There’s no doubt the flat season is with us now. I’m writing this just after the finish of the first colts classic, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, with the first fillies classic the 1,000 Guineas to come on Sunday.
This week’s post concentrates on Saturday’s action from Newmarket, but there is time at the end to take a quick look at the three-day Chester May Festival, which starts on Wednesday.
Ten Sovereigns all the rage for first colt’s classic
Lets’ begin with the race that Newmarket racegoers had all come to see, the 2,000 Guineas. A race that in the past that has been won by the likes of Nijinsky, El Grans Senor, Dancing Brave, Sea the Stars and Frankel. The two thousand Guineas Day started breezy and chilly, and before the big race the racecourse saw all four seasons in one day.
With likes of To Darn Hot, Quarto and Mohaather all missing the race due to training setbacks, and the Andre Fabre trained Persian King deciding to stay in France to run in the French 2,000 Guineas, it looked a 2,000 Guineas short on quality but long on quantity.
Plenty of the runners had stamina questions to answer, including Middle Park winner Ten Sovereigns & Advertise. There were also questions about the quality of the Craven Stakes’ form in regard to Skardu.
Given so many uncertainties it was not to surprising that Godolphin decided to chance supplementing the previously unbeaten Al Hilalee for the race.
Ten Sovereign’s stablemate, Magna Grecia had no stamina doubts, as he had won the 1m Vertem Futurity at Doncaster on his final start as a juvenile. He looked strong and well before the off, although not as fit as the other O’Brien runner. Before the off, the unbeaten Ten Sovereigns, trained by Aidan O’Brien, was all the rage in the betting, and was sent off the 9/4 favourite, with Magna Grecia easy to back at 11/2.
But Donnacha keeps it simple
Shine So Bright looked the pace angle before the race, and he took two horses, Magna Grecia & King Of Change over to the Stands Side. The main group of horses went down the middle ,with Azano looking a reluctant leader for the first half of the race. Meanwhile Emaraaty Ana was doing a solo on the fair side.
It paid-off to go down the Stands Side. Shine So Bright made a bold bid for glory and was the overall leader three furlongs from home, until headed by Magna Grecia coming to the furlong post. Once in front Magna Grecia was never going to be caught by those coming down the middle, and ran-on well to win by 2 ½ lengths. In fact, his closest rival in the final furlong was eventual runner-up King Of Change, who also raced down the Stands Side.
It was a tenth success in the 2,000 Guineas for Aidan O’Brien, and a third consecutive win in the race for the trainer. It was a second successive win in the race for jockey Donnacha O’Brien, after his win on Saxon Warrior 12 months ago.
Donnacha kept it simple as he rightly followed the pace, rather than join the main group who went down the middle. Magna Grecia was the deserved winner on the day. Granted he was helped by the pace bias on the Stands Side, but let’s take nothing away from the colt. He will hopefully stay over a mile now, rather than be campaigned over further, as last year’s winner Saxon Warrior was. He wasn’t entered in the Derby, and hopefully connections will resist the temptation to supplement him for Epsom.
How the rest fared?
Ten Sovereigns seems to have developed into a miler on looks. He didn’t get any cover in the middle group, and was in the lead down the middle coming to two out, and was only headed near the finish. In the circumstances it was a good run. The question remains does he drop back to sprint campaign or stay at a mile….
Skardu upheld the Craven form and ran-on well to the line to grab third, although he still finished just over four lengths behind the winner. He should remain competitive in Group 1’s over a mile as the season progresses.
Madhmoon who hasn’t grown as much as some of his rivals, was doing all his best work at the end of the race, and finished a head behind Skardu in 4th . He had looked a solid each-way contender before the race, returned to a sound surface, and repaid his supporters. A handy, well proportioned colt, he always looked more a Derby contender than a Guineas winner, and this performance will have enhanced his claims for next month’s Blue Riband race.
Advertise impressed in the paddock before the race. The Martyn Meade trained colt has really developed from two to three. He was a doubtful stayer before the race, and so it proved as he weakened out of contention a furlong from home before finishing 15th. He will surely now go back to sprinting. This run can be ignored, and there should be races in the son of Showcasing back at sprint distances.
There was late money for the supplemented Al Hilalee, who was sent-off just 8/1, but he never really got competitive down the middle. Granted he lacked the experience of many in the field. However, this must go down as a poor run from the Dubai colt. He will need to bounce back big time if he’s to be considered a Derby contender.
I can’t end this Newmarket review without a mention for the performance of Mab’s Cross in winning the Palace House Stakes for the second year running.
The mare came into the race a proven Group 1 sprinter, having been beaten a nose in the Nunthorpe, before going-on to land the Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc Day.
Carrying her Group 1 penalty, she was having to give weight to all her rivals, and didn’t have the benefit of a previous run as she had had last year.
It looked like Equilateral would hold-on, after he quickened-up well between the final two furlongs, to take a couple of lengths up on the field. He just couldn’t hold the strong finish of the mare, who won by a neck, and had to settle for second. Not for the first time, he travelled superbly and the drop back to 5f worked. He might well have won had he been held onto for a bit longer.
Both the winner and runner-up will clash again in the King Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. If the ground isn’t rattling fast next month, and they go a good gallop, Mab’s Cross could easily go on to win the King Stand Stakes, a race she was third in last year.
The strong favourite at the off was the Aidan O’Brien trained Sergei Prokofiev. The recent Navan winner was sent-off the 6/4 favourite. It’s not easy for 3-year-old’s in sprints at this time of year, so it wasn’t a bad run to finish a running-on-well 4th, albeit he was beaten 2 ½ lengths by the winner. On the evidence of this performance, he looks like he needs an extra furlong.
Given Mab’s Cross made her effort without cover on the outside, it was a good performance by the 5-year-old. A very special filly, she’s better than ever and, given this was her first run of the season, there should be more to come from her.
A credit to trainer Michael Dods, who trained Mecca’s Angel, that he has another great sprinting mare on his hands.
Chester May Festival Stats
Here are a few takeaway stats for this week’s Chester May Festival.
1. Chester Cup keep it low
You will be bombarded by plenty of stats regarding the draw at Chester. You will have to have very compelling reasons for backing any horse in Friday’s historic Chester Cup, who is drawn higher than 11.
Looking at the last 11 running’s of the race, just one horse from 72 runners has won from a higher stall than 11, when Ile De Re triumphed in 2011 from stall 13. Horse’s drawn 14 and higher are 0 winners from 54 runners 7 placed 13%.
Breaking the draw by segments:
First Quarter – 6 winners from 44 runners +23.5 13 placed
Second Quarter – 2 winners from 56 runners -35 16 placed
Third Quarter – 3 winners from 44 runners +12 9 placed
Fourth Quarter – 0 winners from 44 runners -44 6 placed
2. Follow Aidan’s favourites at Chester’s May Festival
In the past five years no trainer has won more races at Chester May’s Festival than Aidan O’Brien. It’s a festival he likes to target. Since 2014 he’s had
12 winners 34 runners 35% -1.33 21 placed 62%
As you can see, you can’t back his runners blindly, as you would have lost money. However, there is one simple way to profit from his runners and that is to follow the market. His favourites have produced the following set of results:
12 winners from 18 runners 67% +14.67 16 placed 89%.
Despite being favourites, they are performing 54% better than market expectations, and have been offering punters plenty of value bets.
Some great profits for keeping it very simple, and backing all Aidan O’Brien runners sent-off favourite at Chester this week.
Good luck with this week’s punting.