(Note: I'll be continuing my tour of racecourses here in England this afternoon with a trip to Ascot Racecourse; I'll have a post re-capping my experiences at both Ascot and Epsom Downs later on this evening.)
The first Classic race on the U.K. racing calendar will take place this Saturday at Newmarket Racecourse with the Group 1 2000 Guineas Stakes. The Guineas, a one-mile race for three-year-olds (geldings excluded), will run over the straight on the Rowley Mile at Newmarket. The first Guineas took place in 1809 and has seen such notable winners in recent years as George Washington (2006) and Sea The Stars (2009), the latter of which went on to win the Arc at Longchamp.
This year's Guineas will likely feature one of the shortest priced horses in recent memory, Frankel, a son of Galileo that has rolled past the opposition in his previous five races. While it's not uncommon for a horse to make his first start of the spring in the Guineas, Frankel has the luxury of a race under his belt following an easy four length at Newbury on April 16th. His sterling record has pushed his odds into the 8/15 range with most U.K. bookmakers.
For viewers in the U.S., the 2000 Guineas will be broadcast on HRTV at approximately 9:30 am Eastern time this Saturday.
Below is a list of the horses considering a start in this Saturday's 2000 Guineas, along with the approximate best odds offered by U.K. bookmakers. (You can find current information on the Guineas at the Racing Post)
|Alexander Pope||A. O'Brien||150/1|
|Casamento||M. Al Zarooni||16/1|
|Dubawi Gold||R. Hannon||40/1|
|Happy Today||B. Meehan||150/1|
|Loving Spirit||J. Toller||66/1|
|Master of Hounds||A. O'Brien||33/1|
|Native Khan||E. Dunlop||12/1|
|Roderic O'Connor||A. O'Brien||8/1|
|Saamidd||S. Bin Suroor||25/1|
|Slim Shadey||J. Moore||200/1|
Aiden O'Brien's Master of Hounds is strongly considering a trip to Louisville to run in the Kentucky Derby instead of the Guineas. He finished 2nd in the mile and sixteenth UAE Derby at Meydan on the World Cup undercard and was 6th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last November. Master of Hounds is a colt that appears to want more ground than the mile of the Guineas, which is the likely reason for taking a shot in Kentucky.
Pathfork appears to be the prime challenger to Frankel following his excellent juvenile campaign in Ireland. A son of Distorted Humor out of a Salder's Wells mare, Pathfork won the Group 1 Vincent O'Brien National and the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh last fall. The Guineas will be his first start of 2011.
Ed Dunlop's Native Kahn won the Group 3 Craven Stakes at Newmarket on the 14th of this month in a sort of trial run for the Guineas. He might not be quite at the level of Frankel and Pathfork, but he appears to come back strong following time off over winter.
Casamento was second to Pathfork in the Vincent O'Brien last fall followed by wins in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy (over a 3rd placed Master of Hounds) and Group 2 Beresford Stakes. Casamento is the top Goldolphin hope for this year's Guineas.
Finally, Roderic O'Connor (another Aiden O'Brien trainee) was 2nd to Frankel in the Group 1 Dewhurst last October before flattering the Guineas favorite with a strong showing in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint Cloud in France in late October. As with many horses in this field, it's difficult to predict how much improvement Roderic O'Connor has made over the last six months. If he's developed strongly then it's not out of the question that he could challenge the top spot.