It’s ladies day at Newmarket with the fillies going to war in the 1000 Guineas, where Skitter Scatter will be looking to bring John Oxx out of the wilderness with a big winner. There is plenty of opposition for this valuable prize though.
In the Qatar handicap, Baghdad looks to resume winning ways, while former 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook will be difficult to beat in the Dahila Stakes
Qatar Racing Handicap
The top-weight Melting Dew often goes off a short price with Ryan Moore in the saddle and he landed a first turf victory at Sandown last season. He’s a proper quality handicapper but may just struggle of a career-high mark.
Baghdad looked the real deal when winning at Royal Ascot last season but it transpired that he’d picked up an injury during the race, so we didn’t see him for the remainder of the season. Mark Johnston’s inmate made a very encouraging return to action at Newcastle when just held and off a mark of 100, he should be very competitive.
Another unexposed type that could be on a nice mark is Corelli from the John Gosden yard. He’s won three of his five career starts and has been gelded over the winter. There is a slight worry that this American-bred gelding is better on an artificial surface but only time will tell.
Others to consider include the four-time chasing Deja and Spirit Ridge.
This Group 2 contest has been won by some good mares down through the years, with four-year-old’s taking the last nine renewals., so we can quickly rule out the five-year-old Shenanigans.
Last season’s 1000 Guineas returns to the scene of her greatest victory here for the Hannon team. Billesdon Brook was an unconsidered 66/1 shot when streaking away to win the Classic last season under Sean Levey. She came up short on all three starts in Group 1 company afterwards and will appreciate the drop in class here.
Sir Michael Stoute always seems to improve his horses with age and is represented by the lightly-raced Veracious here. The Cheveley Park-owned mare was twice placed at Group 1 level last season and doesn’t need to improve much to win this.
The other runner of note is Nyaleti, who was much travelled last season, winning the German 1000 Guineas early in the season and finished the campaign with placed efforts in Group 1 company in Italy and America. She’s very consistent and could just get her head in front at Group 1 level this season.
Selection: Billesdon Brook
This six-furlong contest looks incredibly open with the classy On The Warpath likely to jump off as favourite. Charlie Appleby’s gelding has already run four times this season, winning a handicap at Meydan and then finishing a fine second in a good handicap at Newmarket. He looks like a nice type and there should be a good handicap in him.
Flavius Titus is another horse that’s already won this season and has only gone up four-pounds for that victory. That win came over Summerghand who himself went up 22 pounds in the handicap last season, which I thought would have been enough to stop the progression but on the basis of this recent runner-up finish, he must hold strong claims.
The other horse with leading claims is Gifted Master, who’s come down three pounds for two respectable runs in Group 3 events this season. He gave Jason Watson his biggest career success when landing the Stewards’ Cup last season and there is more than likely another big one in him.
Selection: On The Warpath
1000 Guineas Stakes
The first fillies classic of the season is the 1000 Guineas and it looks like a rare opportunity for someone other than the “big guns” to get their name on the honours roll with Aidan O’Brien seemingly lacking his normal firepower. That being said he still runs three fillies in the race and you can never rue them out.
Of his trio, Fairyland and Just Wonderful would seem to hold similar chances of victory as both were classy two-year-olds. Fairyland was a Group 1 winner over six furlongs but there are obvious stamina worries and Just wonderful won the Rockfel before finishing fourth at the Breeders’ Cup. She will definitely get the trip but there may just be something classier than her in the field.
Qabala has only graced the racecourse on two occasions and will more than likely jump off as the hot favourite for Roger Varian and David Egan following a most impressive victory in the Nell Gwynn most recently. She needs to improve again to win a Classic and I think she is the wrong favourite.
The Irish-raider Skitter Scatter would be one of the more popular winners for John Oxx who is famed for training the great Sea The Stars. This filly won a Group 1 for Patrick Prendergast last season before he joined forces with Oxx. She improved with each run last season and for me is the one to beat.
Joseph O’Brien has been winning all before him since he started training and will be hoping last season’s Fillies’ Mile winner Iridessa can improve from a recent seasonal debut defeat to land this classic. she has some smart form in the book but may be more of an Oaks filly.
I’d love to see Lady Kaya run well for the small yard of Sheila Lavery. The daughter of Dandy Man deserves a place in the line-up by virtue of her runner-up finish in a Group 1 behind Skitter Scatter last season and a snug victory in a Group 3 contest on seasonal debut. Those runs alone most give her place claims.
Selection: Skitter Scatter