The First British Classic of the Season
We’re less than six weeks away from the first classic of the 2018 season, and today’s horse racing tips focus on the ante-post market for the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas, at Newmarket on May 5.
Restricted to three-year-old colts and run over the undulating Rowley Mile, since its inception in 1809 this is a race that has produced some of the finest horses in history. It‘s not only a race that helps establish the best of the generation over one mile, it also produces future high-class stallions that ensure the continuation of great bloodlines and the unending quest to produce the best thoroughbred racehorses in the world.
There are still 69 colts entered for the great race, but it is unlikely that more than 20 will line up for the 2000 Guineas on the big day. Part of the challenge, as ever in ante-post betting, is trying to establish which horses are actually going to run before you begin assessing which potentially have the best chance of success.
Like so many of the top British, Irish and European races over the last two decades, the 2000 Guineas has proved a tremendously happy hunting ground for the remarkable Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. Eight times in the last 20 years he has won the race, including three of the last six renewals; Camelot (2012), Gleneagles (2015), and last year with the impressive Churchill.
So it makes sense to start by looking at O’Brien’s contenders. The only problem is that he is responsible for no less than 11 of the 69 entries, such is the stunning strength in depth at his Ballydoyle training centre.
O’Brien Spoiled For Choice
Top of the pecking order at present is Saxon Warrior (6/1 with William Hill), who enjoyed a fine two-year-old campaign winning all three races. He ended the term taking the prestigious Group 1 Racing Post Trophy over a mile at Doncaster in October, beating John Gosden’s highly regarded Roaring Lion (10/1 with BoyleSports) by a neck. It’s not always the case that leading two-year-old’s train on to be top-class three-year-old’s, but there appear to be no concerns in that department from the O’Brien camp who reportedly think an awful lot of this son of star Japanese sire Deep Impact.
One point worth bearing in mind with Racing Post Trophy winners, however, is that only one (Camelot) has gone to win the 2000 Guineas in the last 20 years, while four (High Chaparral, Motivator, Authorised and Camelot) have gone on to win the Derby. It does seem to be a race that generally favours future middle-distance types rather than milers.
As long as the ground is not too fast at Newmarket, Saxon Warrior looks a worthy favourite and may go the 2000 Guineas without a prior run this term. Ominously for his potential rivals, O’Brien recently said, “He’s going through all his work in second gear at the moment. He has a lot of class.”
Roaring Lion, runner-up at Doncaster to Saxon Warrior, might have been a shade unfortunate to lose his unbeaten record that day and remains a potential danger to the current market leader. John Gosden remains excitedabout this US-bred colt who may prove to be more of a Derby horse, but if he does take in the 2000 Guineas he is entitled to plenty of respect.
Saxon Warrior didn’t end 2017 as the top rated two-year-old though. That honour went to his stable companion US Navy Flag (10/1 with Bet365), with a mark of 122, rated 3lb superior.
A full-brother to the smart Roly Poly, US Navy Flag unusually raced 11 times as a juvenile, showing high-class form in the second half of the season. He ended with two Group 1 wins at Newmarket, in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes and the Darley Dewhurst Stakes, the latter being a race that has produced some fine horses over the years, none better than the greatest ever racehorse, Frankel (2010).
US Navy Flag is no Frankel, and it will be fascinating to see if he trains on as a three-year-old having been so heavily campaigned last season. It will also be fascinating to see which horse stable jockey Ryan Moore chooses to partner. There is a suspicion he might find a mile far enough and possibly be a better sprinter, but only time will tell.
Another potential O’Brien runner is Gustav Klimt (8/1 with Paddy Power) reportedly well regarded by connections. A mile is already considered his optimum trip and, unlike Saxon Warrior, there seems no plan for him to potentially stretch out to a mile-and-a-half for the Derby. This Galileo colt followed a fifth place on his debut with two wins, notably a tough-as-teak performance on the July Course at Newmarket where he came from well off the pace to get up close home to beat Nebo (66/1 with Sky Bet) by a head in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes. Third placed Great Prospector (100/1 with Betfred) and the fourth horse, Zaman, have both subsequently run well, franking the form.
Gustav Klimt (pictured, top) looks a potential improver this season and it wouldn’t surprise were he to run a massive race in the 2000 Guineas so, at this stage of proceedings, he is the focus of our free horse racing tips on this great race. His stable companion Mendelssohn (25/1 with Bet365), a smart sort last term and already a recent winner at Dundalk, could also take his chance.
Eye Worth a Second Glance
The aforementioned Zaman followed his fourth to Gustav Klimt by running second to Sir Michael Stoute’s Expert Eye (11/1 with Betfred) in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, but Expert Eye beat him by three lengths more. Expert Eye was then made red-hot 4/7 favourite for the Dewhurst Stakes but got worked up at the start and ran no sort of race. He was found to have gone lame. In his previous two runs Stoute’s Acclamation colt looked very smart though, and it would come as no surprise to see him bounce back and show his worth this term.
Last month Stoute told reporters he has not lost faith in the Prince Khaled Abdullah-owned colt, saying simply, “We’ve always rated him … it’s early days, but he’s in good shape.”
Mark Johnston’s Elarqam (8/1 with Ladbrokes) is one of the best bred colts in the world. A son of the mighty Frankel, he is out of Johnston’s superb 1000 Guineas winner Attraction and is unbeaten in both races as a two-year-old. He hacked up on debut over seven furlongs at York in September, then easily defeated the useful Tip Two Win (66/1 with Sky Bet) in the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket on his only other run. This northern-trained colt could be anything.
“Elarqam appears to have done very, very well over the winter,” Johnston, who won the classic in 1994 with Mister Baileys, told reporters last month. “He is being aimed at the 2000 Guineas and everything is on target at the moment for him to go there without another race.”
There has also been a positive vibe building for Gosden’s Without Parole (33/1 with Betfair), a 650,000 guineas son of Frankel who impressed many observers when winning a mile Newcastle maiden on the Tapeta surface by six lengths. He may be a potential dark horse, along with 2.6 million guineas Glorious Journey (50/1 with Bet365), trained by Charlie Appleby, and possible French raider Wootton (16/1 with BetBright), winner of both starts to date.
EARLY ADVICE: Gustav Klimt (8/1 with Paddy Power)
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.