Qipco 2000 Guineas 2021 Preview

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

The thrilling 2020/21 National Hunt season has come to a close and, now, it is time for the Classics. The 2000 Guineas is the first of the three ‘Triple Crown’ races for three-year-old colts, followed by the Derby in June and St Leger in September. Fifteen colts will take on the one mile trip over the unique Rowley Mile course at Newmarket, racing for a place in the history books.

Aidan O’Brien is a name synonymous with the Classics and he has won the 2000 Guineas an incredible ten times since 1998. He is represented by three horses here, all by different sires.

The horse with the highest reputation of the Aidan O’Brien trio is Battleground, due to his flashy pedigree – out of excellent racemare Found and by War Front. On jockey bookings, he could be the third-string with Wembley partnered by Ryan Moore and Seamie Heffernan on Van Gogh. Battleground was just fifth on debut, two and a half lengths behind Lucky Vega but broke his maiden in excellent style in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot over seven furlongs. At the same trip, he won at Glorious Goodwood in the Vintage Stakes, beating Devious Company by two lengths. Afterwards, he was targeted at the Breeders Cup, where he finished second after breaking slowly. Battleground, who is an absolutely massive horse, has avoided all of the major two-year-old races but there is a form line through Devious Company – he had previously been beaten three lengths by Master Of The Seas; fifth to Chindit and eighth in the Dewhurst, reversing the form with Chindit. It will be fascinating to see how he stacks up against the other runners who are tried and tested in group ones.

Roger Varian’s runner, Legion of Honour’s, form ties in with Devious Company, too, as he was a three quarter length second to the horse, who is now in Doha, on debut. One hundred and fourty eight days later, he won by a clear margin at Newcastle and his seasonal reappearance was at that track when he ran bravely to be second to Megallan, who has been behind One Ruler on two occasions.

It is always interesting to see how two-year-old form works out in the following season in the Classics. Wembley, the likely favourite, and Thunder Moon’s form is closely entwined. Their first clash was in the National Stakes at the Curragh on 13th September – the ground was good. Wembley has won his first race on his fourth attempt less than a month earlier and Thunder Moon was having just his second lifetime start. Held up on the rail, Thunder Moon was about three lengths ahead of the back-marker, Wembley. Declan McDonough had to wait patiently for a gap to open and it got slightly messy with Lucky Vega coming off worst. Wembley was switched to the outside and made fast progress with a clear passage down the outside. Thunder Moon showed a remarkable turn of foot to scoot into the lead, winning with one and a half lengths back to Wembley. Master Of The Seas finished fourth and Lucky Vega was fifth.

When Wembley and Thunder Moon met next at Newmarket for the Dewhurst, Devilwala jumped out and made the running. At two furlongs from home, Thunder Moon was on the outside with very little cover. Wembley was even further into the middle of the track. He came with a sustained run and both horses moved across to take on St Marks’ Basilica but that horse was just too good. Wembley was beaten three quarters of a length and Thunder Moon was one and three quarter lengths behind him.

The ground could’ve just dulled Thunder Moon’s turn of foot that day and these good to firm conditions should be absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t be surprised if Declan McDonough kept Thunder Moon away from the lead until the very final stages of the race where he can unleash the turn of foot. On pedigree, he should stay but Zoffany tends to sire two-year-old types so it will be fascinating to see how he has wintered. In contrast, Wembley seems to challenge with a sustained run and you could imagine that this son of Galileo, the only one in the race, would get a bit further in time. His full brother Johannes Vermeer was second in a Melbourne Cup and his full sister was a winner over one mile six.

Lucky Vega ran creditably behind Thunder Moon, Wembley and Master Of The Seas after a message passage through the race. He won his first race, an eighteen-runner contest at Naas, and twelve of those in behind have won at least one race since, including Laws Of Indices. Lucky Vega followed in Ken Condon’s charge when he won the group two Railway Stakes. In August, he won the group one Pheonix Stakes in excellent style, looking like a step up in trip would be perfectly in his comfort zone, and the Dewhurst winner was in behind. He stayed on over six furlongs to just be denied by Supremacy in the Middle Park. Supremacy ran an appalling race on reappearance but Tactical and Lipizzaner have both won since. Lope De Vega sired the winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas with Phoenix Of Spain. There have been two other runners with the sire Lope De Vega and damsire of Cape Cross – one won over one mile six and the other is a hurdler in Ireland. This suggests that Lucky Vega will stay.

The final Aidan O’Brien runner to mention is Van Gogh. He was beaten on his first start but was thrown in straight at the deep end in a group three, beaten a neck by stable companion Military Style. He was well-beaten in the Futurity Stakes before finishing second at Leopardstown in a group two before winning his maiden, beating Colour Sargent, who was previously beaten three and three quarter lengths by Thunder Moon. At Newmarket in the Autumn Stakes, he was beaten one and three quarter lengths by One Ruler with Albadri back in ninth. Two weeks later, he won a group one over a mile on heavy ground at Saint-Cloud last time. He’d probably just want a little bit more cut in the ground. He would be an exciting winner for stallion American Pharoah.

Albadri has been highly tried after winning his first race at 100/1 under Tim Clark. He was seventh, fifth, ninth and sixth in class one company but managed to win by a length under Hollie Doyle at Southwell in January. She partnered him at Riyadh, finishing ninth on the dirt. Last time, he was last in a conditions race at Kempton and will be the 150/1 outsider.

One Ruler was an excellent winner of the Autumn Stakes and is one of three runners for Charlie Appleby, the stallion Dubawi and Godolphin. This horse started his career coming second to the well-regarded Etonian before winning at Sandown. Upped to listed company at Doncaster, he had an awful passage but managed to be third. Everything came together for the Autumn Stakes, when he had Van Gogh and Albadri were in behind. Next, One Ruler was favourite for the Vertem Futurity, the race that has thrown up the last three winners of the 2000 Guineas. He finished second to Mac Swiney, who unfortunately doesn’t take his chances here. There have been hugely positive mentions for him in the lead up for the race, but it appears that he is the second string with James Doyle getting on him for the first time ever.

William Buick has chosen Master Of The Seas. Out of group one placed Firth Of Lorne, Master Of The Seas was a comfortable winner on debut before romping to victory in the Superlative Stakes. He didn’t have a great started butt skipped clear of his rivals to win readily. He ended up joint favourite with Lucky Vega for the National Stakes and was beaten two lengths into fourth, but didn’t disgrace himself. His first start in 2021 was in Meydan when he was keen and beaten by front running winner Naval Crown in a listed race. In the Craven Stakes, he was keen again even with a first-time hood. He ran on very well after being switched left and was in the lead right when it mattered.

Naval Crown is an extremely consistent racehorse. Out of a listed winning mare, he wasn’t beaten far when third on debut on the July course before finishing third to Chindit in the listed Pat Eddery Stakes. He won his maiden in great style at York and was third in two group threes subsequently. He returned in February in Meydan with a third place before convincingly beating Master Of The Seas, who’s win in the Craven adds strength to the form. In a listed contest. He was only beaten a neck when racing freely over seven furlongs at Newmarket. The trip will be no problem and he looks like he could be good value here under the excellent Adam Kirby.  

Mystery Smiles and Devilwala both ran great races in the Craven. Mystery Smiles represents last year’s winning trainer, Andrew Balding. Impressive wins at Windsor and Chester on his first two outings were followed by third place finishes in group two and group three company. In the second of those races, which was at York, he finished behind Devilwala but that form was reversed on his first start of the 2021 season in the Craven he met a bit of trouble in running but he was no match for Master Of The Seas. The York race was Devilwala’s first start for Ralph Beckett and he subsequently went to Keenland for the Breeders Cup. He had a horrendous start and actually ran a blinder to be eighth, four and a quarter lengths behind second placed Battleground. Losing his left-fore shoe would’ve hampered his chances in the Craven Stakes so he by no means disgraced himself. He is by Kodiac, who is closely related to Invincible Spirit, sire of 2019 winner Magna Grecia.

Invincible Spirit is represented by the twice-raced Mutasaabeq. The Charlie Hills team are in good form and this horse started his career on heavy ground at Newmarket in October. He backed it up over the same course and distance by winning emphatically by six lengths. The extra furlongs shouldn’t be a problem and he is related to the smart Wafy and Royal Ascot winner Afaak. He has a lot of promise but goes against much more experienced rivals.

Richard Hannon managed to win this in 2014 and he is represented by Chindit here. Pat Dobbs has a great relationship with this son of Wootton Bassett. He won strongly over seven furlongs on his debut, which earned him the step up into listed company. He handled it perfectly and he was impressive in the Champagne Stakes. Things went wrong in the Dewhurst as he hung right throughout and didn’t last home. That looked like a blip as he won the Greenham Stakes by a neck on his seasonal debut. He led right at the end and he is stepping up in trip to a mile. He is related to a winner over one mile four and Wootton Bassett didn’t stay a mile but his best son Almanzour stayed one mile two furlongs.

One place behind Chindit in the Dewhurst was Poetic Flare. He didn’t get a clear run but was well-beaten in the end. This is the only time he has tasted defeat. He beat Lipizzaner on his debut, which was his sole start before the group one. Only a week later, he won a group three by two and a half lengths on yielding to soft ground over seven furlongs in strong style, which implies he will stay the trip. He won impressively on his seasonal reappearance and that should put him spot on for this, representing the 2013 winning combination of Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning.

After almost 2000 words, it is time to pin my colours to a horse. I think Wembley is a worthy favourite and look forward to the outcome of the third Wembley vs Thunder Moon clash. They will both run excellent races. Battleground was my idea of the winner before the final declarations but I’m now not as convinced as I was. I’m going to take a chance on LUCKY VEGA. This horse was a very good two-year-old and managed to win a group one. I’m hoping he retains that ability as a three-year-old and Jessica Harrington’s horses have been running very well at Punchestown this week with three winners. I expect him to stay. At a larger price, Naval Crown is very consistent and beat Master Of The Seas over in Meydan. A lot of these horses could find the relevant improvement and win.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: