2000/1000 Guineas Review

Henry, Tom and Frank-el

'Sir' Henry, Tom and Frank-el

It might be the most unsavoury of Tuesdays back in the ‘place of work’ today, dear reader, but at least for us racing enthusiasts there is much to look back on and forward to in order to keep just a glimmer of the protracted holiday glow about us.

In a separate post today, I’ll peek at the Punchestown pageantry, but before that let me briefly add my tuppence to the 2000 Guineas (and 1000 Guineas) races, and what they might mean as the season progresses.

First then, to Frankel, who has made a most pleasing habit of being first… the performance he produced on Saturday was bizarre, as well as hugely visually impressive. But what of the numbers? Do they support the notion that here is a true great?

Winning margins are a curio, especially in ultra-true-run races, i.e. those where they go off lickety-split from the get go. They are generally far more exaggerated, as so many sprinters and stayers are rumbled in the ferocious ‘no hiding place’ gallop that ensues. This was a case in point, as Frankel got out in front and stayed out in front all the way to the jamstick.

Frankel has won his last five races by an average of seven lengths apiece, including the six length rout in the Guineas (which, incidentally, looked far more like four and a half when I froze the video and used a ruler to measure the distance back to the second/third). That were eleven lengths back to the fourth gives the form a robust look, despite the fourth being a 200/1 shot (and the sixth being a 100/1) chance.

It seems clear to me that – as is always the case in the Guineas – there were a number of horses that had either not trained on or were not race fit. At this stage it would be folly to try to speculate which flops to attribute to each of the ‘not trained on’ and ‘not fit’ categories.

Certainly, I’m hoping that Casamento was simply not fit, though this flies in the face of the form of the al Zarooni stable whose horses are going very well. Frankie, aboard Casamento, clearly had the plan to try to outstay Frankel. Alas, when he followed him early, he was simply bamboozled by a much (much!) faster horse.

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It might be that the Derby is also run too quickly for Casamento and that he ends up being a Leger horse, which would do for the second of my rather optimistic wagers on the beast (the first having sailed west around the half mile pole on Saturday).

Second and third favourites in the 2000 Guineas were Pathfork and Roderic O’Connor. Both were royally tonked here. Pathfork managed 7th, and failed to stay the mile as he suggested would be the case when narrowly hanging on from Casamento over seven furlongs last season in the National. He ran ok here, and I think he’ll win races at seven furlongs, or maybe six, but if he were mine I wouldn’t be persisting at the mile.

Roderic was the only one to give Frankel a race (of sorts) in the Dewhurst last year, and was clearly expected to do likewise again here. It didn’t pan out that way and, whilst the ground may have been too quick, or the pace, or even both, he has a fair bit to prove now. He’s likely to come on a good bit for this race as well, and maybe something like the French Derby would be a good target.

The second and third, Dubawi Gold and Native Khan, were both thumped by Casamento in the Racing Post Trophy last season, and both had race fitness on their side – as did the winner. Consequently, although they are clearly useful beasts, I wouldn’t expect the eleven length superiority they had on the remainder here to be replicated in future. That said, their rivals do have a lot of lengths to claw back with the benefit of match fitness in the coming months!

But what of Frankel, and specifically his Derby chance? Well, my view – for what it’s worth – is this:

Any horse that spews forth from the gates with the equivalent ebullience of a champagne cork being unleashed from its bottle and, like Forrest Gump, just keeps on running until he’s all used up, will NEVER get twelve furlongs. It’s like asking Usain Bolt to sprint 800 metres: there might be a point at around the 550m mark where you think, ‘blimey, this might just happen’, but there’s no possible way the muscles can avoid massive lactation at that altitude.

In fact, Frankel looks versatile insomuch as he stays a mile but with that ‘Lochsong’ burst from the gate he’d probably be hard to catch over six furlongs and, with his penchant for Newmarket established, he might be more likely to win the July Cup than the Derby…

Ultimately, it is always difficult to accurately quantify the merit of the Guineas races, as they fall so early in the season and with so much improvement to follow in some horses (and, conversely, no improvement at all in others). It won’t be until we’ve seen a few attempt to follow up this run that we’ll get a true handle on the race.

My suspicion is that, whilst the winner will clearly be tough to beat anywhere at distances up to a mile, the rest may not be as good as we thought they were. Time will tell.

Onto the ladies’ race, the 1000 Guineas, and this was a far more competitive affair, with Godolphin’s Blue Bunting  relishing every yard of the trip and nabbing the reliable juvenive form yardstick, Together, on the line.

Given the strong headwind they encountered here, it was perhaps no surprise that the first two home both had form over a mile at two, which is a rarety in 1000 Guineas winners. Certainly, they can both be expected to stay further, though I’m less convinced about the third horse, Maqaasid.

Blue Bunting is hardly a gimme at the 3/1 on offer with the bookies, but it will take a pretty striking performance in the Oaks trials to remove her from her perch at the head of the Oaks market. As a filly who looks likely to stay (by Dynaformer out of a Linamix mare), and with clear speed, and with Frankie in the plate on the big day, she could go off a good bit shorter if nothing emerges from the woodwork in the next few weeks.

Still, 3/1 is 3/1… 🙁

The beaten horses looked a difficult lot to assess before the race (hence the 9/2 the field betting quotes), and they remain tough to pin down now. As is often the case, many of these will prove not up to Group 1 class, while others will drop back in trip successfully, while still more will never win again and be sent off to paddocks.

I’d only be interested in the winner from an Oaks perspective and the third, perhaps with the Irish 1000 Guineas in mind (though connections may head to Royal Ascot’s Coronation Stakes).

What did you make of the races? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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