Guineas weekend is approaching and we can look forward to the first 2 Classic races of the 2016 flat season. For anyone who followed last season’s juveniles, this will be one of the most important racing days of the year. The 2.000 Guineas is for colts and takes place on Saturday. The 1,000 Guineas is for fillies and will be Sunday’s big race. Let’s take a look at the most likely winners.
Will The Force Be With O’Brien’s Star Colt?
The standout juvenile colt of 2015 was, unquestionably, Air Force Blue. Aidan O’Brien’s charge was immense, winning 4 of his 5 races. A narrow victory on debut, at the Curragh, was followed by his sole defeat. This came at the hands of Buratino, in the G2 Coventry Stakes, but there can be little doubt that Air Force Blue has now overtaken that horse since then.
Buratino was relegated to 3rd, when Air Force Blue won the G1 Phoenix Stakes by a couple of lengths from Washington DC. A 3 lengths victory in the G1 Vincent O’Brien Stakes followed, with Herald The Dawn and Birchwood both put to the sword. Then came the Dewhurst, where a top-class field was destroyed.
Lightly-Raced Massaat Could Darken Aidan’s Day
All bar one of Air Force Blue’s opponents were beaten by at least 6 lengths. The only horse that wasn’t was running for just the 3rd time and he remains the most interesting of the thoroughbreds that will line-up against Air Force Blue, on Saturday.
Massaat is a Teofilo colt that didn’t debut until late July. Big and somewhat clumsy, he fell out of the stalls at Sandown and raced at the rear of the field. Massaat made a startling late surge, but it wasn’t enough to quite catch Cymric who triumphed by a head.
He looked much more comfortable on the track, when winning a maiden at Leicester by almost 4 lengths. However, he didn’t have too much to beat and there was little sign of what was to come from him.
At that point, chasing G1 honours seemed totally unrealistic, but Massaat finished the Dewhurst barely 3 lengths behind Air Force Blue and well clear of some very useful runners. It’s difficult to think of a juvenile that looked more progressive, in 2015. Had the far more experienced Air Force Blue not run in the Dewhurst, Massaat would surely be the name on everybody’s lips as 2,000 Guineas day approaches.
Can Marcel Silence The Doubters?
Another fascinating entry also only has 3 outings under his belt. Marcel is trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam and was largely anonymous when trailing in 5th in a weak maiden auction race at Ascot. He then won at Newcastle, beating Heir To A Throne by almost 4 lengths, in another maiden that promised to yield little.
He was 33/1 for the G1 Racing Post Trophy, at Doncaster and up against the likes of Foundation, Johannes Vermeer and Deauville. Marcel triumphed by a length and a half and only Foundation could have any excuses.
Frankie Dettori was criticised for allowing John Gosden’s outstanding 2-year-old to get boxed-in, but it was far from certain that Foundation would have got to Marcel, with a clear run. On Saturday, we’ll find out just how good the Lawman colt really is.
Buratino, Galileo Gold and Blue De Vega are the only other horses seen as having any sort of genuine chance, in the 2,000 Guineas. Let’s hope that we are in for a memorable renewal.
1,000 Guineas Preview – Minding Making Winning Her Business
O’Brien also looks to be the one holding the ace, for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas. Minding debuted at Leopardstown, performing creditably when finishing runner-up behind Dermot Weld’s Tanaza. She shed her maiden tag at the same venue, with The Yellow Bus being comprehensively despatched.
The Galilieo-sired filly was, at that time, still seen as being some way behind stable-mate Ballydoyle and so it proved. Ballydoyle won by a couple of lengths and Minding finished only a neck ahead of Most Beautiful.
However, Minding was to come of age in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh. Despite dwelling in the stalls, she was able to reverse positions with Ballydoyle and her star was now in the ascendancy.
An utterly dominant performance in the G1 Fillies Mile left Nathra, Hawksmoor and Coolmore looking decidedly one-paced and she is the filly to beat on Sunday.
Lum To Bear Fruit, For Johnston?
Minding won’t start anything like as short as Air Force Blue and Mark Johnston will feel he has a superb opportunity to win his first 1,000 Guineas, since Attraction took the spoils 12 years ago.
That horse went on to win the Coronation Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes. Lumiere has shown enough in her 3 races to indicate a similarly glittering career may lie in front of her.
An easy 6-length victor, on debut, she showed signs of still being a little green when beaten by Besharah in the G2 Lowther Stakes. Twice, she edged right and it did not look like her mind was fully on the job.
She put any doubts to bed by making all when winning the G1 Cheveley Park Stakes, at Headquarters. Illuminate, Besharah and Alice Springs were all well-beaten and Lumiere looks the biggest threat to an Aidan O’Brien Guineas double.
Ballydoyle must also be feared, but Lumiere and Minding both appear more progressive. It’s difficult to see how she can win, unless the 2 principals in the market fail to deliver what is expected from them. The same can be said of Nathra, Illuminate and Alice Springs. Turret Rocks was beaten by Ballydoyle, last time out at Longchamp in the G1 Marcel Boussac, so it’s tough to make a real case for her either.
Midweek Warming-Up, For Sunday’s Big Test
Those of you who are looking for value could do worse than having an each-way bet on Criquette Head-Maarek’s Midweek. Sired by Motivator, she gave an eye-catching display when finishing 2nd in the Prix Imprudence and her trainer has already won the Classic on 3 occasions.
She’s likely to benefit from any cut in the ground and should have no problem stepping-up in trip. Could she be the one to cause a big shock, this weekend?