The 2,000 Guineas is the first of the Flat season’s Classics on Saturday and a small-but-select field will line up at Newmarket (3.35pm).
There may only be 10 runners but the big stables are represented, so quality rather than quantity is assured.
Aidan O’Brien supplies the short-priced favourite in Churchill and the Ballydoyle trainer has won this race a record-equaling seven times already. His colt is clear top rated and looks the likely winner.
The one doubt I have is that he was beaten first time out at the Curragh last season – albeit on much softer ground.
French trainer Andre Fabre is very selective with his cross-channel assaults and sends over the unbeaten Al Wukair while Newbury’s Greenham Stakes 1-2, Barney Roy and Dream Castle face off again.
Richard Hannon’s runner stayed on strongly to win over the 7f trip that day. Dream Castle wears a hood for the first time and will need to settle better than at Newbury, if he’s to see out this stiff 1m trip at Newmarket.
The one I like at the prices is the recent Craven Stakes winner, Eminent. The vibes in the market suggested he needed the run a few weeks back, but he stayed on strongly to beat Rivet convincingly. Both his victories for trainer Martyn Meade have come over course and distance.
He looks a solid option to push Churchill all the way and take advantage of any chinks in the favourite’s armour.
We start the day with the Spring Lodge Stakes Handicap at 1.50pm. Sir Michael Stoute’s Ballet Concerto was a good winner at Doncaster and the handicapper has put him up 5lbs. He was good value for his win though and that penalty doesn’t seem harsh.
He hasn’t been out of the first two in his last five starts and there’s a lot to like about him. Ryan Moore gets the leg up again on what could be the start a big day for the top jock.
The top-weight Berkshire drops down to handicap company from Listed races and has some decent bits of form in the book. He’s probably best watched on his seasonal debut though.
The 5f Group 3 Palace House Stakes 2.20pm is a competitive heat and I like Ballydoyle’s Washington DC. He won at Navan over the minimum trip last month, having got a bit lost at Meydan when finishing mid-division on his seasonal bow.
Third in the Group One Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot over 6f last season, the feeling is that he’s best over the minimum trip.
Two that should also run very well are the Clive Cox pair Profitable and Priceless. Profitable won this contest last year and is versatile ground-wise. Recent Bath winner Priceless is unbeaten in two runs since switching to 5f.
Ryan Moore looks to have another cracking ride on Seventh Heaven, who brings some serious recent form into the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes over 1m 4f (2.55pm) having split Jack Hobbs and Postponed at Meydan last month.
The four-year-old filly is the highest-rated in the field after winning the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks last season (beating Found & Queen’s Trust). She carries a penalty for that so doesn’t get the sex allowance off Across the Stars.
If you’re going to go with a short-price fav I’d sooner Seventh Heaven than Churchill at the prices.
There’s two ITV races from Goodwood where Ajman Princess should start favourite for the the 1m 4f Listed Race at 2.05pm.
She won an egg and spoon race at Lingfield to start her season, but was highly tried in a couple of Group races last season when finishing second to Even Song at Ascot. She could be hard to beat.
Sir Michael Stoute’s stable has made a really strong start to the season, posting a 20 per cent strike-rate recently. His really well-bred filly, Dubka, looks the danger.
The jockeys in the 16-runner 7f handicap at 2.40pm have big decisions to make depending on where they’re drawn. Goodwood is a tricky track so if you’re drawn low, you ride for luck and hope the gaps appear.
That’s preferable to a high draw because you’re going to get forced wide. The only way to combat that is to use up a lot of petrol early on, just to get into a challenging position. Then you’ve got to call on your stamina reserves in the run to the line.
Ice Age races from the middle in stall nine and was a winner at Brighton when stepped up in trip to 7f again. He showed a lot of pace to win that day and coupled with a third-place finish here over 6f last October, could prove a solid option.
William Haggas is a shrewd trainer and his Zwayyan makes his seasonal bow. Any market move for him should be noted.