Toormore tipped for success in the Newmarket Guineas.
The Qipco 2000 Guineas is a race where hype often hits reality, with many supposed superstars consigned to the scrapheap of time by defeat at Newmarket, but similarly, nascent reputations have been gilded by success – none more so than Frankel, who silenced The Doubters (sic) with the most visually arresting performance seen at racing’s HQ in the modern era.
The race is often stripped of some of its lustre by the defection of highly touted contenders in the run-up, but we’ve been blessed by an embarrassment of riches in this year’s renewal, with the ante-post favourites arriving with reputation either intact or enhanced, with the bonus of several other high-class contenders who might have been expected to go elsewhere.
Two horses dominate the betting, but before even mentioning them, it should be said that this would be considered an intriguing enough Guineas with the clash of unbeaten colts Toormore and Kingston Hill, with the addition of impressive Coventry Stakes winner War Command. That trio all look hugely exciting prospects for the season, but the fact that another pair stand head and shoulders above them in the betting is testament to the tremendous strength of this race.
There’s no doubt that it will take a superstar to win the 2000 Guineas, and the public are split on the claims of Kingman and Australia. It’s apt that this rivalry should reflect that of the trainers themselves – Aidan O’Brien multiple champion trainer in Ireland versus John Gosden, UK champion in 2012. Australia is the archetypal Coolmore horse – flashy in pedigree, expensive at the sales, and very long on hype, above and beyond the good impression he’s made in winning twice as a juvenile.
The bare figures mean he’s got a bit to prove, but the vibes have been unusually strong from Ballydoyle, with the “best I’ve ever trained” echoed repeatedly. If Australia is the best O’Brien’s had, he must be a monster indeed, but there are caveats to bear in mind, aside from the cynicism which goes with listening to the spiel of the Coolmore PR machine.
Australia is a full-brother to a 1¾m winner, by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner, and if he’s to win a Classic, it’s fair to say that the Derby itself looks his best shot. We know “The Lads” would love a Triple Crown winner, and with so much stamina in the dam’s side of his pedigree, he would be a shoo-in to stay the St Leger trip, so is his presence in the Guineas more about keeping that dream alive than the belief that he’s a top-class miler? It’s a thought.
Another thought, and one not mention much in the preliminaries is that O’Brien’s star has shown a marked tendency to start slowly in his races. That’s a minor issue in tactical races, but Saturday’s race will be run at a furious clip courtesy of the Spanish rocket Noozhoh Canarias, and losing two or three lengths at the start could prove fatal.
If Kingman has a flaw, it’s in his inherent soundness, and while he was impressive last year, he didn’t always move with the grace of the athlete he appeared in other respects, and was found to have a bone fragment in a fetlock joint. This was removed over the winter, and he belied fears about his well-being by blitzing his rivals in the Greenham Stakes to consolidate his unbeaten run.
He’s already won at Newmarket, and unlike his main rival, has proven to the public that he’s trained on. He was backed heavily after his Newbury win, but those wanting to back him now should be aware that his price, under pressure in the late ante-post markets, will begin to ease on the day, as the depth of the race will tempt on-course layers to take a view against him. To what degree he will ease depends on whether support for Australia continues, and how the going is perceived on the day.
A berth in stall 1 is also an imponderable, but the presence of Noozhoh Canarias in the middle box suggests the entire field will race in an arrow formation up the centre of the track, which should nullify draw concerns.
As stated earlier, this is no two-horse race, and while I believe that the trip on lively ground will prove too sharp for Derby second favourite Kingston Hill, both War Command and Toormore bring very solid credentials to the table. War Command has received no rave reviews from his powerful yard, and was expected to go for the Poulains in France instead of this.
It’s hard to tell whether his presence is a mark of confidence in him, or a sign that the Coolmore team believe they need more than one arrow to down Kingman. We favour the latter view, and therefore must side with the hugely likeable Toormore as our value bet in the race. Impressive in both deed and demeanour last season, he won the Craven more authoritatively than the margin implies, and may have got the best of the draw closest to the stands rail. Richard Hughes takes charge of himthis time out and should prove capable of steering him home to success.
He has no doubts over him, and while we accept that the big two could be a class apart, the make and shape of the contest will suit Toormore better than most, including that pair, and it’s hard to see him out of the money.
The BetBright Verdict: Toormore @ 15/2 (E/W)
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The race gets underway at 15.50 at Newmarket on Saturday, May 3rd.