“SEE THE STARS”
From the desk of Bill Oppenheim
The first blockbuster classic weekend of 2014 kicks off Friday with Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable (Tapit), who won her two races at Fair Grounds this winter (GIII Rachel Alexandra Stakes and GII Fair Grounds Oaks) by a combined 17 lengths, likely to go off at nearly even-money in the GI Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Saturday morning U.S. time sees the G1 English 2000 Guineas at one mile at Newmarket.
English 2000 Guineas
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Kingman (GB) (Invincible Spirit) is a hot favorite for this, at near enough 3-2, after tuning up for this with an impressive 4 1/2-length win in Newbury’s G3 Greenham Stakes. But it’s no gimme.
The Coolmore team is due to send two: second favorite (7-2) Australia (GB), who is only by Galileo out of Ouija Board; and War Command (War Front), winner of the G2 Coventry and G1 Dewhurst last year. He’s been backed into around 12-1 since Aidan O’Brien confirmed him a runner on Monday (incidentally Aidan has run three War Fronts in Ireland so far this season: two 2-year-old winners plus a 3-year-old five-furlong listed winner, beating seasoned olders). Unbeaten Toormore (Ire) (Arakan), owned in partnership by Middleham Park Racing, won the G1 National Stakes in Ireland last year and confirmed his well being with a win in Newmarket’s G3 Craven Stakes. He’s now around 8-1.
Another unbeaten colt, G1 Racing Post Trophy winner Kingston Hill (GB), owned by Paul Smith, son of Coolmore partner Derrick Smith, and from the first crop by Mastercraftsman, is also around 12/1.
Godolphin’s Outstrip (GB) (Exceed and Excel), who was placed behind Toormore and War Command before shipping to Santa Anita to win the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, is 25-1. This looks a really hot contest.
Saturday night British time is the GI Kentucky Derby, but again this year, the only way for Europeans to watch it is online, if you have a friend with a TwinSpires account. Obviously Churchill Downs hasn’t gotten the message that the best way to spread the word is still through (international) television, but that’s of course just one in a long string of complaints horse racing people have against Churchill Downs, Inc. It’s a competitive race as usual this year, with the perennial question of which nine-furlong prep race winners will get that 10th furlong.
The California star California Chrome, by the previously obscure Lucky Pulpit, is the best nine-furlong horse on figures, having run a Beyer Speed Figure of 107 when running off by 5 1/4 lengths in the GI Santa Anita Derby. If he gets the extra furlong - and he wasn’t stopping at Santa Anita - he’s the winner.
Second favorite will be GI TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes winner WickedStrong (Beyer104), by the undoubtedly soon-to-be-repatriated Hard Spun.
Third favorite is likely to be Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), who won the GII Rebel Stakes (Beyer 100) and was second to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby (Beyer 98). He’s the talking horse, who a lot of people expect to relish that 10th furlong. But in spite of some unfortunate defections through injury, it is a field with a lot of depth, so if you can find the winner, the ‘gimmicks’ could pay quite well.
English 1000 Guineas
Sunday’s Classic is the G1 English 1000 Guineas, for 3-year-old fillies going one mile at Newmarket. With the really unfortunate death of GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Chriselliam (Ire) (Iffraaj) over the winter, favoritism has descended on another filly by Iffraaj, Rizeena (Ire), trained by the evergreen Clive Brittain. Rizeena won the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh, then ran second to Chriselliam in the G1 Fillies’ Mile, now run at Newmarket (from Ascot). Rizeena was the 7-2 favorite on Betfair yesterday morning with seven other fillies trading between 9-1 and 20-1.
Second favorite is Lucky Kristale (GB) (Lucky Story), who defeated Rizeena in the G2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes (formerly the Cherry Hinton), then won the G2 Lowther, both at six furlongs, but got sick and missed the championship races over seven furlongs and a mile. If she stays, her form is actually better than Rizeena’s.
Coolmore runs two: Tapestry (Ire) (Galileo), who was second to Rizeena in the Moyglare; and Bracelet (Ire) (Montjeu), who won the G3 Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial earlier this month.
Godolphin runs Ihtimal (Ire) (Shamardal), who was third to Chriselliam and Rizeena in the Fillies’ Mile, then romped in two races at Meydan this winter, including the G3 UAE Oaks by 10 lengths.
Andre Fabre may bring Miss France (Ire) (Dansili). He brought her over last fall to win the seven-furlong G3 Oh So Sharp Stakes, but she fluffed her lines when only sixth of 10 in her comeback race in France earlier this month.
Andrew Rosen’sJ. Wonder (Footstepsinthesand), who won the G3 Fred Darling, is another live outsider in an open race.
Like Fabre, Irish trainer John Oxx only brings them to England when he means it, and he is shipping My Titania (Ire), the G3 C.L. Weld Park Stakes winner last year, from the first crop of the superstar racehorse Sea The Stars. Oxx trained Sea the Stars to go unbeaten in six Group 1 races in six starts as a 3-year-old in 2009, including the English 2000 Guineas at a mile, the Epsom Derby and the ‘Arc’ at 12 furlongs, and three 10-furlong Group 1 races in between: the Eclipse, the Juddmonte International, and the Irish Champion Stakes.
A half-brother to Galileo, Sea The Stars was acclaimed ‘the Secretariat of Europe’ until Frankel (GB) came along, and at €85,000 he was the only horse standing his first season who went to stud for more than $50,000 between 2010 and Frankel in 2013. He started slowly enough (so did Galileo, remember), ranking eighth among European sires on the TDN 2013 Year-End First-Crop Sire List, with 11 winners. He’s now up to fourth among European second-crop sires for 2014, with 12 winners so far this year - 10 of them this month - including last Sunday’s G3 Prix Vanteaux winner, Vazira. They have been winning mostly from a mile to 1 1/4 miles. He may not equal his half-brother Galileo’s record of four classic winners in his first crop, but it does now look very much like ‘the market’s’ decision not to abandon ship at the yearling sales last year (23 yearlings averaged $314,625) was not misplaced. If My Titania pulls off the 1000 Guineas on Sunday, you’ll be reading a lot more about Sea The Stars in the papers next week. Even if she doesn’t, his stock (in both senses) is again rising fast.
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News