The flat racing season well and truly kicks into gear this weekend with the Guineas Festival, where some of the most promising three-year-olds on the planet will battle it out for some rather handsome prizes.
On Saturday the action from Newmarket is headlined by the 2000 Guineas, the first of the campaign’s classics and the first leg of the Triple Crown that also incorporates the Derby and the St Leger. Run over the famous Rowley Mile, the winner’s cheque of just shy of £300,000 would come in very handy indeed!
On Sunday the ladies get a chance to shine, with the 1000 Guineas open to the best three-year-old fillies from up and down the country. This one-mile shootout is the second classic of the season, and also the first leg of the fillies’ Triple Crown that also features the Oaks and the St Leger.
Last year Aidan O’Brien, the outstanding Irish trainer, created another slice of history by claiming the Guineas double, with Churchill bolting home under the guidance of Ryan Moore in the 2000 before Winter did likewise a day later in the 1000.
The bookies have recognised the O’Brien magic and made a pair of his charges – Gustav Klimt in the 2000 and Happily in the 1000 – their favourites to triumph, so can the Irish trainer land another delightful double at Newmarket this weekend?
From Austria With Love
Gustav Klimt was an Austrian painter and artist of some repute, but for the purposes of this column we will instead focus on his namesake, the three-year-old from the Aidan O’Brien yard.
He won the 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes just a matter of weeks ago (the horse, not the painter), and has an impressive triumph to his name at Newmarket in the Superlative Stakes.
Gustav Klimt could end up in a shootout with another O’Brien runner, the irrepressible Saxon Warrior (5/1). This colt has assembled a perfect record of three wins from three, with the most recent being a Group 1 triumph in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. The Smith/Magnier/Tabor network has won two of the last three renewals of this race, and so punters backing ‘the Warrior’ should get a decent run for their money.
Some of the books are offering four places for each way flutters, and so Roaring Lion (18/1) may come under consideration. He gave Saxon Warrior a hell of a run in that Racing Post Trophy, just falling short by a neck, and won a Group 2 outing at Newmarket in September.
A disappointing return in April in the Craven Stakes, where he finished third, has seen a price drift. Masar, who won that day, is an 11/2 fancy here.
O’Brien Happily Seeks a Hat-Trick in the 1000 Guineas
Aidan O’Brien is a four-time winning trainer in the 1000 Guineas and has won the last two renewals back-to-back, and he will surely be delighted with the chance of his charge, and the bookmakers’ favourite, Happily.
This three-year-old has already won two Group 1 engagements in just five starts, including the Moyglare Stud Stakes and the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Chantilly. In a race of this prestige, that’s a handy angle indeed.
The offspring of the legendary Galileo is currently the 11/4 favourite, and it is hard to argue with that.
Looking to deprive O’Brien will be Charlie Appleby, and his filly Soliloquy looks to have plenty of improvement in her.
She won the Nell Gwynn Stakes on her seasonal return in April, and while we wait for her to make the step up to Group 1 company the beauty of a race like the 1000 Guineas is that it provides the perfect platform to do just that.
With just three runs under her saddle it would be easy to surmise that Soliloquy is lacking in big race experience, although that is factored into the price at 6/1. If you are looking to take on Happily – who hasn’t run since last year – then this is perhaps one to follow.
The vast majority of bookmakers are paying out on three places for each way bets, so there is arguably one spot up for grabs if we doff our cap to the chances of Happily and Soliloquy.
Maybe Madeline, at 33/1, is worth a try. She has placed in quality outings before, with a second in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes and a third in the Cheveley Park Stakes, a strong Group 1 affair in which she travelled nicely.
She is well exposed at this level, with a run at Newmarket as recently as September to call upon.