Belardo Back To Best and The Gurkha Destroys French Field
The highlight of an excellent card at Newbury on Saturday was the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. A strong field included some of the most highly touted older milers in training and resulted in a classy victory for a horse who went 0 for 7 in 2015.
Belardo certainly seems to have clicked back into the winning groove of his juvenile campaign now and is two from three in 2016 for team Godolphin, who have started the season in flying form. There are few better than Belardo under these conditions, and he looks one to keep on side for the seasons remaining mile contests, particularly when the word soft enters the going description.
Sunday saw the first classics of the French season take place at Deauville. The Group 1, one mile contests of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and the Poule d’Essai des Poulins are commonly referred to as the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas. Raiders from both Britain and Ireland headed across the Channel in an attempt to wrest the prizes from a strong looking home team.
First blood went to France in the fillies’ race as the impressive La Cressionnaire fended off all comers for Jean Claude Rouget to claim the prize. John Gosden’s Nathra was best of the rest in second, but in truth nothing ever looked like getting to what looks a smart performer.
In the words of Ryan Moore the Poule d’Essai des Poulins was , “a demolition”. He was best placed to judge what was a wrecking ball like performance, as he was the man aboard the hugely impressive winner The Gurkha. The Aidan O’Brien trained colts five and a half length success certainly reverberated with the compilers. Ladbrokes now make The Gurkha their 3/1 favourite for the Epsom Derby.
Looking ahead to the coming weekend we have yet another pair of Guineas to look forward to. This time over in Ireland, as the Curragh plays host to the Irish 2000 Guineas and Irish 1000 Guineas on Saturday and Sunday.
Galileo Gold surprised a few when proving too good in the first classic of the season at Newmarket, but there looked to be no fluke about what was a pretty comfortable success. He was 14/1 at HQ but looks certain to go off favourite over in Ireland now that the cat is well and truly out of the bag. His handler Hugo Palmer is a young trainer ascending the ranks at a rate of knots, and there must be every chance he will be having to find room on the mantelpiece for a second classic trophy after this.
The placed horses from Newmarket look set to re-oppose, whilst Air Force Blue will look to rediscover some of his two year old swagger for Aidan O’Brien, having had a 2000 Guineas nightmare last time out, beating just the one home despite being sent off the as the 4/5 favourite.
She may have only run once to date this year but the display of Minding in the 1000 Guineas still marks her out as the star of the season so far. She looks to take the next step on her path to greatness by adding the Irish 1000 to her haul on Sunday.
Should this follow the script of a comfortable success for the Aidan O’Brien filly, we will be all set for one of the most anticipated Oaks in years, with John Gosden’s So Mi Dar lying in wait for Minding at Epsom. Minding’s main rivals on Sunday look likely to come from within her own yard, although Michael O’Callaghan’s Now Or Never has received glowing praise from jockey Kieren Fallon in the build up.