By Nicholas Godfrey
GB: With racing in Britain still behind closed doors, the 2021 Classic season gets under way at Newmarket on Saturday with the Qipco 2000 Guineas (3.40pm BST) – read what trainers have to say here.
Aidan O’Brien saddles three of the 15-runner field as he bids for an extraordinary 11th victory in a race he first landed with King Of Kings in 1998. According to the betting and jockey bookings, Ryan Moore’s mount Wembley looks the Ballydoyle number one, while William Buick has chosen Craven Stakes winner Master Of The Seas ahead of stablemate One Ruler for Godolphin.
Supplementary entry Mutasaabeq, Greenham winner Chindit and Dewhurst runner-up Thunder Moon, who is also vying for favouritism in an open-looking edition, are among other fancied runners.
Shall we talk about it?
“He is a big, long-striding horse and ran very well in America, when he just got caught in a bit of traffic and was further back than we would have liked, but he ran on very well.
“He is by War Front so should like the ground and he seems to be in good form. We think he’s ready to start off. Frankie is a great rider and we are delighted to have him. Found [dam] was a big mare and very genuine. Battleground is a big horse too and is a very high cruiser, just as Found was.”
“He’s great after Newbury – he took a long time to win the race, which says to me that he will have needed that to sharpen him up. Our Guineas horses really need their trial – Night Of Thunder and Sky Lantern got beaten in their trials before they won the Guineas – and now Chindit has had that, it’s just a case of keeping him ticking over all week.
“In terms of the Dewhurst last year, I think the times that day said that it was heavy ground and both him and Etonian were struggling the whole way – more so Etonian than this horse.
“I am concerned about the track and the undulations, but it’s the Guineas. Chindit’s done all his winning on flat tracks and this is vastly different so it is a concern, but I’m fairly certain that his Dewhurst run was down to the ground.
“I think he’s a Group 1 horse now whether he wins the Guineas or not and they’re hard to find. In the Greenham it looked like it only just got going at the line when they were going quick enough, which I thought was quite impressive and I think he wants a mile now.”
Master Of The Seas
“We have been delighted with how Master Of The Seas has come out of the Craven Stakes and he ticks a lot of boxes going into this. He looks great physically and continues to show us his wellness.”
“I didn’t ride him too much last year but just before he won this year I rode him at home and I was very impressed. I like the way he galloped out of the dip and up the hill the other day and the way he put the race to bed very quickly.
“He has only had two runs and we still don’t really know how good he is but he is bred to win a Guineas, being out of Ghanaati. It’s a tough race as you would expect but he is doing everything right at home and he seems to have come forward for his last run.
“Although he is the least exposed runner in the race it is a big plus that both of his runs have been on the Rowley Mile. He should get the mile – the way he galloped out last time would leave you with plenty of encouragement.”
Jim Crowley (jockey)
Naval Crown: “We put some thought into whether to run Naval Crown as well but feel that his win over Master Of The Seas at Meydan is a strong piece of form. He has come out and backed up that effort with a good second in the European Free Handicap. I think the step back up to a mile will suit and he certainly doesn’t look out of place in the field.”
“One Ruler’s preparation has gone great and it’s an exciting ride for James to pick up. He is a course-and-distance winner and we are looking forward to getting him going as a three-year-old.
“His last two runs as a juvenile were on softer ground but that was just the way the cards fell for him. We were actually slightly concerned about soft ground before he won the Autumn Stakes and it was testing at Doncaster. We have no concerns about returning to a quicker surface.”
“Poetic Flare always looked very smart and won the first two-year-old race of the year, but then he decided he wasn’t big enough and he began to grow, which didn’t stop until July.
“I didn’t have him cherry-ripe for the Dewhurst and it transpired he needed the race. I wouldn’t be that good a trainer that I could tell you how fit he was first time out, but what I can tell you is he has improved massively since then. A mile will be no problem. Dawn Approach winning was very satisfying and I have the same confidence in this horse.”
“He is really good and he has wintered very well. He had a really good season last year. He won very well at the Curragh twice, then ran a great race at Newmarket in the Dewhurst.
“We would have much preferred better ground and a higher draw but the horse came out the race well and with a lot of credit. We thought it was a great run and we thought with conditions more in his favour that we would get closer to the principals and that is what we are hoping might happen at the weekend.
“He always showed us a lot of pace and he has got a big turn of foot which he showed us last year on the track and he is a good traveller. We are excited and we think he is the right type of horse for the race as he is a mature, pacey type. We think a mile is going to be a good trip for him so we are excited and looking forward to the race.
“It definitely helps to have that course experience in particular at somewhere like Newmarket and I’m happy that three runs is more than enough experience for him if he is good enough.”
“He ran on fast ground early last season and finished up at Saint-Cloud on very soft ground but that is just how the season worked out. He is a big, good-moving horse and we always thought he would get further than a mile, so we are hoping that we will be OK.
“His mum, Imagine, was by Sadler’s Wells but she handled goodish ground and he is by American Pharoah, so hopefully he should be OK.”
“Obviously he would have preferred better ground in the Dewhurst and maybe he was drawn out a little bit as well but the plan was always to come back to Newmarket for the Guineas.
“Everything went well with him through the winter and spring. Ryan knows him well and we are very happy with him. He got caught in bad ground in his early races and really progressed as the season went on.
“Some of our horses were a little bit slow coming to hand last year and the season was a bit messy, with everything happening a bit too quick for some of them. It just took some horses a while to get their act together and get into their stride but that was through no fault of their own – it was just the way the season went.”