International Thoroughbred Racing Editor & Handicapper: Geir W. Stabell 1992 - 2021
AIDAN O'BRIEN WITH
TWO GUINEAS FAVOURITES
Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, whose number one pilot these days is the excellent Ryan Moore (Photo: Four Footed Fotos), provides the favourites for both the 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas - set to be staged over the famous Rowley Mile on Saturday and Sunday. The early betting says that the odds for a Ballydoyle classic double is no bigger than 3-1 and his colt Air Force Blue is odds-on to win the Saturday showpiece. O'Brien will also saddle the interesting 40-1 chance Air Vice Marshal in the first classic of the new season.
2,000 GUINEAS STAKES (G1)
Newmarket 30 Apr 2016 – 1 mile turf (straight)
Declared runners presented with best Globeform
ratings, sires, trainers / jockeys (where known)
122p – AIR FORCE BLUE (War Front) A O'Brien / R Moore
115p – MARCEL (Lawman) P Chapple-Hyam / P Smullen
115 – BURATINO (Exceed And Excel) M Johnston / W Buick
114p – MASSAAT (Teofilo) O Burrows / P Hanagan
112p – STORMY ANTARCTIC (Stormy Atlantic) E Walker / G Baker
110 – GALILEO GOLD (Paco Boy) H Palmer / F Dettori
110 - HERALD THE DAWN (New Approach) J Bolger / K Manning
109 - RIBCHESTER (Iffraaj) R Fahey / W Buick
108p - AIR VICE MARSHAL (War Front) A P O'Brien / S Heffernan
108 - FIRST SELECTION (Diktat) S Crisford / J Crowley
103p - ZONDERLAND (Dutch Art) C Cox / A Kirby
101 - ZHUI FENG (Invincible Spirit) A Perrett / T Queally
? - KENTUCKYCONNECTION (Include) B Smart / C Beasley
AIR FORCE BLUE was visually most impressive when winning the 7-furlong Dewhurst Stakes (G1) over this course last October. Coming off an easy 3-length win against G2 winner Herald The Dawn in the National Stakes (G1) over the same distance at The Curragh, he was heavily backed and went off the 4/6-favourite in the Dewhurst, which he won by 3 ¼ lengths from Massaat. This was Air Force Blue's fourth win from five starts and his third straight at Group One level. He was beaten 2 lengths by Buratino in the 6-furlong Coventry Stakes (G2) at Royal Ascot. Buratino had much more experience, was better suited by the distance, and got first run on the O'Brien colt that day. Air Force Blue reversed the form in the Phoenix Stakes (G1) over the same distance at The Curragh in August, when he won by 2 lengths and the same from Washington D.C. and Buratino. The son of War Front progressed from here, to become the best juvenile in Europe and he will be hard to beat in the Guineas. He was confidently ridden held up in his three Group Ones last year, and gave the impression that a step up to a mile would bring out even better form. Foaled on May 2, Air Force Blue looks just the sort to go on improving as a three-year-old.
MARCEL – whose jockey Pat Smullen is a big plus – produced a fine performance to win the Racing Post Trophy (G1) over a mile at Doncaster last autumn (good to soft ground). Much was made of the favourite Foundation's troubled run that day (blocked twice, finished third) but it is debatable whether he would have beaten Marcel even with a clear run. A son of Lawman, Marcel was held up in the erly stages of the contest and delivered with a strong run down the middle of the course. He got to the lead a furlong and a half out and ran on well to beat Johannes Vermeer readily by 1 ½ lengths. Foundation, winner of the Royal Lodge (G2) at Newmarket on his previous outing, was 2 ½ lengths further behind. Johannes Vermeer gave the form a boost by landing the Criterium International (G1) at Saint-Cloud in November, when he beat this year's Craven winner Stormy Antarctic by a head. Marcel is likely to appreciate further than a mile this year but the Rowley Mile is quite testing and he has obvious each-way claims. His trainer has stated that the colt may go on to the 'Poulains' (French Guineas) two weeks after this classic. He has also been entered for the French Derby (but not for the Epsom Derby).
BURATINO is the only horse to have beaten Air Force Blue, a feat he achieved by outsmarting his less experienced rival in the Coventry Stakes (G2) over 6 furlongs at Royal Ascot last June. Buratino had already raced five times and won the Woodcote Stakes (LR) on Derby day at Epsom, and he kicked away to win the Coventry by 2 lengths from the Irish trained colt, who finished the same margin in front of Eltezam (4th to top class Shalaa in a G2 next time). The Coventry form was reversed when Buratino and Air Force Blue met again in the Phoenix Stakes (G1) at The Curragh in August, a 6-furlong contest Air Force Blue won easily by 2 lengths from stable companion Washington D.C. Buratino was third, beaten 2 ½ lengths. He next went for the Middle Park Stakes (G1) over 6 furlongs at Newmarket – and ran another good race to be half-length second to Shalaa. Buratino is a tough and battle hardened runner but going into the Guineas poses two questions; will he stay a mile, and does he have as much scope for improvement as the likes of Air Force Blue, Marcel and Massaat?
MASSAAT ran a highly promising race, without ever threatening the winner, when runner-up to Air Force Blue in the Dewhurst. Going off at 20-1, following a wide margin maiden win at Leicester on his second start, he was inexperienced but ran on gamely to the line in the championship race. He was beaten 3 ¼ lengths. Massaat, a son of Teofilo, impressed in his racecourse gallop at the Craven meeting, when he showed a sharp turn of foot at the end of a 7-furlong spin, and galloped out strongly after passing the winning post. Open to plenty of improvement, he looked really well and there we could well see a repeat of the Dewhurst 1-2 in this Guineas.
STORMY ANTARCTIC prepped well for the Guineas when winning the Craven Stakes (G3) over this course and distance on April 14. Tackling soft ground, and battling a windy shower, he was much the best, moving smoothly to the lead a furlong out and striding clear in the manner of a smart performer. Foundation was rather dull in second, beaten 3 ½ lengths, while Aidan O'Brien's 'sighter' Shogun was another half-length back in third place. There's probably a much wider gap between Shogun and Air Force Blue. Stormy Antarctic's best race last year was his head second to Johannes Vermeer in the Prix International (G1) at Saint-Cloud, which was also run on testing ground.
GALILEO GOLD, who impressed before, during and after his racecourse gallop on soft ground at the Craven meeting, looks an interesting each-way alternative in this classic. The Hugo Palmer trained colt performed well just below the very top level as a juvenile, when he won the 7-furlong Vintage Stakes (G2) at Glorious Goodwood, where he beat the recent Free Handicap winner Ibn Malik by three parts of a length on good to soft ground. Galileo Gold, a son of top class miler Paco Boy, went on to run a good third behind Ultra and Cymric in the Prix Jean Luc Lagardere (G1) over a mile at Longchamp (good) and he has the right profile for a race like the Guineas. Having been backed down from 25-1 to around 10-1 this week, he must be respected.
AIR VICE MARSHAL is more of a longshot, and this Ballydoyle runner may be coming over here for experience more than anything, but he was really impressive in the paddock when visiting Newmarket last summer and he is a huge, very tempting price. He was beaten a length by Birchwood in the July Stakes (G2) but gave the impression that the 7-furlong trip was already on the sharp side for him and this son of War Front is a big, scopey sort who could develop into a top class three-year-old. 40-1 makes him a must each-way bet and a Ballydoyle one-two would not be a big surprise.
A: AIR FORCE BLUE
B: MARCEL, MASSAAT
C: AIR VICE MARSHAL, GALILEO GOLD, STORMY ANTARCTIC
Copyright: G W Stabell / globeform
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