• Punjabi Girl wins The Fillies Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
  • Sir Cecil wins The Colts Championship Stakes (Gr.1)
By Anil Mukhi
Friday 05 May 2017
Anil Mukhi

The moment that international Thoroughbred horse racing fans have been waiting for since the conclusion of the 2016 season is almost here, namely the first weekend in May. Over in England a pair of classics will be contested, while across the Atlantic the first leg of the American Triple Crown is down for decision with all the attendant fanfare.

This piece will cast the spotlight on the English classics, the Gr.1 Qipco 2000 Guineas (1 mile), due off at 3:35 p.m. BST on Saturday, May 6th (8:05 p.m. in India), and the Qipco 1000 Guineas (also 1 mile) scheduled exactly 24 hours thereafter. There will be a separate preview on this site for the "Run For The Roses" in the USA which is to be run late on Saturday (Sunday morning in India).

The smallest field since 1998 will assemble for the 2017 Qipco 2000 Guineas. Though consisting of just 10 runners, it is a quality renewal, with a number of exciting participants declared. The most formidable is the Coolmore hope, Churchill (by Galileo), who dominated his generation last year when running up a skein of five consecutive victories, culminating in the race for the Dewhurst Stakes. Should he have trained on, he will be hard to beat and 11 to 8 seems a fair price for Ryan Moore’s mount.

One who has other ideas is the vastly-experienced doyen of the French training community, Andre Fabre. He is on record as having expressed a deep admiration for the unbeaten Al Wukair (by Dream Ahead), whom he trains for Qatari interests, namely Al Shaqab Racing. The colt, named after a locality in Qatar, trounced his rivals in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte last month and could well be even better than he has displayed so far. Odds of 9 to 2 can be obtained from British bookmakers.

Hazara Stud would have more than a passing interest in the achievements of a couple of the runners here. Barney Roy, one of a trio of Godolphin colts in the fray, is by Excelebration, a stallion whose dam Sun Shower resided in Ambala (Haryana) for a few years prior to her re-export. The Richard Hannon-trained Barney Roy annexed the informative trial, the Greenham Stakes at Newbury last month, pegging back Godolphin’s Dream Castle (by Frankel), who re-opposes here. The former, second favourite at 7 to 2, will have James Doyle astride while the latter, a potentially high class customer on offer here at 14 to 1, is the mount of the energetic Brazilian, Silvestre de Sousa, a familiar figure to railbirds in India.

The other object of attention will no doubt be Lancaster Bomber (by War Front) who is the first live offspring of Sun Shower after she returned to the West. Another to represent Coolmore, he has been close up in a number of important events without ever proving good enough to triumph at this level, which is why he is at 25 to 1. Donnacha O’Brien rides him for his father. Incidentally, the Indian-conceived half-sister to the pair, Rainfall Radar (by Rebuttal) is believed in foal to Gleneagles, hero of the Qipco 2000 Guineas of 2015.

There has been wagering in England on the chances of Frankel siring a classic winner from his first crop. Potentially the unbeaten (from 2 starts) Eminent could be the one, although he will need the race to be a strongly-run affair. He has the advantage of a course and distance win (in the Craven Stakes last month) but really had to be rousted on that occasion by Jim Crowley – his pilot here as well – to get the better of his rivals. Martyn Meade schools the bay at Sefton Lodge, just down the road from the Rowley Mile.

A maximum of 18 three-year-old fillies will face the starter in the race for the 2017 Qipco 1000 Guineas. As many interests have more than one runner left in, it seems certain that the actual number of starters will be lower. John Gosden has his Clarehaven team in rollicking form and has enjoyed trial success last month with Daban (by Acclamation) and Dabyah (by Sepoy), both in the silks of Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah. Frankie Dettori is likely to choose the former, who is 6 to 1 at the time of writing, while the latter may be re-routed to France.

Once again, Coolmore fields a strong challenge with Rhododendron, Hydrangea, Rain Goddess and Winter all representing the great sire Galileo. Ryan Moore is expected to don silks on the first-named, who is a 2 to 1 shot. She hasn’t been seen out for 212 days, that is since her victory in the Dubai Fillies Mile over course and distance last October, but that should not deter anyone familiar with Aidan O’Brien’s training methods. AOB could also send Roly Poly (by War Front) to take her chance. Incidentally, the connections annexed this prize last year through Minding, a daughter of Galileo.

The second-highest rated filly amongst the runners is schooled by Aidan O’Brien’s son, Joseph, a former stable jockey to his father but who has since made a successful transition to training, both on th Flat and over Jumps. This is the Fastnet Rock filly, Intricately, who is usually ridden in her races by Joseph’s brother Donnacha, and who must hold a special place in her trainer’s heart as his first-ever Group 1 winner. Given the strength of the father’s battalion, not many have backed her with the result that she is trading at 16 to 1.

Held in high esteem, and quoted at the same price as Daban, is the Juddmonte hope Fair Eva, a daughter of the almighty Frankel. Should one anticipate a rare Frankel double – Eminent on Saturday and this daughter of African Rose on Sunday? That would have the bloodstock world in a tizzy! Anyway, Fair Eva has a realistic chance and Roger Charlton has pencilled in James Doyle for the ride. Jaber Abdullah’s Queen Kindly is another by Frankel in the fray and is not without hope as may be deduced from the booking of French ace Gerald Mosse, who will have to make the trip over to ride her.

A couple of other runners come with tall reputations. Sheikh Hamdan’s Talaayeb (by Dansili) scored at her only appearance last term and her 11 to 1 quote here suggests there has been some degree of market support, which could realistically have come only from those “in the know”. New retained rider Jim Crowley is set to steer the Owen Burrows-trainee. Meanwhile James Tate, handler of Urban Fox (by Foxwedge), a 33 to 1 prospect, has been quoted as saying “She’s in great form. She had an interrupted preparation for her trial at Newbury, so she ran better than expected and has come out of the race really well…. I'd be afraid of the Irish horses but not a lot else”.