The first Classic of the season will be a month late taking place because of the coronavirus pandemic, provided racing gets the green light to resume next week, and unusually none of the participants will have had the benefit of running in one of the traditional trials.
However, Kameko gained plenty of experience as a two-year-old and delighted his connections in a racecourse workout under Oisin Murphy last week.
He is a top-priced 14-1 with Coral to become the third successive Vertem Futurity Stakes to land the Guineas on his return, a feat achieved by Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia in the past two years.
“He had a gallop at Kempton last week and I couldn’t be happier with the way he went,” Balding said in a press conference, held on Zoom, arranged by Qipco British Champions Series on Tuesday afternoon. “He looks magnificent and is a lovely horse to have anything to do with. I hope and think he’s the best we’ve had here for a good long while.
“We are all in the same boat [in terms of the horses all making their reappearances] but he’s had three or four serious pieces of work since mid-March, albeit at staggered times, and his preparation is as good as it could have been. We are all excited.
“He’s a big-framed horses, not the flashiest in his routine exercise but always type that every time when you ask him for a little bit more he’s given and improved for it.”
Kameko is a son of American-based sire Kitten’s Joy and is owned by Qatar Racing, just like the brilliant but ill-fated Roaring Lion before him.
“Oisin was always saying that Roaring Lion seemed to thrive on racing and I think this horse is very similar,” Balding said.
Asked about Pinatubo, who was exceptional as a juvenile last term and is a general 10-11 for the Guineas, the trainer added: “He’s an outstanding horse and we have huge respect for him. He will be very tough to beat but we will give. it our best shot.”
Champion jockey Murphy is still searching for his first Classic triumph and admitted the prospect of achieving it for Balding and his principal employer, Sheikh Fahad, would give him extra satisfaction.
Reflecting on the Kempton workout, he said: “We didn’t do anything silly, but he had a good blowout. He has a lovely turn of foot, as we all saw in his starts last year, but he’s also very relaxed. You can put him anywhere, so from a jockey’s point of view that is exciting as it leaves you with plenty of options. He goes there with a massive chance.”
Balding says future plans for Kameko will hinge on how he performs at Headquarters. Naturally, he would like to run him in the Investec Derby and, in an attempt to dispel stamina fears, he went out of his way to point out that Alderbook, the Champion Hurdle winner, features in his pedigree.
Meanwhile, Balding indicated that his top-class pair Fox Tal and Fox Chairman would have racecourse gallops this week before likely heading straight to Royal Ascot. Both have various options at the meeting.
One Balding horse who will not be running at the Royal Meeting is King’s Lynn, owned by Her Majesty The Queen. He looked at a smart prospect when winning a big sales’ race at Doncaster on his second start in September but met with a setback about six weeks ago. As a consequence, he will not run until later in the year.
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