There is an old saying about the Classics: ‘The fastest horse wins the Guineas, the luckiest the Derby — and the best horse wins the St Leger’.
That was probably true at one point, but it’s the 2,000 Guineas which is now most sought after for those looking to carve out a stallion career for their colts, and that's the betting market we're going to analyse here.
Plenty of roads can lead to Newmarket in early-May, but races which have featured more often in the programme of recent 2000 Guineas winners include the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, the National Stakes at the Curragh and the Futurity Stakes at Doncaster.
Winners of those key trials in 2018 were Too Darn Hot (Champagne Stakes and Dewhurst), Magna Grecia and Quorto (National Stakes). Other winners of recognised trials worth noting are Coventry Stakes winner Calyx, who was sidelined by injury thereafter, Autumn Stakes victor Persian King, who beat Magna Grecia in the process, and the unbeaten Ten Sovereigns, who landed the Middle Park Stakes on his final start.
There is no doubt that Ten Sovereigns (11/1 Betfair) is a bright prospect, but the Middle Park Stakes has become a graveyard for would-be Guineas winners, and since the great Brigadier Gerard won both in 1970 & 1971, only Rodrigo de Triano (‘91 & ‘92) has done the double without the help of the stewards - and unlike Ten Sovereigns, Rodrigo de Triano had won over 7f as a juvenile.
It’s probable that the son of No Nay Never will be given his chance at Newmarket, but he looks all about speed, and will be relying on the old adage rather than modern statistics in his bid to win.
Calyx (10/1 Paddy Power) is another who has yet to race beyond 6f. He picked up an injury, which meant he didn’t race after the Coventry. He was extremely impressive at Royal Ascot, having won easily on his debut at Newmarket, and in some ways is the forgotten horse in the 2,000 Guineas betting, with his pedigree suggesting he is much more than an early two-year-old.
It’s possible that his Coventry run was more about his owner-breeder to market his young sire than it was about John Gosden’s desire to get early silverware, given the trainer’s usual patient approach.
If that race was the trainer’s aim from the outset, then it suggests he is nothing more than a precocious sprinter after all, and that militates against his chances of him winning the Guineas.
Of course, Kingman, the sire of Calyx, should arguably have won the Guineas himself, having also had surgery after his juvenile campaign, so there is symmetry there, but there are too many factors which speak against Calyx for him to be a bet in the Guineas at this stage, and he has to be off the list at the current odds.
There are no real negatives about Too Darn Hot (6/4f 888 Sport), who has impressed on all of his starts, and he overcame difficulties in the Dewhurst to run out an eye-catching winner.
He’s bred for further than a mile, and proved his stamina early, but he’s shown blistering speed at the end of 7f, so the idea that he might find the trip too sharp is a non-starter, and pointing to the achievements of his siblings is misleading in this regard.
There is some fragility in the family, with injury curtailing the Classic aspirations of more than one of those siblings, so that needs to be factored in, but the main reason to swerve him is purely his price.
If a week is a long time in politics, then six months is an age with young thoroughbreds, and taking 6/4 or shorter about winter favourites for Classic races has rarely made anyone rich.
I’m reluctantly also going to add Persian King (14/1 William Hill) to the discard pile, not because he was all-out to win the Autumn Stakes, but because trainer Andre Fabre has stated that he must have a sound surface, and the prospect of easy ground at Newmarket is very realistic.
There are reasons to be very positive about his latest win though, particularly given how well those he beat performed in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster. The son of Kingman is not dissimilar in profile to Fabre’s brilliant Guineas winner Zafonic, who was also a big, rangy juvenile, and needed fast ground to show his form.
Those looking for an angle are reminded that Zafonic was beaten at odds of 1/10 in his prep for the Guineas on soft ground before running out one of the most impressive winners of the Newmarket Classic.
Persian King will almost certainly need a prep race in the spring, and that will almost certainly come on ground softer than ideal, so I wouldn’t be put off backing him then, should he get turned over in something like the Prix Djebel, which has a reputation of throwing up shock results.
Quorto (8/1 888 Sport) is impossible to discard given what he’s achieved, and his unbeaten record takes in both the Superlative Stakes on Newmarket’s July course and the National Stakes at the Curragh.
The former win suggests he’ll handle the track, although there are differences between the July Course and the Rowley Mile which need to be recognised, but it’s his defeat of Anthony Van Dyck and subsequent Royal Lodge winner Mohawk which stand out.
It’s possible to use that form to demonstrate Too Darn Hot’s superiority, since he beat both those Aidan O’Brien-trained horses by further in the Dewhurst, but collateral form lines are often as misleading as they are illuminating, and the idea that juveniles in particular run to the same level as the season progresses is a dangerous one.
I’ve no intention of trying to twist the figures to suggest that Quorto is better than the Dewhurst winner, but his performance at the Curragh was top-class, and he is bred to do better next season.
He’s also bred to improve for a further step up in trip, and the fact that he won on debut over 6f, given he’s out of a mare who won over 1m1f as a juvenile before being placed in the Irish Oaks, speaks volumes about his innate ability. His speed figure for that Curragh success was eye-popping, and he is very tractable in his races, which is a potential flaw in his main rival.
The other horse to consider as value is Vertem Futurity winner Magna Grecia (16/1 Betfair Sportsbook), and while he rather scrambled home at Doncaster, he wasn’t helped by his own pacemaker accidentally shutting the door on him, and is better than the bare result.
The fact he was supplemented for the race was significant, as it has become an important stepping stone for the O’Brien yard in particular, with both Camelot and Saxon Warrior completing the double in recent years, bucking a general trend which had suggested the race was a poor trial for Newmarket.
The move to the straight track for the Doncaster race is probably a significant factor in its increasing value, as is the relaying of the track, which means that a mudbath in October is a rarity. With so many top prospects only blooming in the autumn, the Coolmore focus on the race is fully justified.
The son of Invincible Spirit has a very likeable pedigree with the Guineas in mind, being by a top-class sire with a propensity for producing winners at up to a mile, and with the huge influence of Galileo as broodmare sire. Galileo’s name is writ large in the pedigrees of the vast majority of recent Guineas heroes, and he is the damsire of three of the last five winners.
What is most in Magna Grecia’s favour, though, is how quickly he has established himself at the top level, having made his debut on the last day of September. Such a rate of progress is remarkable, and while he lags behind Too Darn Hot et al on current ratings, he is open to more improvement, and looks an ideal type for the 2,000 Guineas rather than alternative Classic options.
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