Sometimes it all looks so easy in hindsight. As has so often been the case in recent years the combination of Irish trainer extraordinaire, Aidan O’Brien, and super sire Galileo, proved to be irresistible on the Classic stage.
The best of Britain and Ireland all travelled to Newmarket for the opening Classic’s of the 2000 and 1000 Guineas, and all were put in the shade by the man who is making an ever stronger case to be the greatest trainer in the history of the sport.
Saturday’s 2000 Guineas had looked to be one of the most wide open in many a year, particularly following the high-profile withdrawal of last season’s Champion Juvenile, Too Darn Hot. In the absence of that John Gosden star, it was O’Brien’s Ten Sovereigns who assumed the mantle of favouritism in the hands of Ryan Moore. Ten Sovereigns ran well to finish fifth as his stamina appeared to give way close home, but in the end it was left to O’Brien’s apparent second string to claim top honours.
Last season’s Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Magna Grecia, looked nicely bred for the job, being by Invincible Spirit and out of a Galileo mare and having been given a nice tow into the race by Shine So Bright, powered right away in the final furlong to score by 2½l from 66/1 shot King Of Change. A second 2000 Guinea’s win in as many years for jockey Donnacha O’Brien, and a phenomenal tenth for his father.
Hermosa All Heart
Not content with landing the opening colts’ classic of the season, O’Brien quickly followed up in Sunday’s 1000 Guineas with his Galileo filly, Hermosa. Having been beaten by a number of these rivals during her juvenile campaign, this Michael Tabor owned runner looked to need to improve to claim top honours here.
Only third best of the O’Brien runners if judged on jockey bookings, and the betting market – despite boasting just about the most attractive pedigree in the race – she put in a most tenacious effort in leading from start to finish, and repelling all comers to score by a length from Lady Kaya at a rewarding SP of 14/1.
Eyes Turn To Epsom
The dust may have barely settled on the opening Classics of the season, but thoughts are now beginning to turn firmly to the next two on the agenda, Epsom’s Derby and Oaks.
The trip of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas may be significantly shorter than the 1m4f of Epsom’s most famous races, but events at HQ nevertheless often have a significant bearing on the betting market for both the Derby and the Oaks, with any number of horses having gone on to do the double over the years.
So how are things now shaping up in the year’s premier middle distance contests for the three year olds?
Darn Still Tops Derby Market
We have a non-mover at the head of the Derby market in the shape of John Gosden’s Too Darn Hot. Odds on in places for the 2000 Guineas, a – reportedly not too serious – injury setback then saw him miss that engagement.
All is reportedly well with the son of Dubawi now, but we will know more once he has made his return in the Dante Stakes at York. Should he win that in good style, expect his current Derby odds of 9/2 to shorten significantly.
So what of the Guineas winner Magna Grecia? He certainly didn’t seem to be stopping come the line at Newmarket, but comments in the aftermath would suggest that he is perhaps viewed more as an out and out miler. Being by Invincible Spirit, his pedigree would certainly suggest as much and there aren’t too many firms even listing him for this.
No doubt Guineas winning trainer Aidan O’Brien will have a strong Derby hand to play though, with the second, third and fourth favourites for the race all hailing from his Ballydoyle operation.
Broome (10/1) threw his hat firmly into the ring with an eight length romp in the Ballysax Stakes, whilst the beautifully bred Japan (7/1) showed plenty of promise last season and is set to make his first appearance of the season in the Derrinstown Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
Betting Suggests O’Brien Again In The Oaks
If O’Brien is to have a dual classic winner this season, then Hermosa would look more likely than Magna Grecia. She’s by Galileo and showed plenty of staying power in the Guineas, but does have an alternative option of the Irish 1000 Guineas. She’s a 6/1 shot for the Oaks, but we wouldn’t be too surprised to see her tackle the Irish Classic instead, particularly as O’Brien already has the clear market leader for this race.
Pink Dogwood had posted a few decent efforts last season without setting the world alight, but really caught the eye on her first start of the current season. Heavily backed prior to that 1m2f Listed contest at Navan, she justified the market support to score by a cosy half a length. Likely down to her connections more than the bare form of that race, she is now in to 4/1 for this.
Perhaps the most visually impressive Oaks trial we have witnessed so far this season came in Newmarket’s Pretty Polly Stakes. William Haggas’s Maqsad looked to have done well over the winter when breaking her maiden over a mile on her return, and certainly confirmed that impression when absolutely bolting up in that 1m2f Listed event at HQ. The compilers certainly seemed impressed, now making her their 8/1 third favourite for the race.
All Eyes On The Roodee
Plenty more clues to be gained yet though before the action at Epsom kicks off, starting at Chester this week, with the Chester Vase, Dee Stakes and the Cheshire Oaks all potentially informative.