On Saturday 5th May the latest generation of 3yo colts will line up at Newmarket to contest the 204th running of a thrilling mile Classic. Normally an immense test, the race was made to look ordinary, by the extraordinary Frankel last season, who stormed to victory in unequivocal fashion. There will surely not be a repeat of that once in a lifetime performance any time soon, with this seasons renewal looking, on paper at least, to be a very competitive race.
In this write up I will analyse the form and look at those all important trends which hopefully will help us locate the value and a potential Classic winner.
The starting point for my analysis is to look at the Antepost favourite, which in this case is the Aiden O'Brien trained Camelot. A very classy looking 3yo who was unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile last term, culminating his short season in October with victory in the Racing Post Trophy.
Under normal circumstances it is never an intelligent move to favour a colt who has been victorious in a mile race as a 2yo. History suggests that unless the horse is a special talent, he cannot be bred well enough to be effective over a mile, at both 2 and 3 years old. Only the all conquering duo of Frankel and Sea The Stars managed this feat and this illustrates the standard of horse required.
However, this year the racing conditions are likely to be a whole lot more taxing on runners with the slowest run 2000 Guineas for some time expected on Saturday. Not since 1998 when King Of Kings ran out a narrow victor has the word 'soft' appeared in the going description for this race. Intriguingly that year, the first three home had ALL tasted success over a mile aged just two. (Read that last sentence again, it is massively important!)
Food for thought that statistic, if you are considering a potential big wager ahead of the race.
Let us have a look at the last 12 runnings with a brief analysis of the most frequently reoccurring trends.
ALL of the last 12 winners had finished unplaced 0 or 1 time during their early career.
ALL of the last 12 winners scored a RPR of 110+ at least once previously.
ALL of the last 12 winners finished in the first 3 on their latest start.
11 of the last 12 winners scored a RPR of 86+ on their debut outing as a 2yo.
10 of the last 12 winners had run at least 3 times previously.
9 of the last 12 winners won last time out.
Trends are primarily assessed to discount those with little or no chance at all. We should not study them too intensely and common-sense should always be used wherever possible.
One trend that looks susceptible this season could be the 86+ RPR debut, as several of this years line up posted scores less than that, but have shown good enough form since to enter calculations.
Pedigree and stamina traits in no uncertain terms look destined to play a part in the 2000 Guineas on Saturday. Anyone who ignores these finer details is most likely to pay a high price with a losing bet.
Favourite and rightly so on form that he achieved as a 2yo. If this race was to be run on a good to firm surface I would not give him a prayer, as he would likely lack the speed required to be successful over a mile as a 3yo. However, with the rain intent on making this a test, he comes into the race with the ideal pedigree to go very close indeed. At best odds of 11/8 he cannot be touched thought, as he looks an almost identical replica to the 2010 flop St Nicholas Abbey. He was sent off at Evens on the day, and was also a son of Montjeu who failed to stay with the principles on the fast ground. At 11/8 he is perhaps a better value prospect than his close relative.
Showed a high level of form as a juvenile which culminated in victory in the Grand Criterium (Group 1) at Saint-Cloud. A progeny of Turtle Bowl he does not look specifically top-class on pedigree, but his performances so far have seen him succeed 5 times from his 7 career starts. He was partially fortunate to win on his debut this season, but he came from the rear and showed a good turn of foot in soft ground over 7f to suggest he may improve further now returning to a mile.
Quite an intriguing prospect on paper, despite the lack of usual racing experience needed to succeed in this race, having only raced on two occasions so far. That did however not stop his stablemate Makfi powering to victory in this race in 2010 who had a very similar preparation to this challenger. Makfi won the Prix Djebel (Group 3) in his preparation for the Guineas whilst Hermival could only claim 3rd. A review of the contenders for the race however showed that Makfi's renewal in 2010 was a quite average renewal whilst this seasons contest was very strong with French Fifteen and Abtaal in opposition.
As a son of Dubawi he shares a sire of distinctive quality who has created the likes of Worthadd, Poet's Voice and stablemate Makfi, not to mention the recent Dubai World Cup winner over further in Monterosso. He was 33-1 on Sunday night and has been backed by those who have noticed stamina could well come in to play, being a best priced 25-1 with bookmakers now. A winner on heavy ground over a mile on his debut suggests a return to that trip in poor conditions could see him run a great race at monstrously exaggerated odds.
A Group One winner who seems to have been forgotten on account that his form has been over 9f and 10f as a 2yo. It would not be ridiculous if he was to figure should the ground be soft or worse this weekend at Newmarket. Running in the Godolphin colours this recruit clearly has class as he was recently supplemented for the Epsom Derby in June at a cost of £8k to connections. If this was a normal renewal of a 2000 Guineas he would not make the frame, but on soft ground, given a possibility of a strong pace, he has claims of potentially running a great race.
It was noticeable that the filly Blue Bunting was last year not considered by the punters, running for the same Al Zarooni stable. She was bred for stamina, but enable to take advantage of a fast pace and run out a decisive winner. If her stamina traits enabled her to win on fast ground over 8f it seems worthwhile keeping this colt on side, should the conditions be extremely testing. 50-1 with Stan James is clearly overpriced, but do not rush in as he is not a confirmed runner at this stage.
There are many others with variable chances contesting the race, including a very strong Irish contingent besides Camelot. There are also some fairly hyped up runners including Born To Sea and Top Offer who I could never back at single figured odds, in a million years.
There are FIVE Group 1 winners expected to line up on Saturday and three make it into my top four. There is no substitute for proven class, but Hermival gets the vote as he has a lot of potential to excel in the probable conditions.
1st - HERMIVAL
2nd - CAMELOT
3rd - FRENCH FIFTEEN
4th - MANDAEAN