Kitten's Joy's Kameko The Guineas Victor

Kameko takes the 2000 Guineas | Racing Post


There was a real buzz surrounding Qatar Racing's Kameko (Kitten's Joy) as the delayed G1 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas approached and the G1 Futurity Trophy winner justified all the expectation as he swooped to conquer the Newmarket Classic on Saturday. Arriving at the forefront of his generation with an emphatic win in Doncaster's traditional juvenile feature which was re-arranged on Newcastle's Tapeta in November, the bay had earned rave reviews from Andrew Balding's Kingsclere base during this year's prolonged waiting period. In mid-division on the rail as the pace proved strong here, the 10-1 shot was able to work out and around Wichita (Ire) (No Nay Never) and Pinatubo (Ire) (Shamardal) in the closing stages and after passing the Ballydoyle runner 100 yards from the line asserted for a neck success in race-record time. Pinatubo, the 5-6 favourite, looked the likely winner with William Buick oozing confidence with over two to race but could only finish a length away in third.

Oisin Murphy was on cloud nine afterwards as he reflected on his first British Classic success for the trainer that nurtured his skills during the formative stage of his career. “This means the absolute world to me, it's the stuff of dreams,” he said. “To do it for these connections on a son of Roaring Lion's sire–you couldn't make it up. As a physical, he's not super tall but is so broad and obviously has huge heart room. He could have hardly blown out a candle just now, so he must have a tremendous amount of ability.”

Kameko had scored on debut over seven furlongs at Sandown in July prior to being nosed out by Positive (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) when 14-1 for the G3 Solario S. over the same course and distance the following month. Again denied narrowly by Royal Dornoch (Ire) (Gleneagles {Ire}) in the G2 Royal Lodge S. over this track and trip in September, he was a different proposition on his juvenile finale at Newcastle with Andrew Balding having tightened the screw in the interim. Out on his own in the Futurity Trophy when 3 1/4 lengths and more ahead of the Ballydoyle contingent there, he brought undisputed gravitas to this test and was a genuine threat to Pinatubo whatever the exploits of that brilliant rival last term.

As in 2019, this keenly-awaited opening salvo of the English Classic season was preceded by heavy rain, but the sky was clear as the stalls opened. There was instant misfortune for Kenzai Warrior (Karakontie {Jpn}) as his rider Jason Watson almost exited the saddle in the middle of the track, but no such drama on the stand's side with Kameko finding perfect cover. Relaxed behind the forwardly-ridden pace-setter Persuasion (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}), the rail runner Juan Elcano (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and Ballydoyle's Arizona (Ire) (No Nay Never), it was quickly apparent that as in last year's edition the hard race-shaping tempo was all on the fence.

It was three out that the first major move was made as Frankie Dettori sent Wichita to the fore with Pinatubo directly behind and half a furlong later William Buick was alongside taking a momentary pull. At that juncture, the champion juvenile looked full of his customary intent and purpose and he may even have been briefly in front running downhill, but his old dominating flourish never came to fruition. Wichita had regained the lead by the furlong marker, but as Dettori's mount started to emerge triumphant from his personal prolonged war with the favourite all the time in behind Kameko was working his way into contention. Having come from the fence, Qatar Racing's flagbearer was forced to divert around them both and despite veering away from Oisin Murphy's whip took control on the climb to the line.

“I expected Ryan [Moore] to go forward on Arizona, as the Ballydoyle pacemakers were too far across and so I got behind him and had a good trip to halfway,” Murphy explained. “Pinatubo was not in my thoughts–I had to focus on Ryan, Frankie and Andrea [Atzeni on Juan Elcano] and what I could control. I wasn't that comfortable passing halfway–whether it was the track or the loose ground or the fact that he is not used to racing at that high intensity, I don't know. He's never encountered anything like that and got a litle bit lost, but once I said go two out he really stuck his neck out. There have only been two horses to have won this in recent years who have not been in front at the furlong pole, so this was a gutsy performance.”

As always after this Classic, talk turned quickly to the July 4 G1 Epsom Derby and Murphy was neither promoting nor throwing cold water on the discussion. “Before today, we viewed him as a mile-and-a-quarter horse and all winners of the Guineas have to be considered for the Derby, so that will have to come into the equation. It is not a decision that has to be made yet and everybody will think about it. He has the mental attitude to go there and he will be fine, but it's the extra distance that is the question.”

Andrew Balding was leaning that way. “I would be keen on the Derby and I've got the feeling that Sheikh Fahad would be too,” he said. “There are mixed messages on pedigree, but I think he could stay a mile and a half.” Reflecting on the race, he added, “This is a fantastic feeling–it is quite surreal in an unusual year, but I don't feel any less elation than if 500,000 people had been here. I wasn't around when Mill Reef was running, but since I started training he's one of the best I've had. He's a machine–he eats, sleeps and works faster than anything you put him with. He was always professional last year, but a bit raw and he improved with racing so I would hope it would be the same this year. He got a bit disorganised there, but was well on top at the end and wasn't exactly blowing hard aftewards. He has thrived on his work at home and wanted more. My team have played an amazing part in this horse's preparation during the lockdown and so it is fantastic for them all.”

Of the favourite, trainer Charlie Appleby said, “Pinatubo travelled well into the race there when he had Frankie's horse as his target, but when he made his move he got up to their girths and just didn't go any further forward. It is obviously disappointing when you taste your first defeat with a horse like Pinatubo but, taking the positives out of the race, I think that he has shown that he has trained on. He was beaten by two good horses in a very quick time, so take nothing away from them. I think that we will see an improvement with Pinatubo mentally going forward, because he is a very relaxed horse at home. He improved with racing throughout his two-year-old season and it could be a similar situation this year. Hopefully, we can regroup and get him back on track for the [June 20 G1] St James's Palace Stakes [at Royal Ascot].”

Saeed bin Suroor will be hoping that the old adage “fourth in the Guineas, first in the Derby” is true again after watching Military March (GB) (New Approach {Ire}) finish on the premises. “Military March ran well and I think that stepping up to a mile and a half will be better for him,” he said. “It was a nice first run of the season and we can think about the Derby for him.”

Kameko's dam Sweeter Still (Ire) (Rock of Gibraltar {Ire}) was bred by Ann Marie O'Brien and raced once for Ballydoyle when fourth in a six-furlong Curragh maiden in 2007. Racing in the States thereafter, the half-sister to the G1 Racing Post Trophy hero Kingsbarns (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) went on to annexe the GIII Senorita S. and place in the GII Providencia S. and GII Honeymoon H. Sold originally to Royal Oak Farm for $750,000 at the 2014 Keeneland January Sale, she was a $35,000 purchase by Kameko's breeder Calumet Farm at Keeneland November two years later before being sold for just $1,500 to T. Lesley Thompson at the most recent edition of that auction.

Also a half to the G3 Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial S. winner Belle Artiste (Ire) (Namid {GB}), Sweeter Still hails from the family of Danehill's GI Breeders' Cup Turf runner-up Ace (Ire), G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup scorer Danish (Ire) and triple group 1 runner-up Hawkeye (Ire). Her 2-year-old daughter of Big Blue Kitten sold to Atlantic Bloodstock for only $5,000 at the recent Keeneland September Sale, while she also has a yearling filly by Optimizer.

Saturday, Newmarket, Britain
QIPCO 2000 GUINEAS S.-G1, £250,000, Newmarket, 6-6, 3yo, 8fT, 1:34.72, g/f.
1–KAMEKO, 126, c, 3, by Kitten's Joy
1st Dam: Sweeter Still (Ire) (GSW-US, $311,603), by Rock of Gibraltar (Ire)
2nd Dam: Beltisaal (Fr), by Belmez
3rd Dam: Ittisaal (GB), by Caerleon
($90,000 Ylg '18 KEESEP). O-Qatar Racing Ltd; B-Calumet Farm (KY); T-Andrew Balding; J-Oisin Murphy. £141,775. Lifetime Record: 5-3-2-0, $380,969. Werk Nick Rating: A++. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Wichita (Ire), 126, c, 3, No Nay Never–Lumiere Noire (Fr), by Dashing Blade (GB). (140,000gns Ylg '18 TAOCT). O-Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier & Michael Tabor; B-W Maxwell Ervine (IRE); T-Aidan O'Brien. £53,750.
3–Pinatubo (Ire), 126, c, 3, Shamardal–Lava Flow (Ire), by Dalakhani (Ire). O/B-Godolphin (IRE); T-Charlie Appleby. £26,900.
Margins: NK, 1, 2HF. Odds: 10.00, 7.50, 0.83.
Also Ran: Military March (GB), Juan Elcano (GB), Kinross (GB), Starcat (GB), New World Tapestry, Kenzai Warrior, Royal Dornoch (Ire), Arizona (Ire), Cepheus (GB), Persuasion (Ire), Al Suhail (GB), Mums Tipple (Ire). Click for the Racing Post result or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.

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