13:50 – Palace House Stakes (Group 3) 3yo+ – 5f
With no Horse rated higher than 109, on paper this looks quite a weak renewal of the Palace House Stakes. That leaves us with a fairly open contest, in which I like the chances of Clive Cox’s Shades Of Blue. This Filly had a successful three-year-old season overall, starting off with a good third behind two subsequent Listed winners in a 6f Novice Fillies’ Stakes at Doncaster in April. Shades Of Blue added black type to her own CV when finishing second in the Listed Westow Stakes at York on her next start, splitting the very useful pair of Garrus (108) and Soldier’s Call (112) – the latter of which ran a cracker on his next start when 3rd to Blue Point and Battaash in the Group 1 King’s Stand. With two top runs under her belt, Shades Of Blue travelled over to Maisons-Laffitte in France for her next start, winning the Listed Prix Hampton over 5f, staying on gamely under Hollie Doyle to win by a short-head.
Considering Shades Of Blue only got up in the final strides that day in France, connections decided to step her up to 6f for the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York in July. Looking like the winner from the 1f pole, Shades Of Blue loomed up on the outside of long-time leader Royal Intervention (106, subsequent Group 2 winner at Baden-Baden), but she just didn’t have anything left to give near the finish, finishing a neck second. Back to Listed company at Pontefract a month later, Shades Of Blue was once again tried over 6f – but just like at York, she showed her good turn of foot as if she was going to go on and win the race, but just didn’t have anything left in the tank with a furlong to go, finishing ½ length second to Perfection (103). It’s clear to see that Shades Of Blue is all about speed, and she just doesn’t seem to fully see out the 6f trip.
Connections must have agreed with this sentiment as they decided to revert to 5f for her next start, once more travelling over to France for the Group 3 Prix du Petit Couvert at Longchamp. Ridden prominently by Hector Crouch, Shades Of Blue disputed the lead passing the 2f pole, and led with the final furlong to go. Running an absolute stormer, Shades Of Blue was so close to holding on – but was caught in the final strides by Kevin Ryan’s Glass Slippers (116). Although at the time connections would probably have been disappointed that this Filly reversed form from York earlier in the season, Glass Slippers proved to have turned a corner when going on to land the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp by an extremely impressive three-lengths. Shades Of Blue also ran in the l’Abbaye at the Arc meeting, but the ‘Very Soft’ ground that day was completely against her – and she could only manage an 11th place finish after a long season. Putting a line through this run however, on good ground she caused Glass Slippers all kinds of problems, which is clearly testament to her ability over 5f. Fresh from a break over the winter that should’ve seen her strengthen up further, this former Queen Mary 2nd looks a solid each/way bet in a winnable Palace House Stakes, and as a Filly she will of course receive a 3lbs allowance. If Clive Cox has Shades Of Blue ready first time up, she could take some stopping.
14:25 – Dahlia Fillies’ Stakes (Group 2) 4yo+ – 1m2f
On of my strongest selections of the day comes in the form of Magic Lily, as I thought she’d be clear favourite for the Dahlia Stakes. This Mare was a really smart two-year-old, winning on debut at Newmarket by a massive eight-lengths, before finishing a close 3rd behind multiple Group 1 winner Laurens in the 2017 Fillies’ Mile. Unfortunately for her connections, Magic Lily was forced to miss the whole of her three-year-old campaign through injury, meaning she wasn’t seen on the track for 721 days. Her return last season came when finishing 2nd in a Listed race at Saint-Cloud in October, before then being pitched into a Listed Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield in November, where she disappointed to only finish 6th.
With all the issues she had between two and four however, connections will have been pleased just to get her out on the track again. Despite not winning, these two runs were crucial in Magic Lily’s progression, as she has gone on to start to fulfil her promise as a two-year-old with a successful winter campaign in Meydan. Starting out in the Group 2 Cape Verdi over 1m, Magic Lily tracked the leader and ran on extremely strongly inside the final furlong, getting up in the final stride to beat Nisreen by a short-head. The 1m trip is probably on the short side for this New Approach Mare these days, but she actually broke the track record that day, such was the pace of the race. Stepping up to 1m1f for the Group 2 Balanchine on her next start a month later, Magic Lily came up against Nisreen once more – but this time she won much more comfortably, relishing the extra furlong to win by 1¼ lengths, despite being 3lbs worse off at the weights.
As pleasing as these two Group 2 wins were to see in terms of her retaining ability, in the context of the Dahlia Stakes they don’t mean a whole lot – but it was her last start in Meydan which really makes her an exciting proposition. Running in the 1m1f Group 1 Jebel Hatta, Magic Lily once more made smooth progress and ran on well in the final furlong – this time finishing second to stablemate Barney Roy (116). Another Horse who has been troubled with injuries, Barney Roy was a Group 1 winner at three in the St James’s Palace Stakes, and he returned last season with a Listed success at Longchamp. Considering Magic Lily was able to get so close to such a talented Horse, this run really does set the standard in the context of Saturday’s race. Another big positive for this Godolphin Mare is the fact that she’s the only Horse in the race who’s had a run this year, and considering her last start only came in March, she should have a fitness advantage over these rivals. Stepping back up to 1m2f should be a positive for Magic Lily, and she’s already twice proven she handles the Rowley Mile. Terebellum seems like a Horse who prefers a softer surface.
3rd, -2pts (-3pts)
15:35 – Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes (Group 1) 3yo – 1m
I could write countless words about whether or not Pinatubo has trained on, but at the end of the day you will have heard it all before; he was top class at two, and there’s no doubting he deserves to head the market. In a race which is full of other quality two-year-olds however, his price of 5/6 doesn’t interest me whatsoever, and I can happily enjoy watching him win without having a penny on. When there’s an odd-on favourite in a race of this nature however, there will inevitably be each/way value, and that’s the angle I am taking with two Horses from the Ballydoyle team.
You don’t need me to tell you that Aidan O’Brien has a fantastic record in the 2000 Guineas, winning the last three successive renewals with Churchill, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia. This year Aidan’s team is headed by Arizona, ridden by Ryan Moore. Second on debut over 6f in May last year, Arizona returned to the Curragh 20 days later to run in another Maiden, this time bolting up by a massive eight-lengths. That performance catapulted him into favouritism for the Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, which he stayed on strongly to win, with the very talented Threat (114) back in second. Arizona was sent to France for the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville on his next start where he finished a decent fourth behind Earthlight (119), but it was at this point in his career where he wanted to start going up in trip, rather than staying at 6f. His first start at 7f came in the Group 1 Vincent O’Brien Stakes at the Curragh. There were no real excuses for him that day when demolished by a very impressive Pinatubo, but his next start back at Newmarket for the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes was much more promising. Once more coming up against Pinatubo, Arizona switched tactics and led under Seamie Heffernan. Considering Pinatubo had beaten him by 9 lengths on his previous start, Arizona ran a much more promising race this time around – with Pinatubo having to work hard to record a two-length success.
Arizona was sent to the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita for his final start at two, finishing fifth under Ryan Moore. Despite that not sounding all too promising, in context to the 2000 Guineas this was Arizona’s first start over 1m, and he really did stay on well inside the final furlong despite having to be switched to the wide outside of the field. Doing his best work towards the finish, Arizona importantly proved that he stays the Mile. There have been a lot of positive noises coming from Ballydoyle over the lockdown period regarding Arizona, and if he has improved as much over the winter as they say he has, then he clearly has the ability to go close – especially if Pinatubo isn’t as good this time around.
Another Ballydoyle Colt that I want to keep onside at a massive price is Royal Dornoch. This Son of Gleneagles didn’t really show much as a two-year-old until pitched into the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood in August, where he ran a nice race to finish behind Golden Horde (114) and Threat (114). Finishing down the field on bad ground in the Prix Morny on his next start, the real Royal Dornoch started to emerge when stepped up to 7f at Gowran in September, where he won his Maiden in comfortable fashion. His next start came in the 7f Group 3 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, where once more he finished behind Threat – seemingly unable to quicken on the rattling fast ground. Stepped up to 1m on his final start as a two-year-old, Royal Dornoch ran in the Group 2 Royal Lodge stakes at Newmarket. Ridden by Wayne Lordan, this Aidan O’Brien charge led with well over 2f left to run and was soon headed, but he showed a fantastic attitude to stay on strongly and regain the lead near the finish, beating Kameko by a neck. That form has obviously since been boosted by Kameko winning the Group 1 Vertem Futurity Stakes at Newcastle, but Royal Dornoch really seemed to enjoy stepping up to a mile. Considering he’s one of only two course and distance winners in the race, a price of 33/1 looks massive – and he’s been given a decent draw in stall 2, with Mums Tipple likely to lead from stall 1. Top Jockey Tom Marquand has been given the ride, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Royal Dornoch running on for at least a place.
17:20 – Betting.Betfair Handicap (Class 2) 3yo 0-100 – 6f
My final selection on 2000 Guineas day comes in the penultimate Handicap, a Class 2 0-100 over 6f for three-year-olds. One who I think looks to be extremely kindly priced here is Mark Johnston’s Huraiz. This Son of Sepoy raced four times as a two-year-old, starting his career on the All-Weather at Newcastle in August 2019 when winning by two-and-a-half lengths, learning his task as he went along. Although he didn’t beat much that day, connections clearly thought enough of him for his next start to be in a Newmarket Novice Stakes under a 3lbs penalty. Leading under Dane O’Neill that day, Huraiz showed a good attitude to hold on and win by a short-head, with Godolphin’s useful Electrical Storm (89) back in second place.
Considering Huraiz had done everything connections had asked of him up to this point, the Johnston team stepped him up into Group 3 company for his next start, running in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes at Kempton. Racing keenly in second, Huraiz showed a nice burst of speed to take up the running with a furlong and a half to go, but he was headed inside the final furlong and finished a very promising third. The winner that day was Streamline (100), who had run well to finish third behind Alligator Alley on his previous start, and the second Oh Purple Reign (95) is another very solid yard stick. Considering Huraiz was able to get so close to these rivals on just his third career start clearly marks him down as a talented Horse. Huraiz was last seen on the track when running in the Listed Rockingham Stakes at York in October, where once again he ran a big race to finish fourth – just being bogged down by the Soft ground that day. Once more however the form does look strong, with the 2nd Ventura Lightning (100) finishing 5th in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Newcastle on Thursday. On better ground perhaps Huraiz would’ve gone on to win that day, but the Handicapper has done connections a favour by dropping him 5lbs for the performance, down from 101 to 96. Huraiz has been Gelded over the winter so you’d expect to see further improvement this season, and the fact that he has winning form at Newmarket has got to be a positive. Returning to faster ground should really suit this Horse on seasonal reappearance, and Mark Johnston has been in flying form since the resumption of racing. Jim Crowley jumps aboard for the first time on Handicap debut.