On the same day Punchestown rounds off a stellar jumps season, Newmarket kicks off the flat season proper with the first Classic and first Group One, the 2000 Guineas.
In case you don’t know, it’s the mile version of the Derby and open only to three-year-olds, the Classic generation.
Horses only ever get one shot and it’s been won by some of the very best like Frankel and Sea The Stars, with victory guaranteeing future stud value.
It’s been a few years since we’ve had a favourite as short as Aiden O’Brien’s Air Force Blue, who has been odds-on for much of the winter on the strength of his brilliant two-year-old campaign.
It’s significant that O’Brien only runs two in the race, such is their confidence.
However, an odds-on shot in the Guineas is rarely good value as so many horses are unrecognisable from their juvenile form as three-year-olds.
It may transpire that, on his way to three Group Ones last year, Air Force Blue was just physically further ahead than his generation and his opponents may have caught up.
O’Brien has sounded caution that the mile trip may stretch Air Force Blue’s stamina, so there’s enough reasons to take him on.
I think MASSAAT is the one to shoot him down.
He chased Air Force Blue home in his dominant Dewhurst Stakes win back at Newmarket but was a clear, impressive second and certainly outran his 20/1 quote.
That run proved he acts at Newmarket where course form is particularly valuable.
Prior to that he’d won easily at Leicester when odds-on and, on his first run, finished a close second to a match-fit Cymric, who came so close to winning the Group One Prix Jean-luc Lagardere on Arc day at Longchamp.
Cymic was 25/1 that day, so you can see how the form-line has never been given the credit it perhaps deserves.
It’s excellent two-year-old form and proven course form, so there’s a lot to like; however it’s his trainer’s comments that were the clincher.
“Air Force Blue beat him [Massaat] by three and a quarter lengths in the Dewhurst but the winner was match-hardened then, having already won a Group One and been to Royal Ascot, while Massaat was big and raw and was coming straight from a maiden race.
“I would like to think that we will at least be able to narrow the gap on Saturday.
“It is hard to say what Massaat’s ideal trip will be at this stage as he has such a good temperament and relaxes in his races, so I’m sure that he will get 10 furlongs if we need him to.
“Paul [Hanagan] is adamant he has the speed needed to be competitive over a mile.
“Good ground would be perfect for him but he won his maiden on good to soft, so if it was good to soft again on Saturday I wouldn’t be too worried.”
That suggests they expect him to have trained on from two to three and catch up physically with Air Force Blue, who his own connections describe as a monster.
With little rain forecast and Newmarket known to drain really well, he’s not really got any negatives besides the 3¼ lengths he has to find with the favourite, so the 14/1 offered by Paddy Power seems good each-way value for a horse that’s on the upgrade.
1pt each-way Massaat @14/1, 15:45 Newmarket, Saturday
Leave a comment