Runners trained by Aidan O’Brien are first place to look when trying to identify the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner and I fancy the Ballydoyle maestro will again be celebrating after the first Classic of the season at Newmarket on Saturday week.
O’Brien already has a record ten 2000 Guineas winners to his name and Wichita came within a neck of giving him his fourth straight win in the race last year.
His principal contenders this year are St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley, the Dewhurst Stakes one-two, and they will do for me after the trials at Newmarket and Newbury in the past week failed to yield an outstanding candidate.
The pair, both available at 6-1, will be making their reappearances but that is of no concern as each of O’Brien’s previous Guineas winners have been having their comeback runs. The master trainer loves a blueprint and, clearly, abides by the golden rule of "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it".
Watch what Angus McNae made of the Dewhurst
The stable’s runners at Newmarket failed to figure this week but I don’t think we need to worry about with the 23-time champion Irish trainer firing home 15 winners in recent weeks, including a four-timer at the Curragh on Saturday.
St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley have lost more races than they have won and perhaps don’t have the usual profile of a Ballydoyle Guineas winner but 2020 was messy because of the global pandemic and O’Brien, by his own admission, did not have a straightforward time with his youngsters as usual patterns and methods were disturbed.
I fancy Wembley may be his No 1 because his second-placed efforts in the National Stakes and Dewhurst put him bang in the picture, even without allowing for the fact that he was screaming out for a mile or more in those Group One contests and not seen to best advantage in either after sluggish starts.
Wembley’s tardiness from the gates is a niggle but that’s something O’Brien has had plenty of time to work on. All the evidence of his runs last year point to him relishing stepping up in trip and, as a son of Galileo, it’s long odds-on that he will keep improving.
He seems versatile regards the ground, like so many by his sire, and the fact he handled the Rowley Mile so well in the autumn is another plus.
I’ll also have a saver on St Mark’s Basilica because he was clearly of similar ability to Wembley as a juvenile and, like him, should have no trouble staying the mile. He made the most of a favourable draw in the Dewhurst but he was the best horse on the day and his half-brother, Magna Grecia, was a decisive Guineas winner in 2019.
The Verdict: The National Stakes is well worth another look
He seems sure to give it a good go, but the suspicion is that Wembley is open to the greater improvement.
Master Of The Seas got back on track when winning the Craven but does not look the easiest conveyance and had no excuses when behind Wembley and St Mark’s Basilica in the National Stakes at the Curragh. That form does have a most solid look with Lucky Vega and Mac Swiney among the supporting cast.
The impressive winner of the National Stakes was Thunder Moon, but he was unable to confirm his superiority in the Dewhurst after travelling strongly. He’s a colt I’ve a lot of time for and faster ground in a couple of weeks may help him (the weather forecast predicts little or no rain), but his main weapon looks speed and there has to be a chance he will again be outstayed with another furlong to cover.
One Ruler, a stablemate of Master Of The Seas, has been all the rage in the ante-post market, with his odds tumbling from 25-1 to 5-1 in the past month. Charlie Appleby, his trainer, has had a fruitful time with his three-year-olds in the past week but the Dubawi colt, who had a race course gallop at Newmarket this week, is going to have up to his game – he’s officially rated 6lb inferior to St Mark’s Basilica – and looks the wrong favourite in my book.
Chindit got the job done in the Greenham at Newbury on Sunday but gave his backers a scare before beating dual Southwell winner Mehmento by a neck, with The Lir Jet the same distance away in third. Nobody was suggesting the placed pair were Classic players before racing and, of course, Chindit was well held in the Dewhurst.
Mutasaabeq would add a new dimension if lining up after his impressive win in a minor event at Newmarket on Tuesday. However, his connections were not keen on him tackling the Guineas beforehand or after, citing the fact he is not ready for such a test. He would need supplementing and so tread carefully with him.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket
£16 win on Wembley at a general 6-1
£4 win on St Mark’s Basilica at 6-1 with William Hill
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