We’ve had a tough time of it lately with 14/1, 12/1, 9/1, 6/1 and 2/1 selections coming second in April alone, as well as Al Boum Photo and Bellshill throwing away big races at the last when booked for victory.
I really do feel jumps racing is really tough on punters at the moment and stand-out weekend value isn’t available on a weekly basis, especially with the ground being as it has been all year, so it’s with some relief and excitement that I write on a sunny day in London that the flat is back with Classic action at Newmarket this weekend.
Our flat ROI stands at £1.31 after 428 bets, so we’re confident of a change in fortunes.
Both the 2000 and 1000 Guineas are the feature races on Saturday and Sunday respectively at Newmarket and we’ll be making our selections early this week due to being on holidays.
I’m not sure it’s the classiest 2000 Guineas we’ve seen in recent years but it is a nice betting heat nonetheless, particularly as super-sire Galileo, remarkably, only has one of his sons running.
That’s Gustav Klimt for the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien yard, who unlike recent O’Brien Guineas winners wasn’t a world beater at two and arrives at Newmarket after a winning prep run despite most of his past winners making their reappearance in the big race itself.
The fact he’s had a run says to me O’Brien isn’t – or wasn’t at the time – certain of who his best three-year-old miler is, which is understandable as this colt had missed the second half of last season and O’Brien possibly isn’t certain he has a top-notch three-year-old miler in the yard this season.
To support that, O’Brien opted to run his best two-year-old filly, 1000 Guineas favourite Happily, in the big juvenile colts race on Arc day at Chantilly last year, while none of his first four home in the Group One Dewhurst Stakes – the season’s most prestigious two-year-old race and a strong pointer for the 2000 Guineas – were by Galileo or are fancied for Saturday’s Classic.
Perhaps – just perhaps – it’s slim pickings for this dominant yard when it comes to this division?
Basically, if Gustav Klimt is the best of this generation of Coolmore colts by Galileo, he doesn’t have the juvenile back form or experience, nor the same level of competition from within his yard to stand him out as the same class of recent O’Brien-trained favourites in this race; he’s got to be taken on at a short price.
To put that into context, Galileo colt Gleneagles, who won the 2000 Guineas at 4/1 a few years ago, was both a bigger price and had better juvenile form for the same yard.
O’Brien also runs Racing Post Trophy winner Saxon Warrior, by Japanese sire Deep Impact, whose breeding suggests he’ll be better at middle distances.
He’s currently favourite for the Derby and jockey bookings firmly suggest he’s second string to the Seamie Heffernan-ridden Gustav Klimt, as usual stable jockey Ryan Moore is over in the States to ride Mendelsohhn on the same day in the Kentucky Derby.
I’m not so sure we’ll see the best of Saxon Warrior over a mile at Newmarket – where he’s unproven – on his seasonal reappearance, and O’Brien has said that he’ll likely need the run with this not his main seasonal target – avoid, avoid avoid!
I was a little confused why so many pundits rated Saxon Warrior’s Racing Post Trophy the best two-year-old form of last season – and even more so since the second home, Roaring Lion, let it down so badly in the Craven Stakes two weeks ago.
Right now I’m against that form-line and therefore against Saxon Warrior too – though Roaring Lion has drifted to a whopping 16/1 since defeat in the Craven and is surely the bet of the pair if you’re that way inclined – I’m not.
I think there’s a very obvious bet in this race with MASAR, the emphatic nine-length winner of the Craven Stakes available at a very backable 5/1.
Obviously there’s now a collateral form-line in his favour versus the Racing Post Trophy lot, but it’s the visual impression left from his win last time out that has me on-side.
He looked the real deal in the Craven, breaking well, setting his own fractions from the front, racing with his ears pricked and quickening clear as straight as an arrow to smash Roaring Lion and co by an ever-increasing margin at the finish.
The time was good and I love that he set the pace from the front, which is where last year’s Craven winner Eminent, who broke the track record, went wrong in last year’s 2000 Guineas by allowing the O’Brien horses to set the race up perfectly for Churchill to sprint home from a slow pace.
A repeat of those tactics and Masar will be extremely hard to catch if holding his form, given he is now proven up and down the undulations of Newmarket, which counts for a huge amount.
Charlie Appleby’s horses are in fine form and the sole reason I can think of to oppose Masar is whether the Craven was his big performance this season, which he might struggle to repeat again.
Fortunately that’s more than factored into the price and there’s a similar chance he will improve again, so the two scenarios cancel each-other out and it’s not enough to put me off.
I wouldn’t want to see soft ground either, but Newmarket drains fast and the going is good-to-soft, good in places at the time of writing with a predominantly dry forecast strongly suggesting it’ll improve to good by post time.
Being by a past Guineas winner and sire of subsequent Guineas winner, New Approach, Masar is bred for the job – while we know he’s trained on from two to three and he’s now proven over the Guineas course and distance, so he’s the bet at the prices.
Of the rest the Frankel Elarqam could upset the odds on just his third start.
I’m nervous of backing inexperienced horses in the Guineas and I’m yet to see a son or daughter of Frankel make a mark in Group One races over this mile trip, especially at this stage of their careers; Frankel’s best progeny so far have been middle-distance horses who appear to improve over the course of their three-year-old seasons and perhaps peak at four – think Cracksman.
The Guineas probably comes too soon for him, then, though I’ll caveat that the regally-bred colt would be of a lot of interest if drifting out from the current 6/1 quotes on offer.
At the moment he’s just a bit short to be backing with such limited information or form in the book to rate his chances, despite the Mark Jonhston yard appearing very confident.
The Greenham Stakes 1-2, James Garfield and Expert Eye, are worth considering too at nice prices, but both have both stamina and a liking to Newmarket to prove, and our selection Masar appears far more solid in almost every department.
Put simply, if he was trained by O’Brien he would be half the price, and Charlie Appleby is a fine trainer.
1pt each-way Masar @11/2, 2000 Guineas, Saturday 5th May (various)
On to Sunday when the fillies take centre stage in the 1000 Guineas, and it would seem somewhat hypocritical to not fancy the favourite Happily’s chances after she beat Masar on Arc day at Chantilly last October.
I’m just not sure we make money long term punting 5/2 favourites in big fields like this, despite her obvious claims.
I reckon Masar has significantly improved from two to three so the Chantilly form shouldn’t be taken too literally – though it’s without doubt very impressive – while over in France the fillies get very generous weight allowances at that stage of the season [October] so there are obvious reasons why that result perhaps flattered her.
If you’re looking for a collateral form-line through Happily then look no further than WILD ILLUSION, who beat Happily’s stablemate Magical in the fillies juvenile Group One race on the same card at Chantilly.
Magical and Happily are so similar it’s easy to mix them up; they spent much of last season beating each other in photo finishes and share the same sire, trainer and owner.
Both are good fillies but neither scream class like previous O’Brien Guineas winners such as Minding, while the form of Wild Illusion’s Group One success reads as well as anything in this race – and if Happily and Magical are so evenly matched then she’s got claims for favoritism here.
Soft ground is perhaps required for her to be at her best, but it should be genuine good ground come Sunday and that shouldn’t inconvenience anyone – that’s why they call it good, duh.
Let’s not forget she’s 8/1 to Happily’s 5/2, so she stands out as a nice value bet.
I Can Fly is the O’Brien second string but has been found in the market at 7/1 and looks a bit short in both price and experience.
Though Winter won this last year without being the stable’s leading runner, more often than not the Ballydoyle team get those big decisions right; Happily’s price is fair enough as it is so if I were to side with O’Brien I’d be backing the favourite.
Laurens is a winner at Group One and Group Two level but appeared somewhat lucky last season, so while she’s reported to have matured a lot from two to three, she was outclassed a few times last season when beaten by Polydream in France – who was behind Wild Illusion at Chantilly – and was very fortunate to beat September in the Fillies’ Mile over this course and distance.
She’s nice price but she’s not for me.
Wild Illusion’s stablemate Soliloquy is an interesting contender having been supplemented for this after an impressive win in the Nell Gwyn Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket a fortnight ago.
She seems a very solid bet at around 7/1 for similar reasons to Masar in the colts equivalent race, and perhaps the fact she only raced seven furlongs rather than a mile in her prep race is a positive.
The thing is, she was beaten at Newmarket last season in a lower grade by Richard Hannon’s VITAMIN, who is chalked up as big as 66/1 for the 1000 Guineas and hasn’t been seen since.
She’s very unexposed and inexperienced, but she’s by a Guineas winner in Camelot -who isn’t a known quantity as a sire – and appears to have more than enough collateral and course form to suggest she could outrun those massive odds on Sunday.
She’s not a certain starter at all as Hannon has said she’s quite temperamental and inconsistent with her work, so I’m looking for non-runner no bet quotes and the 50/1 on offer with SkyBet looks worth a small each-way bet.
Of the rest I briefly considered the Irish raider Liquid Amber but lost her somewhere between looking for something speculative [Vitamin] and something solid [Wild Illusion].
1pt win Wild Illusion @8/1, 1000 Guineas, Sunday 6th May (WillHill)
0.5pts each-way Vitamin @50/1, 1000 Guineas, Sunday 6th May (non-runner no bet, 1,2,3, 1/5 odds with SkyBet)