Things We Learned » Guineas could be a real Classic

Guineas could be a real Classic

It’s going to be some 2000 Guineas next May if they all get there.  Perhaps there is that sense at this stage every year, in the immediate wake of the big European juvenile autumn races.  It may be a recency-bias thing.  Even so, you get the feeling that this year’s crop of juvenile colts could be a vintage crop.

Too Darn Hot has to top the list.  John Gosden’s colt is unbeaten in four, and he won the Dewhurst.  Not only did he win the Dewhurst, but he won it impressively, despite not getting the run of the race nor really handling the Dip on the fast ground.  And there’s his breeding, by Dubawi out of Dar Re Mi, a brother to So Mi Dar, a half-brother to Lah Ti Dar, a brother to the colt who sold for 3.5 million guineas at Tattersalls last week. 

Then there is Quorto, another Dubawi colt, another unbeaten colt, a Godolphin colt, winner of the Superlative Stakes and conqueror of Anthony Van Dyck in the National Stakes.  And Calyx, whom we haven’t seen since he beat Advertise and Sergei Prokoviev in the Coventry Stakes.  Another John Gosden colt, another unbeaten colt. 

And Ten Sovereigns, a No Nay Never colt, an Aidan O’Brien colt, blistering over six furlongs in his maiden and in the Round Tower Stakes, and doughty too in the Middle Park.  Yet another unbeaten colt.  And Madhmoon, box office when he won the Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend, but now a little forgotten as time has rolled on and the world has gone Too Darn Hot mad.  But that suits Kevin Prendergast well.  Under the radar and creeping.  And yes, Madhmoon is unbeaten too.

It is not every year that you have five unbeaten juveniles towards the top of the 2000 Guineas market by the time the Buck House Chase has been run at Punchestown.

Advertise isn’t far off the top ones, the July Stakes winner, the Phoenix Stakes winner, the Coventry runner-up, the Dewhurst runner-up, and Jash was only beaten a half a length by Ten Sovereigns in the Middle Park, the pair of them clear of the Molecomb Stakes winner and the Anglesey Stakes winner and the Gimcrack Stakes winner.

And then there is Frenchman Persian King, who beat Magna Grecia in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday, clocking a proportionately similar time over a mile to the time that Too Darn Hot clocked over seven furlongs in the Dewhurst.  

It is rare that Andre Fabre takes a juvenile to Newmarket in the autumn without just cause and without just intent.  Fabre’s Miss France won the Oh So Sharp Stakes in 2013 before going back to Newmarket the following May and winning the 1000 Guineas.  The 1993 2000 Guineas hero Zafonic won the Dewhurst in 1992.  The 1995 Guineas winner Pennekamp won the Dewhurst in 1993.  It would not be at all surprising to see Persian King return to Newmarket next May.

You won’t be wishing the National Hunt season away during the winter now.  But still, you can already feel the warm glow of next year’s Guineas. 

Middle-distance pointers

It is probable that, as well as providing significant clues to next year’s 2000 Guineas, Newmarket on Saturday also presented serious pointers to some of the top three-year-old middle-distance races of 2019. 

Kew Gardens won the opening race on the card last year, the Zetland Stakes, and Kew Gardens won the Queen’s Vase this year, as well as the Grand Prix de Paris, before going on to Doncaster and winning the St Leger.

Second in the Zetland Stakes last year was Dee Ex Bee, who finished second in this year’s Derby and fourth in this year’s St Leger.

The 2016 Zetland Stakes was won by Coronet, who won the Ribblesdale Stakes in 2017 and finished fourth in the Irish Oaks and second in the Yorkshire Oaks.  Third in that Zetland Stakes was 2017 Dante and King Edward VII winner Permian, and fourth was 2017 Derby winner Wings Of Eagles. 

Fifth in last year’s Autumn Stakes was Flag Of Honour, who won this year’s Irish St Leger, while the 2016 Autumn Stakes was won by Best Solution, who won the Lingfield Derby Trial as a three-year-old, and has now won two Group 1 races in Germany as a four-year-old.

Looking further back, the 2013 Autumn Stakes was won by the 2014 Derby runner-up and the 2014 St Leger winner Kingston Hill, while the 2012 Autumn Stakes was won by the 2013 Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, who went on to finish second in the King George and second in the Juddmonte International.

Main horses to note from this year’s Zetland Stakes and Autumn Stakes with next year in mind?  Norway, Sydney Opera House, Persian King, Magna Grecia, Circus Maximus and Boerhan.

Mullins strength runs deep 

Willie Mullins was at it again on Saturday.  Seven runners in the Cesarewitch, four in the first eight in the betting, two in the first two home.

It should not be surprising that Mullins’ strength in the flat staying ranks runs deep, given his unprecedented level of success in the National Hunt sphere.  It follows that talented hurdlers will have a high level of ability on the flat as well.

The targeting of big British staying handicaps is not a brand new thing for Irish trainers who are essentially best known for their National Hunt exploits.  Tony Martin won the Ascot Stakes with Barba Papa as far back as 2000, and with Leg Spinner in 2005, and he won the Cesarewitch with the same Leg Spinner in 2007. 

Gordon Elliott won the Ebor with Dirar in 2010.  Jarlath Fahey won the Ascot Stakes with Jennies Jewel in 2016.  Mullins himself won the Ebor with Sesenta in 2009, and he won the Ascot Stakes in 2012 with Simenon, a race that Charles Byrnes won in 2014 with Domination.

And Vincent O’Brien won the first of his Ebors (Gladness, 1958) the year before he won the last of his Gloucester Hurdles.

But it appears that this year, Willie Mullins has taken it to a new level.  He had the 1-3-4-5 in the Ascot Stakes and he won the JLT Cup with Stratum.  He even had the 1-2 in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup with Thomas Hobson and Max Dynamite, before he had the 1-2 in the Cesarewitch on Saturday.

In Ireland, Mullins had the 1-2 in the Petingo Handicap at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend with Limini and Law Girl, he had the 1-2 in the Dubai Duty Free Handicap on Irish Derby weekend with Low Sun and Laws Of Spin, he had the 1-2 in the Connacht Hotel Handicap at Galway with Uradel and Limini.

And remember, Max Dynamite finished second in the handicap that stops a nation in 2015 and he finished third in it in 2017.

With the already-extremely-lucrative pots for the Cesarewitch and Ebor set to increase significantly in value again next year, it would be surprising if the champion Irish National Hunt trainer was not already thinking in terms of having one or two primed for those two races at least.  This is a phenomenon that is not set to abate any time soon.

Dig deeper for influence of the draw 

Take a cursory look at the results of the last three renewals of the final race at Ascot today, the Balmoral Handicap, and you would be forgiven for thinking that the low-drawn horses have been at an advantage.

Last year’s winner of the race, Lord Glitters, raced from stall three (of 20 runners, 23 stalls), while the winner of the 2016 renewal (19 runners, 23 stalls) Yuften raced from stall one, and the 2015 winner Musaddas emerged from stall four (of 20 runners, 23 stalls).

However, the next four horses home last year raced from respectively, stalls 18, 17, 15 and 23.  The horses who filled the minor places in 2015 raced from stalls 13, 12, 18 and 22, while the next four horses home in 2016 raced from nine, 16, 12 and 21.  Outside of the winners, then, only one of the 12 horses who filled the places raced from a single figure stall.

The average value for the stall numbers that filled the first five places in the Balmoral Handicap in the last three years is 13.6.  So not low at all.

As easy as 1-2-3

Result of the (five-runner) fifth race (at Limerick on Sunday, the PriceWaterhouseCooper Rated Chase): first number one (Tombstone), second number two (Montalbano), third number three (Oighear Dubh), fourth number four (Poormans Hill), and fifth number five (Redwood Castle). 

That’s one, two, three, four, and five.

© The Irish Field, 20th October 2018