force Blue is the 4/7 market leader and has been compared favourably with all the other great milers that Aidan O’Brien has trained; that is some testimony when you consider the Ballydoyle handler is going for a record eighth win in the race.
Air Force Blue only met with defeat once in five starts as a juvenile and showed he handled yielding (good to soft ground) when running away with the National Stakes back in September; he improved again to win the Dewhurst and is a potential equine superstar. Note he is 11/10 to win by a length or more with BetVictor and 7/4 to win by 1.5L or more as part of our unique Lengthen The Odds market.
That said he is a May foal and only two colts born after mid-April (Dawn Approach and Rodrigo de Triano) have won the race in the last 24 years; his return is eagerly anticipated and I think he will win.
From a betting medium, however, I am more interested in backing Galileo Gold (4/1 at BetVictor) without the favourite; the ground has come in his favour, the more rain the better, and he impressed regular pilot Frankie Dettori in a recent racecourse gallop. He was originally considered a French Guineas or French Derby (10f) sort but connections have rerouted from Longchamp and I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race.
In the opener Pat Smullen takes the ride on the lightly-raced Intimation (2.00) for Sir Michael Stoute whose string are in such good form and who does so well with older horses; the filly won both starts last season, will love the ground and although she is priced at 4/1 with BetVictor in a 16-runner handicap she might be a group horse in a handicap.
Trainer John Gosden always felt this would be the season for Jack Hobbs (3.05) despite the fact that he was a 5l winner of the Irish Derby back in June; he bypassed the Arc for a tilt at the Champions Stakes and finished a decent third but let’s not forget he was not in the same parish as his stablemate Golden Horn last year. He is bred to get better with age and should take the Jockey Club Stakes although he will be at punitive odds (1/2 at BetVictor).
The Leger winner Simple Verse carries a 5lbs penalty for her classic success and this does look a high-class renewal; that said Jack Hobbs should take a great deal of beating.
No surprise to see Brave Hero (5.30) drop back in trip to a mile having looked a non-stayer over 10f on his reappearance. The stalls are on the stands’ side and he might be able to bag the rail from his draw and make all under the excellent James Doyle. I am slightly surprised to see him as big as 7/1 although, as ever, it is a hot Newmarket handicap with many of the top yards represented.
The final day of the Punchestown Festival and I am convinced there is a big prize in Fletchers Flyer (3.10) for Harry Fry; the yard weren’t firing on all cylinders when the selection bombed out at Huntingdon back in January and he had previously run a cracker behind subsequent RSA winner Blaklion at Cheltenham.
Limini (3.50) will appreciate stepping up in trip having looked in need of further when done for toe against the boys at Aintree. She looked top class at Cheltenham previously and I will be disappointed if she meets with defeat. Aurora D’Estruval tracked a suicidal pace at Cheltenham and is better than she showed; her yard (Rebecca Curtis) have already been amongst the winners this week at the Festival and I think she can leave her Cheltenham run behind.
Apple’s Jade (4.25) can confirm Aintree form with Ivanovic Gorbatov now that the ground has come in her favour and over at Thirsk I’m sure there is more to come from Storm Rock (3.55) on soft ground this term. The selection has a good draw in stall six and has run some of his best races on a left-handed track on soft ground over a mile.
At Uttoxeter Jennys Surprise (3.35) only got as far as the first at Perth last time but Paddy Brennan is back in the saddle and this mare can go close in this valuable contest which on another weekend would be one of the feature races of the afternoon.
On Sunday I am really looking forward to the return of Prize Money (5.25) at Newmarket for Godolphin whilst at Salisbury Magic Circle (2.05) did us a few favours towards the end of last season and with more rain forecast she is taken to maintain her progress for Ralph Becket in the valuable 1m 6f contest.