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Betting for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket is dominated by horses set for the race first-up, but that is nothing new, especially for master trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Champion trainer John Gosden once dubbed the 2,000 Guineas as ‘the last two-year-old race of the season’, the inference being that the previous season’s two-year-old form is all you have to work with when it comes to finding the winner in the first of the classics.
This year’s edition is no different – all of the top chances come in without 2023 form – but Aidan O’Brien has mastered setting horses for the race and he again holds a strong hand.
O’Brien provides the top two in betting for Saturday night’s G1 2,000 Guineas and will be looking to replicate his remarkable record of producing horses first-up in the feature.
O’Brien has won the Guineas ten times and each time it has been the winner’s first run of the season.
This year O’Brien’s has the top two in betting as Ballydoyle sends Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear to Newmarket.
The stablemates strike a fascinating contrast: Auguste Rodin – by the late, great Japanese super sire Deep Impact – looks a staying type, and barring a disaster on Saturday, seems bound for the Epsom Derby, but Little Big Bear – by No Nay Never – looks like a sprinter being stretched to a mile.
They are two very different types of horses and this is likely to be the last time they ever race each other.
The only horse in the market that has ‘started’ this season is Chaldean, who was favourite in the G3 Greenham but dislodged Frankie Dettori and completed the course without his legendary jockey. A colt by Frankel that runs in his sire’s famous Juddmonte silks, Chaldean had won four of five in a two-year-old season capped by a win in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. Despite that record, he still seems something of an unknown quantity against this field.
Roger Varian’s Sakheer is another first-up for the season. He won two from three last season, and hasn’t raced since the G2 Mill Reef Stakes in September.
It is a fascinating race that should provide some pointers to the season ahead.
The Group 3 Palace House Stakes is a five furlong sprint that also contains some serious horses stepping out for the first time this year.
Twilight Calls is equal favourite and he hasn’t been seen since finishing second to Nature Strip in the King’s Stand Stakes nearly 11 months ago.
I like Twilight Calls here. It is interesting to note that a few of these sprinters would be the types of horses the Hong Kong Jockey Club would like to attract to its Champions Day meeting. Scheduling is the problem though: Royal Ascot is little more than a month away and this race is seen as a key lead-up.
On Sunday Golden Sixty passed Winx to become the all-time greatest prizemoney earner in history when he recorded his 25th win at his 29th start and lifted his prizemoney tally to HK$148 million.
The way Lucky Sweynesse is tracking, could he one day reach those heights? Approaching the end of his four-year-old season, Lucky Sweynesse has won 12 of his 14 races, is rated 130, and has won three Group 1s, two Group 2s and a Group 3. He has already earned more than HK$48m in prizemoney. Prizemoney-wise, it compares favourably with Golden Sixty at the same stage of his career.
Of course Golden Sixty contested the Derby as a four-year-old and swept the four-year-old series – which are not classified as Group races – and he wasn’t tackling the big international races as soon. At the same stage of his career he had won 10 of his 11 career starts and had earned HK$24.2 million, less than half of what Lucky Sweynesse has raked in already.
This isn’t to diminish Golden Sixty’s achievements but if Lucky Sweynesse continues on his current trajectory then he could be re-writing the record books, especially if Manfred Man’s sprinter heads to Sydney in October for the world’s richest race on turf, the A$15million Everest in Sydney in October.
If Lucky Sweynesse could win an Everest – and a slot offer is on the table – then the A$6.2m first prize, around HK$30m, would certainly have him scaling the leaderboard of world racing’s highest earners at a rapid rate.
It will be a case of the old champ facing the new generation when Hong Kong’s reigning stayer Russian Emperor returns to home turf at Sha Tin on Sunday in the Group 3 Queen Mother Memorial Handicap.
Straight Arron and Sword Point ran the quinella in a Class 2 last start and continued the strong form from the 2023 Hong Kong Derby crop.
The four-year-old ‘Class of 2023’ is looking loaded with quality and Straight Arron and Sword Point hit this handicap at the right time. Russian Emperor returns from a two-race tour of the middle east which included a win in Qatar and a disappointing run in Dubai. He might be vulnerable against the young guns here.
2,000 Guineas: Little Big Bear WIN
Palace House Stakes: Twilight Calls WIN
R9 Queen Mother Memorial Cup: No.8 Straight Arron/No.9 Sword Point/No.5 Running Glory Quinella/Quinella Place
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