The 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket (3.50pm Saturday, 4th May) is the first Classic of the year and brings together the top three-year-old talent in a field of thirteen colts. We preview the chief protagonists and reveal our tip in the race.
Dawn Approach, the long term favourite (5/4), looks to be the pick of the bunch on the basis of his form as a two-year-old. He was unbeaten in his six starts. He ended last season with an impressive victory in the Dewhurst. It was his second Group One victory.
He is making his seasonal debut on Saturday. Trainer Jim Bolger has reported that the colt is in good order and has had a perfect preparation.
He said much the same about Dawn Approach’s sire, New Approach. New Approach was also unbeaten as a two-year-old and started the 11/8 favourite in the 2008 2,000 Guineas after an equally stunning season. He was beaten by Aidan O’Brien’s Henrythenavigator by the shortest of margins. He had to wait for the Derby for his next win.
Rated 124, Dawn Approach is three pounds higher in the handicapper’s estimation than his closest pursuer in the 2,000 Guineas betting market, the Richard Hannon trained Toronado (9/4).
Toronado is also unbeaten. He ended his two-year-old season with a gutsy rather than facile victory in the Group Two Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September, beating Roger Charlton’s Dundonnell by half a length. It was his third start. He won his maiden at Newbury and a listed race at Ascot over seven furlongs. He cost just 55,000 euros as a yearling but was purchased for considerably more by his current owner, Sheikh Joann Bin Hamad Al Thani.
This son of High Chaparral is proven over course and distance this year. He beat his stablemate, Havana Gold, by four lengths in the Group Three Craven Stakes on 18 April. The style of his win was more impressive than the margin suggests. It was a much smaller (four runner) field than he will encounter on Saturday and a much lower class contest.
If he has not sustained any damage from the good to firm going he looks to be a likely contender to provide Richard Hannon with his third victory in the 2,000 Guineas. Hannon was successful in 1987 with Don’t Forget Me and in 1990 with Tirol. Toronado is the choice of stable jockey, Richard Hughes.
Hannon also sends out Van Der Neer (20/1). Currently rated 114, he ended last season by coming second to Aidan O’Brien’s Kingsbarns in the Group One Racing Post Trophy. He had won his maiden at Yarmouth and a Conditions Stakes over seven furlongs at Leicester.
He won his only start this year, in a listed race over a mile on the all weather at Lingfield on April 6. This son of Dutch Art has already more than repaid his modest purchase price of 55,000 guineas as a yearling and may have a better chance that his price suggests thanks to the defection of Richard Hughes. He will have the assistance of William Buick on the day.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien has an impressive looking record in the Guineas with six previous successes, most recently with Camelot last year. When you consider the quality and quantity of horse flesh that goes through his hands, his track record is not so awe-inspiring. He has three chances this time.
Cristoforo Colombo (9/1) is the surprise choice of Joseph O’Brien. His price contracted slightly as soon as the partnership was announced. This son of Henrythenavigator won once, on his debut, last year from five starts. He finished less than a length behind Dawn Approach, in third, in the Coventry on his second outing.
He ended his two-year-old season with two unsuccessful forays into Group One company. He slipped up after clipping heels in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August and came fourth in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in October. He finished two and a half lengths behind Clive Cox’s Reckless Abandon. This will be his debut as a three-year-old and he will be wearing cheekpieces for the first time.
The day before the jockeys were announced, O’Brien’s Mars, now 12/1, was the most fancied of his trio of runners. He drifted significantly afterwards from 8/1. There must have been very positive vibes coming from Ballydoyle about the work at home of this Galileo colt. He has only been seen on a racecourse once, when he won his maiden easily at Dundalk in July, starting the 4/7 favourite. Now that Seamie Heffernan takes the ride, it is difficult to think quite as positively about his chances.
The third and highest rated (at 117) of the O’Brien team is George Vancouver (16/1). He had the busiest two-year-old campaign. His seventh and final outing was in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita. He delivered his second win, helping to top up the ample coffers of Magnier, Tabor and Smith. His price seems generous for a Breeders’ Cup winner but also suggests that he has not outshone his stablemates in his work at home.
Richard Fahey’s Dutch Art colt, Garswood has recently been cut from 20/1 to 10/1. His victory in the Listed European Free Handicap over seven furlongs at Newmarket in mid April looked very promising and has been supported by upbeat comments from his trainer. He finished last season with a second place, just behind Mick Channon’s Bungle Inthejungle in the Group Three Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot over five furlongs on soft ground. He looks to be suited by a longer trip and is not without a chance but this is a big step up for him and he is now too short priced to appeal.
Dawn Approach may well go one better than his sire but there are a couple of reasons to look elsewhere. Firstly, in the fortnight up to May 1st, the five horses that started as favourites for Bolger all got beaten. Yes, he’s still getting winners but recently they haven’t been the ones that were expected. Secondly, only at the business end of the race will we know how successfully Dawn Approach has trained on. In contrast, the Richard Hannon stable seems to be in fine form and offers a pair of proven three year olds who have already succeeded over a mile. TORONADO is our recommended bet for the 2,000 Guineas at 9/4.