Things We Learned » Guineas picture still hazy

Guineas picture still hazy

The 2000 Guineas trials have been run, but the picture is not a lot clearer than it was two weeks ago.

Of course, it didn’t help that the winter favourite Too Darn Hot didn’t make his intended appointment with the Greenham Stakes at Newbury last Saturday.  John Gosden’s colt was outstanding last year, unbeaten in four, the Solario Stakes winner and the Champagne Stakes winner and the Dewhurst Stakes winner, but you have to tread warily now.  At best, he arrives at Newmarket on the back of a preparation that was not the trainer’s first choice.

The Greenham Stakes, in Too Darn Hot’s absence, was won in impressive fashion by Mohaather, but he may be all speed, he is bred for speed and, while you can understand that connections want to have a go in the Guineas – it’s a shot to nothing – there has to be a worry about the Showcasing colt getting the extra furlong.

We haven’t seen either of the two main Aidan O’Brien Guineas contenders, Ten Sovereigns or Magna Grecia, yet this season.  Like Too Darn Hot, Ten Sovereigns went through his juvenile year unbeaten, he won his maiden and he won the Round Tower Stakes and he won the Middle Park Stakes.  The No Nay Never colt could have a touch of brilliance about him, but he has never been beyond six furlongs in his life.  He still has to prove that he has the stamina for a mile. 

Last year’s Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Royal Marine was beaten in January in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial at Meydan, when he admittedly missed the break and probably didn’t handle the dirt.  He could only finish fourth in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on Wednesday though and, while he was keen and didn’t really have the run of the race, he has questions to answer now.

Skardu was impressive in winning the Craven and should progress, and Persian King will surely be a big player if he makes the trip.  The Godolphin colt landed odds of 1/5 in the Prix de Fontainbleau at Longchamp on Sunday, but Andre Fabre has not confirmed him as a definite runner at Newmarket yet.  

Magna Grecia proved his stamina for a mile when he landed the Vertem Futurity Stakes over the trip at Doncaster in October, and there shouldn’t be much between him and Persian King on their running in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket two weeks before that. 

And, while Madhmoon could only finish second to Never No More in the Leopardstown Guineas Trial, he only went down by a half a length to a talented and race-fit rival, giving him 3lb over a distance that was probably short of his best.  Kevin Prendergast’s colt is still in the Guineas picture, hazy though it is.

Irish National trends

You need to be careful when you are assessing the Irish Grand National trends.

The weight stat tells you that 17 of the 18 winners since the turn of the millennium carried less than 11st, that you can’t be looking at any horse who is set to carry more than 11st.

But dig a little deeper.  Last year, only two of the 30 runners carried more than 11st in the race: the 33/1 shot Outlander, and Bellshill, who could have won had he jumped the final fence fluently.

In 2017, only five of the 28 runners carried more than 11st, and one of them, Our Duke, won the race.  In 2016, again five of the 27 runners carried more than 11st.  In 2015, only one of the 28 runners carried more than 11st.  In 2014, only two of the 26 runners carried more than 11st.  Incidentally, the winner, Shutthefrontdoor, carried 10st 13lb, just 1lb below the 11st mark. 

In 2013, only one of the 28 runners, the 33/1 shot Junior, carried more than 11st.  In 2012, only three of the 29 runners carried more than 11st, and they were sent off at SPs of, respectively, 50/1, 33/1 and 50/1.  In 2011, only one horse carried more than 11st.  In 2010, only two horses carried more than 11st.  In 2009, only six horses carried more than 11st.

You get the picture.  In the last 10 years, an average of 2.8 horses carried more than 11st, which represents around 10% of the runners.  And one of those 10 renewals was won by a horse who carried more than 11st.  That’s 10% too. 

So don’t go ruling out the high-weights just because they are the high-weights. 

Trainer stat

Be careful of the trainer stat too.  The one that says that a trainer cannot win a race because he has never won it.  

So Willie Mullins has never won the Irish National.  It doesn’t mean that he can’t win it.  (Ref: this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.)  Remember, Gordon Elliott had never won the Irish National before he sent General Principle out to win it last year.

Also, Willie Mullins’ Isleofhopendreams was beaten a head last year.  And Bellshill might have won it had the ball hopped a little more kindly.  (See above.)  Bellshill raced off a mark of 158 last year.  Since then, he has won a Punchestown Gold Cup and an Irish Gold Cup, and he is now rated 168.  

And if Kemboy hadn’t fallen at the first fence last year, he might have won.  The Supreme Racing Club’s horse was racing off a mark of 145 then.  He has run in six races since, and he has won five of them, a Savill’s Chase and an Aintree Bowl among them.  He is now rated 174, 29lb higher than he was at this time last year.  Hindsight being 20-20 and all, it’s remarkable that he was allowed go off at 14/1 last year.  

Powerful week

In the week that ran between last Thursday and this Thursday – deadline day (copy deadline day as opposed to transfer deadline day) – King Power Racing had eight runners, and five of them won.

Shine So Bright’s impressive victory in the Free Handicap was the headline performance, but Happy Power was impressive in winning a three-year-old handicap at Newbury last Friday, and he could be Jersey Stakes-bound.  Also, Bye Bye Hong Kong, second in the Group 3 Somerville Tattersall Stakes on his final run last season, battled on well to win a conditions race at Chelmsford last Thursday.

Fox Chairman ran out a good winner of a maiden at Newbury on Saturday and Fox Champion made all to win a conditions race at Newmarket on Thursday. 

Four of the five winners were trained by Andrew Balding, with one, Fox Champion, trained by Richard Hannon.  All five were ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, and all five are lightly-raced and progressive three-year-olds.   These are exciting times for the Srivaddhanaprabha family’s operation, building on the investment and the solid foundations that were put in place by the late Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. 

Naas pointers 

It was high-class racing at Naas last Saturday.  Magical was seriously impressive in winning the Group 3 Alleged Stakes, and Imaging battled on well to land the Group 3 Gladness Stakes under a well-timed ride by Oisin Orr, who was bagging the first group race of his nascent career.

There was plenty to note in behind the two group race winners too.  No Needs Never ran a big race to finish second in the Gladness Stakes, a rare three-year-old in the race, taking on his elders.  Also, Le Brivido put up a hugely satisfactory performance on his debut for Aidan O’Brien, the 2017 Jersey Stakes winner settling nicely for Ryan Moore and keeping on well to take third place.  Further back, Romanised, didn’t really have the run of the race, and there could be more to come from Ken Condon’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner.

The second and third in the Alleged Stakes, Flag Of Honour and Latrobe, will surely do better now when they step up from this 10-furlong trip.  Flag Of Honour raced prominently from flagfall, while Latrobe made up plenty of ground from the rear, coming from seventh place passing the furlong marker to make the frame.

And the day started with Monarch Of Egypt, the first son or daughter of 2015 American Triple Crown hero American Pharoah to race here, putting up an impressive performance to win the five-furlong maiden.  And the flat season is up and running.

© The Irish Field, 20th April 2019