DON’T you love a talking horse… Down the years a host of equine luminaries, including Gorytus and Dubai Millennium, have been hailed as some kind of latter-day Pegasus. Some of these thoroughbreds have fulfilled the hyperbole while others have sunk without trace, leaving us racing nerds exasperated and craving the next big thing. But for the 2014 Flat season we have a new talking horse and he’s set to be unleashed in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas on Saturday.
Aidan O’Brien set tongues wagging in March when he described AUSTRALIA as the second best horse he’s ever trained. Second to whom? Galileo? Camelot? Nope. In O’Brien’s eyes the peerless Champion Hurdler Istabraq is still the best he’s ever trained. Fair comment. But think about it… he is saying that Australia is better than Galileo, who was a brilliant Derby winner; better than High Chaparral and Rock Of Gibraltar, and an endless list of Classic winners.
So it appears we would be brainless not to take on board this bold statement by the Ballydoyle maestro and, with his words in mind, 7/2 seems a giveaway. But backing a horse on reputation alone is dangerous, plus not every beast handles the undulations of the Rowley Mile.
Then there is John Gosden’s Kingman who is slightly less of a talking horse but is still the subject of much bar-room philosophy. He’s unbeaten, and he looked like a mini-Frankel when he won the Greenham.
The ground will be crucial. Gosden and O’Brien will be keeping an obsessive eye on the weather in the run-up to Saturday. Gosden will be desperately hoping that the the heavens open to prevent the ground firming up any further for Kingman. The horse may not even run if the ground rides too quick. In contrast, O ‘Brien will hope that the current good to firm conditions remain. He has made it plain that Australia does not want it soft in any way.
Next up is Toormore, who has done nothing wrong and has the big advantage over Australia and Kingman of having already handled the Rowley Mile. He won the Craven in workmanlike style but he is not the type of horse to win by far. He is probably the cast-iron each-way bet on Saturday. Not a talking horse but a horse who looks happy to do his talking on the track.
Kingston Hill is another with winning form over the course and distance although, like Kingman, you feel the ground may just be a little quick for this long-striding grey.
Shifting Power is interesting. He is certainly imposing. He impressed me in the paddock at Newmarket before his Free Handicap victory and although it is folly to dismiss an unbeaten Hannon horse, Shifting Power will have to step up a lot to figure here. However a big run would not be a huge surprise.
There are shades of Rock of Gibraltar/Hawk Wing when it comes to War Command, who is a very strong second string for O’Brien. In 2002 the former was sent off at 9-1 with Hawk Wing a warm 6-4 favourite. But battle hardened exprience won the day over gallops brilliance in a memorable finish.
Among the 17 possibles for Saturday is Noozhoh Canarias, who will be the first Spanish-trained horse to contest the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. His trainer Enrique Leon will make sure he has his own team of travelling supporters as he tries to make racing history.
For those seeking some big price each-way value, you could do worse than look at OUTSTRIP. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner is 25/1 in most books, which is marginally insulting. A mile on fast ground looks ideal and Outstrip certainly ticks plenty of boxes.
So this is a proper 2,000 Guineas, possibly the best for many years. Will we see another wonder horse? Will Australia fulfill his trainer’s expectations? Could he be a Triple Crown contender? Or will Kingman reawaken memories of Frankel and stamp himself as a brilliant miler? Flat racing needs another hero, the 2,000 Guineas might give us two.
Who do you fancy? Leave a comment below.