The November Handicap officially brought down the curtain on the Flast season proper, so before what W.H. Ogilvie called the “hardy, hefty humble-bred ones” – in other words, the National Hunt horses – take centre stage, it’s time to look back at some of the outstanding juveniles of the year to see if we can shed some light on next year’s first Classic, the 2,000 Guineas. Of course, it’s possible we may not yet have seen the winner, but the ante post market is dominated by horses that ran at least once as two-year-olds.
The 2,000 Guineas appears to be a match between Dawn Approach (7/2) and Kingsbarns (8/1), who are both unbeaten, both Group 1 winners already and, coincidentally, both trained in Ireland, if the bookmaking fraternity is to be believed. However, I dare say connections of Olympic Glory (16/1), Toronado (16/1), Mars (16/1), Reckless Abandon (20/1) and Moohajim (25/1), among others, would have something to say about such a bold statement.
Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach is, undeniably, a worthy favourite for next season’s first Classic, having won all six career starts. The son of New Approach actually made his racecourse debut over 5 furlongs at the Curragh in March, but did most of his racing from May onwards. He beat Richard Hannon’s Olympic Glory by three-quarters of a length, over 6 furlongs, in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and finished the season with easy wins in the Vincent O’Brien Stakes at the Curragh and the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, both over 7 furlongs, in September and October.
The form of the Dewhurst Stakes has already been franked by the third horse, George Vancouver (25/1), who subsequently won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita, so Dawn Approach is hard to fault. He’s yet to win over a mile, but has enough stamina in his pedigree to suggest that an extra furlong is well within his compass, so it’ll take a smart performance to lower his colours on the Rowley Mile next May.
Aidan O’Brien’s Kingsbarns is also unbeaten after just two starts. He made his racecourse debut in a Navan maiden, over a mile, in October, winning by 7 lengths, eased down, and stayed on well to beat Richard Hannon’s Van Der Neer (25/1) in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster 17 days later. He still showed signs of inexperience on Town Moor, so he clearly has the makings of a very smart performer. Indeed, his Racing Post Trophy victory earned him an official BHA rating of 118, just 1lb less than last year’s 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner Camelot at this stage of his career.
Nevertheless, few horses complete the Racing Post Trophy – 2,000 Guineas double. In fact, Camelot became the first horse to do so since High Top in 1972. Kingsbarns has travelled strongly throughout his two races over a mile, on soft ground, but his pedigree suggests that he may be more of a middle-distance prospect than an out-and-out miler.
Richard Hannon holds a strong hand for the 2,000 Guineas, with Olympic Glory, Toronado and, of course, Van Der Neer, among the leading fancies in the ante post market. Toronado is by High Chaparral, so he’s another whose future may lie over middle distances, while Van Der Neer appeared to be beaten fair and square by Kingsbarns in the Racing Post Trophy, so Olympic Glory may represent his best chance.
The son of Choisir has been beaten just once in five career starts, when failing by three-quarters of a length to overhaul Dawn Approach in the Coventry Stakes, over 6 furlongs, at Royal Ascot on his second start. He, like Dawn Approach, progressed throughout the season and rounded off with a comfortable win in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagarde, over 7 furlongs, at Longchamp in October.
Of those at longer odds, Marco Botti’s Moohaajim has twice finished behind Clive Cox’s unbeaten Reckless Abandon, but only went down by neck when the pair met in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in October, compared with 2¼ lengths in the Prix Morny at Deauville in August. A strict interpretation of that form gives them both something to find with Dawn Approach, on a line through George Vancouver, but there are reasons to believe that Marco Botti’s charge can make up into an even better 3-year-old.
Moohaajim is by Cape Cross out of a Kingmambo mare, so he has the pedigree of a top class miler. Indeed, he needed every inch of 6 furlongs to get to grips with Reckless Abandon in the Middle Park Stakes, so his style of racing also suggests he’ll improve for a step up to a mile. The progeny of Cape Cross typically progress well, so by the time next May comes around he could be a force to be reckoned with, particularly with previous experience on the Rowley Mile course under his belt. At the time of writing, Moohaajim is available at an irresistible 25/1 with “The Magic Sign”.
If you any thoughts on next year’s 2,000 Guineas, or on next year’s Classics in general, or any comments of what I’ve written, please let me know.