Spring is in the air and we can begin to look forward to the big flat races taking place in 2018. So many outstanding 2-year-olds caught the eye, last term, but which will we still be talking about when Autumn comes around. Here are our ten to follow.
#10 Threading (IRE)
Age: 3 (Foaled April 30th, 2015), Sex: Bay Filly, Breeding: Exceed And Excel (AUS) – (Seeking The Gold (USA)), Trainer: M Johnston, Owner: Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum
Threading made one of the most eye-catching debuts of 2017 and it came in a fairly valuable Plus 10 encounter at Goodwood, last August. Relatively friendless, in the market, she responded immediately to William Buick’s urgeings and came away from Your Choice in style.
Mark Johnston clearly likes what he saw and her next destination was York and the Lowther Stakes. While this performance was not quite as scintillating, there was still a huge amount to like about it. Madeline was beaten by almost 2 lengths and Threading won running on.
The hype machine quickly got into gear and Threading went into the stalls for the Cheveley Park Stakes as a 5/2 shot – despite the field including Clemmie, whose reputation was by now already well-established. Threading looked outclassed in this company though and finished in 7th place without ever really threatening. Johnston still firmly believes in her ability, however.
“It was very disappointing. I thought at first we were a victim of faster ground on the rail as it seemed there was a spearhead of pace there and that they were struggling out in the middle of the track but the winner has come up there just where she was.
“She was never travelling like we expected her to and she was beaten a fair way out. She has beaten the third (Madeline) two lengths last time so that is not her running. I know everybody else does it but if we can’t see if there is anything wrong with her there is no point sticking needles in her to see if there is anything wrong with her. That won’t explain why she has run like that. For sure I think she will still make up into a Guineas horse as that is not her form.”
#9 Wild Illusion
Age: 3 (Foaled February 18th, 2015), Sex: Bay Filly, Breeding: Dubawi (IRE) – Rumh (GER) (Monsun (GER)), Trainer: C Appleby, Owner: Godolphin
A debut at Yarmouth, followed by a brace of runs at Chantilly, can hardly be described as the normal pathway for an aspiring juvenile but it is this trio of encounters that have brought Charlie Appleby’s inmate to the attention of punters!
The Dubawi-sired filly certainly hit the ground running, at the Norfolk track – making all and giving William Haggas’ Give And Take no real opportunity of getting back into serious contention.
Appleby then pitched her straight into Group 3 company, although there were only 4 runners in the D’aumale Stakes and only one of those (Chipolata) finished behind Wild Illusion.
It was a disappointing result and few gave her any hope of even placing in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac, a race for which Appleby reached for the cheekpieces. James Doyle made sure she was prominent early and pushed the button with just over 2 furlongs left to travel. She caused a huge shock by holding-off the strong challenges made by both Polydream and the unfancied Mission Impossible, to win by a length and a half.
“She came forward a lot for her last run and we were delighted with her at home. I spoke to his highness (Sheikh Mohammed) in depth about her and he said, ‘Go for it, if you’re happy with the horse’. We put the cheek-pieces on because we felt stepping up to this level we wanted to keep the concentration; nothing more than that. She’s as genuine as the day is long and is a lovely filly with a great pedigree. I’m thankful Sheikh Mohammed gave us permission to supplement and he’s been repaid with another Group 1-winning daughter of Dubawi.”
The Oaks looks a likely target and she might well start as the shortest-priced horse not trained by Aidan O’Brien.
#8 Mendelssohn (USA)
Age: 3 (Foaled May 17th, 2015), Sex: Bay Colt, Breeding: Scat Daddy (USA) – Leslie’s Lady (USA) (Tricky Creek (USA)), Trainer: A P O’Brien, Owner: D Smith, Mrs J Magnier & M Tabor
He’s already raced 7 times on 3 different continents and Mendelssohn has proven that he can remain composed on the big stage. He looked rather awkward on his first day at school, but did just about enough to beat Andesh when returning to The Curragh in August.
Mendelssohn took a big backward step in the Champagne Stakes, however, finishing last of 7 and by some distance. He was sent off as a 50/1 shot in the Dewhurst and started keenly, but finished runner-up to U S Navy Flag despite this.
Aidan O’Brien decided it was time for the Scat Daddy colt to see a bit more of the world and sent him to Del Mar for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Mendelssohn won this hugely-valuable contest and followed-up with victory in Listed company at Dundalk. To cap it all off, he won the UAE Derby at Meydan last week.
“We knew he had lots of dirt in his pedigree and he’s a horse with a lot of speed, though we weren’t sure how far his speed would carry him. He’s a very good horse obviously, and the lads paid a lot of money for him. He’s very well bred and that was his first taste of the dirt and going further than a mile, so we couldn’t be happier really.” a delighted O’Brien explained, following the victory.
The Kentucky Derby is now a firm target for this globetrotting cash-cow, but he can also be backed for the Derby at Epsom.
Age: 3 (Foaled February 23rd, 2015), Sex: Bay Colt, Breeding: Frankel – Attraction (Efisio), Trainer: M Johnston, Owner: Mr Hamdan Al Maktoum
This son of Frankel is unbeaten after 2 races and Mark Johnston is thrilled about the colt’s prospects.
“Elarqam appears to have done very, very well over the winter and will have his first piece of fast work over the next couple of days. He is being aimed at the 2000 Guineas and everything is on target at the moment for him to go there without another race… We might take him down to Newmarket during the Craven Meeting for another racecourse gallop, when Sheikh Hamdan (Al Maktoum, owner) should be able to watch.”
The trainer also told reporters, last month, that it’s Elarqam’s dam-side pedigree that really pushes his buttons.
“As a son of Attraction he holds a special place in my heart and from my point of view he couldn’t have a better pedigree, being by Frankel out of Attraction. He is the spitting image of his mother – he looks like a male version of her.”
Elarqam’s first race was at York, where he showed almost no signs of greenness when beating Ayutthaya by almost 4 lengths. Johnston then sent him to Headquarters for the Somerville Stakes. He was rewarded with another very-professional performance that was too good for the likes of Tip Two Win, Tangled and Fajjaj.
Could this horse give Johnston his first English Classic winner, since Attraction won the 1000 Guineas in 2004?
#6 Laurens (FR)
Age: 3 (Foaled April 12th, 2015), Sex: Bay Filly, Breeding: Siyouni (FR) – Recambe (IRE) (Cape Cross (IRE)), Trainer: K R Burke, Owner: Mr John Dance
There’s a hot young female at Spigot Lodge and Karl Burke, who has also trained Quiet Reflection, Lord Shanakill and Odeliz, will be looking forward to the 2018 flat campaign with relish.
Laurens was first raced in a Plus 10 maiden for fillies, at Doncaster, last July. Richard Fahey’s Exhort pushed her to the limit, but she held on to score by a neck. The progeny of Siyouni amd Recambe then crossed the Channel, for a tilt at the Group 3 Prix Du Calvados at Deauville. Runners-up spot was well above par and she then returned to Doncaster for the May Hill Stakes – beating the likes of Nyaleti, Dark Rose Angel and Aidan O’Brien’s Sizzling in a frantic head-bobber.
Punters and pundits remained unconvinced that she could deliver the goods at the highest level though and she was sent-off in the Fillies Mile (Newmarket), at double-digit odds. Happily was a non-runner, but O’Brien still had September and Magical in his arsenal. Magical disappointed, while September put in a terrific late charge, but Laurens held on to give Burke’s yard an enormous boost.
“Laurens has wintered really well and couldn’t look any better, I am very happy with her. She has filled her frame and is still a beautiful-looking filly who is very light on her feet. We have had no hold-ups or setbacks with her and we are just starting to step up her work… We are not committed to running her in the 1000 Guineas but it is the favoured option for both John (Dance, owner) and myself.” Burke told RacingUK, at the beginning of March.
#5 Happily (IRE)
Age: 3 (Foaled February 27th, 2015), Sex: Bay Filly, Breeding: Galileo (IRE) – You’resothrilling (USA) (Storm Cat (USA)), Trainer: A P O’Brien, Owner: Mr D Smith, Mrs J Magnier, Mr M Tabor
Coolmore certainly didn’t spare this Galileo filly, in 2017. She made no less than 7 appearances on the track, debuting at Leopardstown and looking pretty mediocre (finished 7th, in a race won by stablemate September).
Market-makers were not fooled however and she was sent-off as an odds-on favourite at The Curragh, next time out, where Shalailah was comfortably beaten. The pair met again, in the Silver Flash Stakes, with Happily confirming her superiority over Shalailah, Easter Lily, Golden Spell and Jim Bolger’s Dawn Delivers.
O’Brien then decided to let Happily and September fight it out in the Debutante Stakes. This time Happily came out on top, although both were upstaged by another of his inmates (Magical). As if that wasn’t enough, those 3 then secured the entire purse in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. Happily beat Magical by a short-head, with September a well-beaten 3rd.
Next stop for Happily was Chantilly and the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere Grand Criterium. As they rounded the bend, Ryan Moore was faced with a wall of horses but bided his time well and guided Happily past Olmedo inside the final furlong.
An exhausting campaign was rounded-off with a trip to Del Mar, where Happily would contest the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf – a race that O’Brien had yet to win. It proved a venture too far and Happily never recovered from a sluggish start.
“You could say her run at the Breeders’ Cup wasn’t good, but she missed the break and got stopped three times down the straight. Ryan (Moore) just minded her then. You’d imagine she’ll definitely get a mile and a quarter and could get a mile and a half because she has a very laid back way of doing it. She has very strong form.” a bullish O’Brien opined in March.
Was she overworked, in 2017, potentially leaving the filly vulnerable as her Classic campaign gets underway? Punters don’t think so and she currently heads the market, for the Oaks.
#4 Roaring Lion (USA)
Age: 3 (Foaled March 11th, 2015), Sex: Grey Colt, Breeding: Kitten’s Joy (USA) – (Street Sense (USA)), Trainer: J H M Gosden, Owner: Qatar Racing Limited
John Gosden’s charge proved himself to be a genuine big cat, last term, when he was perhaps unfortunate not to have finished the campaign unbeaten. Roaring Lion won on debut at Newmarket, but was not rushed straight into a scrap for black-type – instead Gosden put the Kitten’s Joy-sired colt into another modest encounter at Kempton. Despite hanging left, he won this 1-mile race with ease and it was clear that Roaring Lion was ready to go hunting some big game.
Aidan O’Brien’s Nelson was the odds-on favourite, in the Royal Lodge Stakes, while Mildenberger was another that looked capable of going very close. Again, Roaring Lion hung badly to the left and it very-nearly cost him victory. Nelson was beaten by just a neck, but it was a massive win nonetheless.
Verbal Dexterity was expected to be the main challenger to Aidan O’Brien’s Saxon Warrior, in the Racing Post Trophy, but Jim Bolger’s inmate was found wanting in the final furlong and it was Roaring Lion who was left to take the fight to the favourite. He got his nose in front, as the lollipop approached, but hung left again and this time paid the price. Saxon Warrior held a true line and triumphed by a neck.
Gosden will have been working his socks off to rid Roaring Lion of his left-hanging trait and will be under no illusions that the colt can win the 2000 Guineas without the problem being addressed. We should see him in the Craven Stakes, in a couple of weeks, the stepping-stone for so many great Guineas champions.
“Oisin Murphy was kicking himself after the Racing Post Trophy. He played Roaring Lion for speed and boy did he pick up. Ryan Moore on Saxon Warrior went more gradually through the gears. Roaring Lion might be seen as a Derby horse but he could take in a 2,000 Guineas along the way.” says BHA 2-year-old handicapper Graeme Smith.
Can Gosden straighten-out this colt, whose desire to take the scenic route led to him missing out on the Racing Post Trophy by just a whisker?
#3 Expert Eye
Age: 3 (Foaled January 31st, 2015), Sex: Bay Colt, Breeding: Acclamation – Exemplify (Dansili), Trainer: Sir Michael Stoute, Owner: K Abdullah
Shortly after 3:00pm, on Saturday 14th October, Expert Eye trailed-in last of 9 in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket and screwed-up betting slips rained down on the packed spectators. Sir Michael Stoute’s star colt had been sent-off as a 4/7 favourite, with many believing they were about to watch the 2018 2000 Guineas Champion-in waiting. It was a disaster for connections, with Expert Eye blinking as soon as Andrea Atzeni asked the question a furlong from home.
It was only Expert Eye’s 3rd race, following a debut at Newbury that saw him put Charlie Hills Mutakatif firmly in his place. The Acclamation colt then headed for Glorious Goodwood and crushed the field in the Vintage Stakes by almost 5 lengths. Expert Eye went into the stalls alongside the likes of Seahenge, Mildenberger and Charlie Appleby’s Zaman, but the race was over well before the 1f marker and few left the racecourse in any doubts over his ability. Then came his flop at Newmarket, however connections remain hopeful that his Dewhurst performance was just a blip.
“We are still looking at the 2000 Guineas. Whether he has a run beforehand or not, it is too early to say yet. I saw him the other day and he is in good shape. Sir Michael is pleased with him and we are hopefully getting back to where we think he should be. I think there were a number of factors behind his run in the Dewhurst. Obviously he seemed to get rather angry in the stalls. Once he started he was not really concentrating in the race, he did far too much and we knew our fate quite a long way out.” said Racing Manager Teddy Grimthorpe, last week.
You can now back Expert Eye to win the 2000 Guineas, at a price that was inconceivable before he ran so disappointingly in the Dewhurst. Was it just a bad day at the office, or will there be more tears the next time he takes to the track?
#2 Saxon Warrior (JPN)
Age: 3 (Foaled January 26th, 2015), Sex: Bay Colt, Breeding: Deep Impact (JPN) – Maybe (IRE) (Galileo (IRE)), Trainer: A P O’Brien, Owner: Derrick Smith & Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor
Japanese horses don’t usually find Europe a happy hunting-ground, when it comes to Group 1 successes, however most don’t find themselves under the tutorship of the brilliant Aidan O’Brien!
He made his debut in a modest encounter at The Curragh, a race in which stablemate Christopher Robin was expected to win fairly comfortably. Those who anticipated a stroll were given a rude awakening, as Christopher Robin metaphorically stepped on every paving-stone crack and finished 7th while Saxon Warrior won with plenty to spare.
O’Brien sent him to Naas, for the Beresford Stakes, where both Kew Gardens and Delano Roosevelt were expected to provide him with a real test. The latter of that pair got closest, but it was a cosy win nonetheless.
Saxon Warrior crossed the Irish Sea and would attempt to give O’Brien his first Racing Post Trophy since Kingsbarns in 2012. John Gosden’s Roaring Lion announced himself as a serious player in this 1-mile contest and briefly headed Saxon Warrior before hanging left and missing out by just a neck.
“Saxon Warrior was a big two-year-old but he’s done very well and has put on plenty of weight. He has become a massive colt, a big monster of a horse. We have our eyes on the Guineas and I just hope we have him ready in time. He’s more likely to have a racecourse gallop than a race before we decide about Newmarket.” O’Brien told reporters, in late March.
#1 Clemmie (IRE)
Age: 3 (Foaled February 14th, 2015), Sex: Bay Filly, Breeding: Galileo (IRE) – Meow (IRE) (Storm Cat (USA)), Trainer: A P O’Brien, Owner: Mr M Tabor, D Smith & Mrs John Magnier
The outstanding 2-year-old filly of 2017 hardly got-off to a rip-roaring start. She debuted at The Curragh and finished 3rd behind Gasta and Now You’re Talking, before looking decidedly one-paced when 7th of 20 in the Albany Stakes.
Despite this, Aidan O’Brien’s horse was still made favourite for the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Stakes and stayed on well to account for stablemate Butterscotch. Clemmie was then sent to Headquarters and was too good for Mark Johnston’s Nyaleti, in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes.
Her big test came in the Cheveley Park Stakes, a contest that also featured Threading, Different League and Roger Varian’s Madeleine. Under Ryan Moore, who has partnered Clemmie on all 5 outings so far, she won going away and while none of her wins have yet been absolutely emphatic she is clearly the 3-year-old filly to beat in 2018. Right now, she heads the market for the 1000 Guineas.
“She has wintered well and we’re very happy with her. Obviously she’s not as big physically as Churchill (her full-brother) was, but everything is right with her. She’s fast and I wouldn’t be sure how much further than a mile she’d stay. Obviously she’s a Group 1 winner over six furlongs.” said O’Brien, last month.
RaceBets leads the field, when it comes to ‘specials markets’ and now is the time to make your season-long wagers. Check-out our, Aidan O’Brien 2018 Specials, our 2018 UK Flat Jockeys Title market and our 2018 Leading First Season Sire odds!