Moment Of Truth For City Of Troy

City Of Troy | Getty Images


Newmarket Heath's nude brutality awaits a clutch of elite 3-year-olds on Saturday, from the ones who have flashed unusual prowess in the major juvenile exposés to those whose flashes of luminosity have come on smaller and less expected stages. The Rowley Mile's designated strip for the 2000 Guineas is as hostile this horrid Spring as it ever has been and Friday's grey skies and rain only served to extend Europe's winter hangover. Indifferent to weakness, expecting many a flinch and fold from the competitors lined up for the first Classic of the campaign, these 1,760 yards of truth are rarely truly conquered. Only twice since the War can it be said that the race has been mastered, with the displays of athletic triumph by Tudor Minstrel in 1947 and by Frankel (GB) in 2011 bordering on rude.

“The last of the 2-year-old races,” it has sometimes been labelled, in reference to its position in the calendar. While that may have been true for the genuine carry-over champions such as El Gran Senor, Zafonic or the even-bigger Juddmonte creation 13 years ago, it has proved a downright lie for many. That is especially the case in the most recent renewals, where the likes of Native Trail (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}), Pinatubo (Ire) (Shamardal) and Air Force Blue (War Front) gave up their seats with varying degrees of fight.

That is the beauty of the Guineas. It is either seamless transition from child to man or a rude awakening for the former head boys no longer able to impose authority on their peers. In Ballydoyle's TDN Rising Star City Of Troy (Justify), we are almost certainly looking at a multi-generational champion, aren't we? Maybe, maybe not. Take the three examples above and remember how it just seemed so straightforward as they cantered down to this start, already past the Bushes and home and hosed…


Trojan Horse Or The Real Thing?

City Of Troy has the form, the stable, the jockey and the athletic prowess to overpower everything here, but the one thing he lacks is a sire proven in this sphere. While Justify's early start has been impressive, you have to go back to Zafonic in 1993 to find the last 2000 Guineas winner sired by a dirt runner. Several obvious candidates have fallen short subsequently, including a few by Storm Cat and War Front and so it is fair to conclude that this race is all about turf pedigree. Where Zafonic is useful as a comparative tool is he was like City Of Troy last year's champion head and shoulders above his contemporaries as he enjoyed his “last 2-year-old race” dominating Barathea (Ire) et al.

Aidan O'Brien believes that his benchmark colt, whose page features the emphatic 2004 Guineas hero Haafhd (GB) (Alhaarth {Ire}), is more work in progress than already-set masterpiece. After the Dewhurst, where Formula One adapted to four-wheel drive, he memorably uttered that “you always see the bottom somewhere, but we've not seen it with this fellow.” Quite what depths he'll have to plumb here remains to be seen, but the purists will be praying that he'll only be going through the motions once more.


The Figures Don't Lie…

Whereas City Of Troy was dazzling with his sectionals in two of this town's big races of the summer and autumn, fellow TDN Rising Stars Notable Speech (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and Night Raider (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) chose to signpost their talent in all-weather novice and conditions races earlier this year. Notable Speech, which as Charlie Appleby confessed is his last-ditch attempt to derail the hot favourite, showed he is at least in the same ballpark when slicing through the final two furlongs of Kempton's old “Easter Stakes” in under 22 seconds. The trouble is, while City Of Troy is an Irish-trained colt with the bulk of his experience at Newmarket, the big local hope Notable Speech had no runs at two and is unproven on grass.

“Notable Speech is three from three on the all-weather and you are always going to sit on the fence slightly as to whether they can transfer that style of racing to the turf,” Appleby said. “We are confident that he can and excited to find out. He is a son of Dubawi, and we know from experience that his offspring can be pretty versatile. His homework has been good and he has had a great preparation so far. We all know we have a couple of nice horses to beat on the ratings and what they have achieved, but I will be disappointed if he doesn't run a big race.”

Night Raider is also a turf virgin and if he misses the groove here connections can at least be sure that they have a top-class prospect for the later part of the season based on what he did against the clock at Southwell. A half-brother to the G3 Palace House S. winner Far Above (Ire) (Farhh {GB}), he needs no further rain with questionable stamina but at least jockey Danny Tudhope is convinced about his ability to see out the mile.

“His work at home has been absolutely outstanding and he's really maturing into himself,” he said. “He had a gallop on grass for the first time at the Craven meeting and I thought he handled the track unbelievably well. You might say there's a question mark over him getting the mile, but from the way he's finished his races I'd say he'll stay no problem.”


Obaid's Double Trouble…

Speaking of time figures, there is also no doubt that last year's G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere hero Rosallion (Ire) (Blue Point {Ire}) and Inisherin (GB) (Shamardal) can be rated in the upper bracket representing Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. While the former has “previous”, Inisherin definitely does not but after he completed the stiff final two furlongs of his Newcastle novice in a staggering 21.63 in March from a wildly-impressive subsequent winner Kalpana (GB) (Study Of Man {Ire}) he belongs in this line-up. This may be too much too soon for the Kevin Ryan-trained son of the late-developing G1 Prix Jean Romanet winner Ajman Princess (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) and grandson of the owner-breeder's remarkable font of class Reem Three (GB) (Mark Of Esteem {Ire}), but it would come as no surprise were he to eventually manifest as the best of these.

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