Above: Godolphin’s Masar stormed to a wide-margin Craven Stakes win, but will it be the same again in the 2000 Guineas in three weeks time?
There were quite a few surprise at this week’s Newmarket Craven Stakes meeting, once again demonstrating how hard it can be to get a handle on early-season form on the Flat when many horses are not fully wound up for trial races.
The visually most impressive win of the three-day fixture was surely Masar’s nine-length demolition of his rivals in yesterday’s bet365 Craven Stakes over the Qipco 2000 Guineas course and distance.
Trainer Charlie Appleby has his string in terrific form and despite having run a shocker on dirt in Dubai just five weeks earlier, Masar (7/2) made all at a steady pace before quickening going down into the dip and exposing the lack of fitness of the odds-on John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion (8/13f), given an easy time once it was clear the winner wasn’t for catching. He eventually surrendered second to Hugo Palmer’s White Mocha (16/1), with rider Oisin Murphy being noticeably easy on last season’s Racing Post Trophy runner-up.
“On what we’ve seen out there [Masar’s] going to be a big contender [for the Guineas],” enthused Appleby. “He’s a live shot, no doubt about that.”
It may well be a very different story on 2000 Guineas day, but Masar – now a top priced 7/1 with BetBright for the 2000 Guineas – was a very useful juvenile last term and will surely give a good account of himself in the first colts’ classic of the season back at HQ on May 5. But in the big race itself he won’t be given the kind of easy lead he enjoyed on Thursday, and William Buick’s mount will be up against rivals primed to the minute, rather different to the scenario yesterday afternoon.
Roaring Lion, out from 6/1 to 14/1 with Coral for the 2000 Guineas, may bounce back, and Gosden was certainly not downhearted:
“I’m perfectly happy,” he told reporters at Newmarket. “He was 80 per cent. He tired in the last furlong. For me, he needs an end-to-end gallop. He does not want a steady one and a dash. He’s in the Prix du Jockey Club [French Derby] as well, but the Guineas is still very much an option.”
The big winner though from the Craven Stakes may well prove to be Gustav Klimt, recommended in our ante-post free racing tips earlier this month at 8/1 for the first classic of the campaign. Aidan O’Brien’s colt had already shortened up after winning in fine style in Ireland on his seasonal return, and following yesterday’s trial has firmed again in the ante-post market and is now the clear 3/1 favourite with bet365.
Gustav Klimt’s stable companion Saxon Warrior, the horse who beat Roaring Lion at Doncaster last season, is next in the list at a best price of 11/2 with Sky Bet, and following a pleasing racecourse gallop on the Rowley mile midweek, Mark Johnston’s unbeaten colt Elarqam is 7/1 with Sportingbet. Sir Michael Stoute’s Expert Eye, who bids for the Group 3 Greenham Stakes tomorrow afternoon at Newbury (3.10), is 9/1 with Sportingbet ahead of one of the last big 2000 Guineas trials.