Alex Hammond previews the Guineas Festival and picks the best runners and riders at Newmarket.
Last Updated: 03/05/12 4:21pm
The Guineas Festival gets underway at Newmarket this weekend as the flat season finally hits top gear.
The weather has decimated fixtures over the last couple of weeks and it seems the first classics of the season will be run on ground on the soft side despite the country being in drought!
Before we get to this weekend's racing the world's highest rated racehorse, Frankel, will gallop before racing on Saturday. It's great to see he is back on track after his injury scare as British racing needs a superstar and he is certainly that.
So, to the racing and the 2000 Guineas looks top class, 18 horses have been declared (sadly not Dewhurst winner Parish Hall due to the ground) with Aidan O'Brien's Camelot heading into the race as Sky Bet's 6/4 favourite after dominating the market all winter. He won the Racing Post Trophy last Autumn and has been a talking horse for many months. He may well be a superstar but he doesn't offer a great deal of value for punters.
The French raiders won't mind the ground and Abtaal is an interesting runner for Jean-Claude Rouget and he is one of three at 8/1 with Sky Bet. He showed his wellbeing in the Prix Djebel last time out which was over a trip short of his best and he will have improved for the run.
John Oxx says he doesn't want a slog for Born to Sea (8/1), but he isn't unduly worried about the prevailing ground at HQ. This horse is best known for being a half-brother to Sea the Stars and there are similarities between the pair, although this horse has some way to go to be mentioned in the same breath just yet.
The 8/1 chance Trumpet Major is one of four in the race for Richard Hannon and the pick of Richard Hughes (incidentally despite missing 50 days of action through suspension Hughesy could still be the one for the jockeys championship as he doesn't have a huge amount of ground to make up).
Trumpet Major won the Craven over this course and distance and will have come on for that. Bronterre is held in some regard by the Hannon camp and he apparently works as well as Trumpet Major, he has the assistance of Jamie Spencer and is a massive 40/1.
Top Offer (9/1) is a lovely colt for Roger Charlton but he won't appreciate ground too testing, so keep an eye out in case the ground dries out for him as he is held in very high regard. It is a concern that he has little experience and isn't street wise though.
French Fifteen won the Prix Djebel beating Abtaal last time out and he is 9/1 and the horse who was third in that trial Hermival is 20s. Power is Aidan O'Brien's second string (12/1) and not a bad second string to have either. The colt was second in the Dewhurst and he also handles soft ground, Ryan Moore rides.
John Gosden's Fencing is another to consider at 14/1 with Sky Bet and he continues to be backed. His third in the Racing Post Trophy puts him right in there with a shout.
You could do worse than back Caspar Netscher each way (25/1). Alan McCabe's colt has been dismissed by many, but despite that he has done nothing wrong. He comes here having won the Greenham (on soft) and he has apparently come on for that. His trainer tweeted a picture of him on Thursday and he looked magnificent. He isn't proven at the trip but there are worse horses at double figures than him. It's a tough race and Camelot is a very worthy short priced favourite.
I can't get away from the once raced Top Offer either who I hope can continue to progress the up and coming partnership of Roger Charlton and James Doyle, although his lack of experience and the ground are negatives. It's incredibly tough picking just one horse in what, bar the favourite, looks very open. However, I'm going to go with Top Offer despite his inexperience as I've liked him for a while and will kick myself if I don't stick with him.
There is a great support card on Saturday too with the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes attracting its usual small but select field. Andre Fabre sends Arc 6th Meandre over from France, this will be his first start since that run at Longchamp in October and he is the highest rated in this mile and a half contest.
Fiorente is a horse I've been looking out for. He was entered to run at Newbury at the Greenham meeting but didn't line up there. Sir Michael Stoute does very well with this type of horse and he has probably been tuned up for a few weeks despite the fact he hasn't run since last July.
St Leger winner Masked Marvel and Melbourne Cup hero Dunaden are also among the eight declared runners making this a really classy contest. Luca Cumani runs the exciting Quest For Peace who is the type to improve with time too. This is a red hot contest, but I'm just with Fiorente.
Noble Mission has been well tipped up in the Newmarket Stakes on Saturday. He isn't the most straightforward and apparently doesn't show much at home, but isn't to be underestimated.
Moving onto Sunday and it's the turn of the fillies in the 1000 Guineas. Maybe is 6/4 favourite with Sky Bet. She is unbeaten and has done well for Aidan O'Brien winning on all types of ground and ended her season winning the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in August. She hasn't run over further than seven furlongs but is going to improve over this mile. She has the best form on offer in this race and it's hard to get past her.
All the rain that has fallen is definitely in the favour of Moonstone Magic. Ralph Beckett has persuaded the owners of the filly to pay £30,000 to give her a place in the starting line-up and it could be money well spent. I've loved her from the moment I saw her make her debut at Leicester last month and she was impressive on her second start at Newbury in the Dubai Duty Free. She is 6/1 and needs to improve on her two wins so far, but with the ground coming in her favour it was impossible not to let her take her chance.
Mashoora is sevens and hails from the yard of John-Claude Rouget who could have a decent weekend. She won the Prix Imprudence last month and that is a race that has proved to be a successful trial for the Guineas in the past with the likes of Special Duty and Natagora winning it en-route to success in this race. Conditions will suit her and I was impressed with her last time out.
Discourse (7/1) has been off the track for a while. She was last seen winning the Sweet Solera back in August and is considred an Oaks filly in the making (mind you that's what they said about last year's winner Blue Bunting!) Her stablemate Lyric Of Light is also 7/1 but I'm worried she may not enjoy underfoot conditions and that puts me off this unbeaten filly.
The Fugue has been supported at decent odds and is now 16s for John Gosden and she is the pick of stable jockey William Buick. At an even bigger price (20/1) Cheveley Park winner Lightening Pearl shouldn't be ignored for Ger Lyons although the ground is a concern. If she runs though she has form at the top level and could be overpriced. Maybe is a really solid favourite and will be hard to beat, but I'm going with a bit more value and hope the gamble of supplementing Moonstone Magic for the race will pay off.
Top Offer in the 2000 Guineas @ 9/1 with Sky Bet
Fiorente in the Jockey Club Stakes
Noble Mission in the Newmarket Stakes
Moonstone Magic in the 1000 Guineas @ 6/1 with Sky Bet