Photo: Getty I WAS a little worried that the two-day Guineas Festival at Newmarket might come up short in terms of quality. The 2000 Guineas had been billed as a one-horse race for most of the winter and that was partly down to an apparent lack of quality opposition. But this great game has a habit of producing the unexpected and making so-called experts look a little foolish. The eclipse of Air Force Blue was the shock of the weekend and instead we are now waxing lyrical about Galileo Gold who was beautifully prepared by Hugo Palmer and brilliantly ridden by Frankie Dettori.
The Epsom Derby now seems inevitable for this attractive son of Paco Boy although his shrewd young trainer is keeping his options open. As things stand, the 12-1 freely available for Epsom looks decent value especially with question marks against so many others.
But the 1000 Guineas put a fly in the Epsom ointment. As expected, Minding did the business in a professional manner and looked stronger as the race went on. She is generally even money for the Epsom Oaks, while stablemate Ballydoyle, who chased her home, is solid at around 6-1. However, such is the regard that Aidan O’Brien holds Minding that there is a possibility she could take on the colts in the derby and she is at the head of the ante-post betting market. That would give the race a fascinating added dimension although her current ante-post price of 5-2 (with a run) holds little appeal to this punter.
So as a guide to future horse racing tips, what else did the Newmarket Guineas Festival tell us?
TAQDEER / PRIZE MONEY: John Gosden almost allowed Taqdeer, a son of Fast Company, to take his chance in the 2000 Guineas but instead ran him in the competitive 1m 2f handicap that closed the meeting on Sunday. This scopey chestnut colt was held up off the pace and I loved the way he covered the ground to pick up the leaders and see off Prize Money. Taqdeer is entered in the Dante and the St James’s Palace Stakes but not the Derby. Then again, neither was Golden Horn at this stage last year. Gosden has a seriously progressive three-year-old on his hands. Prize Money ran a solid race giving weight to the winner and is 25-1 for Epsom and it will be interesting to see how he gets on if he runs in one of the trials.
SWISS RANGE: Another lovely horse trained by Gosden, she quickened off a slow pace to win the Pretty Polly Stakes and looks an ideal type for the French Oaks. She may not be quite as good as Gosden’s Taghrooda, who also won this race, but she is a filly who could improve through the season.
GLOBAL APPLAUSE: From the first crop of Mayson, Ed Dunlop’s debutante made a winning start in what is always a warm two-year-old maiden and looks a real Royal Ascot type. He will probably run at Sandown en route. Gulliver was as green as grass and after missing the break stayed on nicely into fourth and if he is a quick learner he should win soon.
IRISH ROOKIE: She failed to get home over nine furlongs in a seriously hot Dahlia Stakes but had made rapid headway to virtually take the lead two out before fading. She clearly retains her ability and should pay her way over 7f or a mile.
LUMIERE: Was desperately disappointing and there will undoubtedly be huge disappointment at Mark Johnston’s yard and across Middleham. But this was clearly not her running and whether she is more of a sprinter we shall see. She is certainly worth sticking with.