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2000 Guineas Preview by Liam

first_img[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he first classic of the season is almost upon us, with Guineas weekend on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile just a few days away. Though the introduction of the All Weather Championship has given some comfort to domestic flat racing fans through a particularly miserable winter, for many the flat season proper only really gets going over this prestigious weekend.As we approached the winter, the impression was that the 2000 Guineas lacked a standout contender, with a host of promising yet relatively untested juveniles clustered towards the top of the market. Over the last three years, the narrative of the race has been whether the favourite could carry through its superior juvenile form into the early part of their three year old career. The answer to that question has been in the affirmative, often emphatically, for each of the last three renewals.However, as the curtain closed on the 2013 flat season, we were left with more questions than answers to ponder over the winter months. The Dewhurst, that traditional end of season premier juvenile contest come Guineas trial, looked a below par renewal, with the winner, the impressive Coventry Stakes winner War Command, not even spoken of as certain to line up in the English Guineas. Many of the other leading challengers hadn’t crossed swords in their two year old campaigns, with several of them raced sparingly and spoken of as late developers in comparison to the archetypal Guineas contender.So, when the 2014 flat season rumbled into action with the usual blend of classic trials and gallops chatter, the Guineas picture still looked somewhat unclear. The vibes surrounding the Aidan O’Brien trained Australia over the off season had been particularly effusive (some would say characteristically hyperbolic), though it soon became apparent that we would have to wait until the race itself to judge for ourselves.That meant the onus was on something else to lay down a marker in one of the trials, which unequivocally occurred in the Greenham at Newbury.The John Gosden trained Kingman had been a hugely impressive winner of a Newmarket maiden back in June, before arguably not needing to improve much to land the Solario Stakes on his second outing. In both races, the conditions didn’t allow for a clock busting performance, with his maiden being a relatively weak contest for the track, and the Solario being a four runner affair where they didn’t go much of a gallop. That said, the colt posted some impressive sectionals on both occasions and was value for more than the winning margin at Sandown, where he still looked a touch green.The Greenham looked like a fair renewal on paper, with, in addition to Kingman, the tough and hardy Middle Park winner Astaire stepping up to seven furlongs, the Royal Lodge winner Berkshire, and the promising Hannon colt Night Of Thunder, all lining up. What occurred however was nothing short of a rout. After travelling well in behind horses, Kingman scythed through the field and quickly put daylight between himself and the rest with the minimum of fuss. With conditions on the soft side and jockeys appearing to be mindful of setting too strong a gallop in the conditions, it was somewhat surprising to see how impressive a time the winner had posted.After the race, the inevitable comparisons to Frankel were made, who also impressively took this race in the same colours, albeit with a greater sense of expectation around him after a slightly more high profile juvenile season. Gosden made clear that the colt would not be risked on fast ground, citing an injury that curtailed his two year old campaign and noting that other races were available to him other than the Guineas. Whilst this sort of openness is welcomed from connections, it would be naïve to think that there wasn’t some degree of politicking occurring here in order to ensure Newmarket doesn’t risk losing the presence of what had suddenly become the races star attraction.What had looked like a wide open Guineas had suddenly become a case of Kingman vs The Field in the eyes of many. With his ability not in question, fast ground is seemingly the only major concern when it comes to Kingman, though the usual cocktail of minor concerns that are applicable to almost all horses running in a Guineas such as how he will handle ‘the dip’ will always remain. Though there is a school of thought that Kingman could recoil slightly from posting such a big effort in his trial, it is apparent that this horse is currently at the top of the tree. Of course, little of this will matter if he isn’t still there come Saturday evening.The betting sees the aforementioned Australia as the main threat to the favourite. With breeding more purple in colour than the silks of his owner, being by Galileo out of the outstanding mare Ouija Board, it was natural that this colt would receive plenty of attention throughout his fledgling juvenile career. After being narrowly beaten on debut when very slowly away, he broke his maiden at the second time of asking, though was more workmanlike than flashy in doing so.He stepped up on that considerably when taking a Group Three over a mile at Leopardstown on his final start, looking much more like something approaching the finished article. Easily accounting for the similarly well regarded and unexposed Free Eagle, coupled with the post-race comments that accompanied, it quickly became apparent that he was a colt with huge potential. That said, all evidence suggested that he would be more of a Derby horse in the long term, with a campaign geared around that seemingly the route that would be taken.Obviously, being a Derby horse doesn’t exclude one from taking in the Guineas en route, indeed Ballydoyle have often sent similar types to the race in recent years, the most comparable being the eventual dual Classic winner Camelot. The difference this year however is that they appear to be taking on an almost already top class, specialist miler in Kingman, in addition to a host of other types with superior form who will likely be more of a miler than he is. Clearly, he may just be a freakishly talented horse who is good enough to win despite the trip being a bit shy of his likely optimum, but at around 3/1, there is too much guesswork involved to recommend him at that price.Another colt that we probably haven’t seen the best of yet is the undefeated Richard Hannon trained Toormore. By his connections own admission not a flashy type at home, he nonetheless got the job done on the track, racking up a couple of Group wins towards the backend of last season. Though the bare form and manner of his Vintage and National Stakes wins isn’t anything to get hugely excited about, the overriding impression is that he will have more to offer this year. His connections are usually pretty liberal in their campaigning of juveniles, even the better ones, but they seem to have been at pains not to overface this one last season.He reappeared in the Craven, which looked a two horse race between himself and the then leading Godolphin hope for the Guineas, Be Ready. However, the race somewhat fell apart with Be Ready running well below his best, and ultimately Toormore had a simple task to beat some exposed and inferior rivals. As is becoming his want though, he certainly didn’t make it look easy, posting a fairly laboured performance to eventually master the useful but limited The Grey Gatsby.For all his lack of the wow factor, it shouldn’t be held against Toormore. This tendency to only just do enough is clearly part of his makeup, leaving him to rely on the quality of opposition in behind him to put some kind of figure on his performance. Indeed, over the course of a long season, this characteristic may help him to prolong his durability for future targets. For now though, it’s obvious that Toormore needs to improve again to win a Guineas, never mind one as intriguing and potentially strong as this years.Of the remaining contenders, Kingston Hill looks to hold the strongest form claims. Not seen until late September last year, the colt quickly developed into a smart backend juvenile, culminating with victory in the Racing Post Trophy. Though that race again didn’t look quite up to scratch for a Group One, the winner couldn’t be faulted and put in a respectable performance on the clock. The concern is that he is unraced on ground on the faster side of good, and the suspicion is that he may find one or two too quick for him over a mile.Noozhoh Canarias adds a welcome extra dimension to the race, being from the somewhat unheralded racing region of Spain. Having raced exclusively in his home country, the colt took a provincial Listed race in France before proving he had the ability to merit his inclusion in the Guineas by running Karakontie close in the Jean Luc Lagardere. The bare form of that race leaves him something to find, but he could improve for the better ground and had the subsequent Djebel winner and fellow Guineas contender Charm Spirit behind that day. He opened his three year old campaign with a facile success at his home track in Madrid, in a race that was admittedly in a different stratosphere to what he will face on Saturday. Nonetheless, it is hoped that he will give his legions of fans making the trip over from Spain something to cheer about.In summation, this looks an outstanding Guineas and hopefully we will see a truly memorable performance from one or more of these promising colts. Defeat would be a blow for connections and supporters of Kingman, given he is likely to have everything in his favour on Saturday, whilst others may need an extra couple of furlongs or more in time. That said, if Kingman falters, whichever horse ultimately emerges on top will still have to improve on what they’ve shown before and beat the usual mix of unexposed types and proven Group One performers.Indeed, the fact that the Dewhurst winner War Command is available at as big as 16/1, with the likes of Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf victor Outstrip and highly regarded and improving types such as Ertijaal even bigger prices, underlines that this race doesn’t lack for depth either. But still, as illustrative of the races quality as they are, it’s hard to argue that these prices aren’t justified given the task that faces them to topple the favourite. It’s hard to suggest anything is particular value at current odds, but at the risk of sounding a bit Kevin Pullein, the recommendation will be 1pt E/W Noozhoh Canarias @ 16/1.last_img read more

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