The vagaries of the 2016 calendar mean that the first British and American classics of the year will not be run on the same date. While the Kentucky Derby (G1) will still be the main topic of conversation, it’s also welcome to have Saturday’s 2000 Guineas (G1) at Newmarket less an afterthought than usual.
It wasn’t too many years ago when I greeted the Guineas with great anticipation. Successful win wagers on longshots Sea the Stars and Makfi can do that to someone. Unfortunately, the Guineas has been awash in chalk in recent years, with Frankel, Camelot, Dawn Approach, and Gleneagles winning and Kingman narrowly losing though arguably best.
Saturday’s renewal, more likely than not, will follow recent trends if the hype surrounding Air Force Blue is correct. A triple Group 1 winner last year, including the Dewhurst (G1) run over the same Rowley Mile course as the Guineas, the son of War Front has been referred to by Aidan O’Brien as one of the best, if not the best, two-year-olds he’s ever trained. He’ll be making his sophomore debut as a prohibitive Guineas favorite after a reportedly good winter and spring.
I don’t recall being foolish enough to make a token wager against Frankel, but I do know I’ve been more willing to try and upset some of the other winning favorites of recent years. I’ll do so again Saturday, though I’ll keep my expectations and outlay low given the relative strength of Air Force Blue.
Godolphin and trainer Jim Bolger will be represented by Herald the Dawn (#6), a full brother to 2013 winner Dawn Approach who enjoyed a solid if unspectacular juvenile campaign. Winner of the Futurity (G2) at The Curragh in his third start, he next ran three lengths second to Air Force Blue in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1) over the same course.
In his season finale, the Prix Jean Luc-Legardere (G1) at Longchamp on Arc Day, Herald the Dawn never seemed to settle, was keen to go at times when bottled up, but then showed no interest in the lane. He finished seventh beaten 3 1/4 lengths by France-based Godolphin colorbearer Ultra in what was clearly the dullest try of his campaign.
Herald the Dawn has several lengths (and possibly more now) to make up on Air Force Blue, but a colt with his pedigree has plenty of scope to improve and perhaps be in the frame if the favorite throws in an unexpected clunker. I’m willing to throw the Longchamp race out and consider him for a small each-way investment considering overseas markets have him pegged at 25-1 and the U.S. morning line has him listed at 30-1. I’ll also box him in an exacta with the potentially invincible Air Force Blue.
(Photo courtesy of curragh.ie)