QIPCO 2000 Guineas: Ten Up?


Ten Sovereigns | Racing Post


When convinced, Coolmore's embrace of varying bloodstock schemes is total and unflinching, but there is always an accompanied dynamism which is exemplified yet again at Newmarket on Saturday. As another glorious passage is written in the non-ending narrative of the 2000 Guineas, their already-vital role in the Scat Daddy phenomenon extends to 'TDN Rising Star' Ten Sovereigns (Ire) as he tests No Nay Never's capacity to extend his own sire's building legacy. In what will prove to be a compelling edition of the G1 QIPCO-sponsored Classic, Ballydoyle's premier nominee for Classic honours will be asked to plunge within for the stamina that this undulating quest has always demanded. Winners of the G1 Middle Park S. have a dubious history in the May monument, but the wily Ryan Moore has forecasted that his mount has the fortitude to procure a stunning 10th triumph for the inestimable and indefagitable Aidan O'Brien. Racing's seeker extraordinaire, the sorcerer of Rosegreen has stamped this race like no other since he emerged with the similarly swift-of-foot King of Kings (Ire) in 1998 and 21 years on his defiance of the norm rages on.

Since the versatile equine impresario Rodrigo de Triano succeeded here in 1992 after a juvenile program that featured a Middle Park victory, few have tried the same deed and none succeeded. Now that the Commonwealth Cup is there to lure the previous season's sprinting 2-year-olds, it is debatable how many connections of that particular brand of Thoroughbred will contrive to chase what is often the greatest of all lost causes in pitching for mile Classic laurels. Ironically, it was Rodrigo de Triano's trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam who went closest in that endeavour in the long barren spell in between when his Dutch Art (GB) was third in 2007. Despite finishing in that overall position, the fast and precocious colt actually “won” his race on the far side as the assembly split into two, finishing ahead of the formidable middle-distance presences Duke of Marmalade (Ire) and Eagle Mountain (GB) (Rock of Gibraltar {Ire}).

Yet the sacred art of getting speed juveniles to eke out their level of endurance to a mile is one that O'Brien revels in. At the beginning of the rise of Ballydoyle's second empire, their Middle Park winner Minardi (Boundary) was fourth here and in the same year the supremely quick Mozart (Ire) (Danehill) had the Irish equivalent won in all bar the last 50 yards. Just 12 months ago, US Navy Flag (War Front) who had captured the 2017 Middle Park was similarly undone only in the closing stages of that Curragh Classic, while the yard's Ad Valorem (Danzig) flaunted raw pace in the 2004 edition of Newmarket's six-furlong juvenile feature before excelling over an extra two furlongs in the G1 Queen Anne S.

“I always think if they're good enough, they usually get it,” the Ballydoyle handler proffered after Ten Sovereigns' G3 Round Tower win when posed the age-old question of whether these types can last this far. In 2006, he faced similar internal questions as to the chances of George Washington (Ire) (Danehill) in the Guineas and they were answered categorically. “Gorgeous George” even stayed a mile and a quarter afterwards, while this is the man who won a G1 Nassau S. with the sprint-bred Halfway To Heaven (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}) and got the ridiculously fast Airwave (GB) (Air Express {Ire}) to land a G2 Ridgewood Pearl S. over The Curragh's demanding mile.

Yet the fact remains that Ten Sovereigns does not fit the profile of stable's recent leading contenders. Saxon Warrior (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), Churchill (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Gleneagles (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Australia (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) and Camelot (GB) (Montjeu {Ire}) came to post with cast-iron guarantees attached to excel at this trip. In recent years, the operation's only experimental gambit came with the dirt-bred Air Force Blue (War Front) and that resulted in a mighty reversal in 2016. Those who side with custom can take comfort that Magna Grecia (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}) is also here to slot perfectly into the race's perfect contender profile. One of this renewal's proven stayers, he has an already commanding form profile having won the G1 Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in October, a race which is fast becoming the chief juvenile pointer to the Guineas.

Dashing in his own right and far from supplying a supporting actor role, Magna Grecia had to learn quickly post-summer and suffered his sole defeat when encountering the race's most profoundly galling absentee Persian King (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) in the course-and-distance G3 Autumn S. Owned in partnership with Flaxman Stables, he is in a prominent position to end a decades-long agony in this race for the family of the Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos. Thirty nine years on from the baffling disqualification of Nureyev, the operation who also went close with Machiavellian and Enrique (GB) (Barathea {Ire}) could finally be about to lay an imposing ghost to rest.

Aidan O'Brien was weighing up the prospects of his two protagonists on Friday. “Ten Sovereigns has done very well–he's a fine, big colt now,” he said. “You can't be sure about the mile until he goes and does it, but we've been happy with him so far. We couldn't have dreamed of Magna Grecia doing any more. The Guineas was always a possibility for him–that's why we went to Newmarket for his second run. He's very straightforward and seems to get the mile well.”

While Coolmore and Ballydoyle wrestle with their high-class problems, racing's fringe players look to sew rich pastures from errant seeds. One of the Co. Tipperary institute's relative minnow sires in Requinto (Ire) has conspired to generate a live contender in this year's Classic in Great Scot (GB). Proof that the discovery of top-level talent will never have a set formula, the bay relative of the 1997 1000 Guineas heroine Sleepytime (Ire) (Royal Academy) was judged unworthy of another bid over £2,500 at the 2017 Tattersalls Ireland Ascot November Sale. Engineered by a trio of dreamers in Steve Mound, Neil Clyne and Pete Thompson who are collectively Empire State Racing Partnership, the bay has consistently testified on the track to the aptitude of trainer Tom Dascombe.

Proven on all surfaces, Great Scot took Haydock's Listed Ascendant S. over a mile on testing ground in September having upstaged Line of Duty (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) over seven furlongs there in July and been beaten a head when third to Al Hilalee (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) in the Listed Criterium du FEE at Deauville. His effort when fifth in the Vertem Futurity can be upgraded and he shaped with encouragement when runner-up on his return in the G3 Greenham S. over seven furlongs Apr. 13. Jockey Richard Kingscote is excited, if disappointed with the dry lead-up to the race. “My lad ran a promising race last time and is still learning, but any rain would have helped us really,” he said. “The track is an unknown, as he's only been on easy tracks so far but he is a well-balanced horse and the extra furlong will suit. I'm really hopeful and confident of a big run.”

'TDN Rising Star' Al Hilalee was surprisingly thrust late into the mixture as Godolphin looked to plug the hole left by the forced absence of stablemate Quorto (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}). While the Derby is looking more his bag at present, as a Charlie Appleby representative and the sole son of his sire in the list he commands respect. Not seen since his aforementioned Criterium du FEE win, the son of the talented Ambivalent (Ire) (Authorized {Ire}) is one of a few who will be seeing out the trip with vigour. “Stepping up in trip is always going to suit him in time, but we saw with Masar last year that the 2000 Guineas is one of the best trials for the Derby,” Appleby explained. “It is only his third start, so he doesn't take as much experience into the race as most of the field, but he does things the right way round–he finishes off strongly and races can change complexion when you hit the rising ground at Newmarket.”

Al Hilalee, who was in Meydan until Sunday, will be partnered by William Buick and appears to have a perfect draw in 12 as long as the field does not separate. Speaking at Lingfield on Friday, he was aware that it could be tactical. “Everyone is taking their chance in the 2000 Guineas this year and although it looks an open race, it doesn't look an easy race,” he said. “All you want to know when it comes to these sort of races is that it will be evenly-run and that everyone will race on the same patch of ground. I know with 19 horses in, that's not going to be the case but you don't want any biases. He's a nice horse and I can see him progressing from the race.”

Also in the royal blue is their mid-summer acquisition Dark Vision (Ire) (Dream Ahead) whose current odds of 50-1 would have looked outlandish in the immediate aftermath of his dynamic display in the seven-furlong G2 Vintage S. at Goodwood. Last of six in Doncaster's G2 Champagne S. in September, he was third in a mile conditions event on Chelmsford's Polytrack Apr. 11 and trainer Mark Johnston saw some encouraging signs there. “Dark Vision was very disappointing on his final start last year at Doncaster, but he clearly wasn't right afterwards,” he said. “The Chelmsford race wasn't the class of the 2000 Guineas by any means, but at least the run had a lot of similarities with his Goodwood win in the Vintage S. last year. I think with another 50 yards, he probably would have won at Chelmsford. It is a very short straight there and he came from an impossible position. If he runs up to his Goodwood form, then he has to be a live contender.”

Drawn in eight is another of the “speed” 2-year-olds in Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited's Advertise (GB)(Showcasing {GB}) which places him in the slipstream of Ten Sovereigns on that side. His successes in the six-furlong G1 Phoenix S. at The Curragh and the G2 July S. on the July Course here show him in a favourable light, as does his second over seven in the G1 Dewhurst S. There are definite stamina concerns to deal with and it is entirely possible that he could be away from the main action as he was when runner-up in the G2 Coventry S. at Royal Ascot in June. Staying concerns do not apply to Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Madhmoon (Ire), who is surprisingly the only flag-bearer for the Galileo (Ire) sire line in this year's race as a son of the 2013 2000 Guineas hero Dawn Approach (Ire). He beat Ballydoyle's Broome (Ire) (Australia {GB}) in Leopardstown's G2 Golden Fleece S. in September, but that colt looks to have grown wings in the interim and the Shadwell representative will need to improve off his return second in the Listed 2000 Guineas Trial back there Apr. 6.

It is 28 years since the seven-furlong Listed European Free H. boasted a 2000 Guineas winner in Mystiko, but this year's renewal saw King Power Racing's Shine So Bright (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) dominant against the stand's rail which is his for the taking again drawn in the high numbers. He has abundant stamina on the dam's side, which is also the case for the third-placed Azano (GB) (Oasis Dream {GB}) from John Gosden's stable. Shaping with some promise although initially disappointing in that Apr. 16 prep, the latter hails from the Aga Khan family of Azamour (Ire) and was only 1 1/2 lengths off Mohaather (GB) (Showcasing {GB}) in the G3 Horris Hill S. at Newbury in October.

Friday's draw for the G1 QIPCO 1000 Guineas sees 15 fillies assemble for Sunday's Classic, with the sole defector on Friday being the G3 Prestige S. winner Antonia de Vega (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}). Likely favourite Qabala (Scat Daddy) is drawn towards the far side in six with the fellow Roger Varian-trained Mot Juste (Distorted Humor) also that way in two. First and second in the Apr. 16 G3 Nell Gwyn S. over seven furlongs here, they help form a cluster of favourites in low numbers along with 'TDN Rising Star' Fairyland (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}) in one and Iridessa (Ire) (Ruler of the World {Ire}) in stall three. Frankie Dettori has been booked by Aidan O'Brien for the G1 Cheveley Park S. heroine Fairyland, with Ryan Moore on fellow 'Rising Star' Just Wonderful (Dansili {GB}) drawn nearest the stand's rail in 15.

Also at Newmarket on Saturday is the G3 Zoustar Palace House S., where 'TDN Rising Star' Sergei Prokofiev (Scat Daddy) bids to get Ballydoyle off to a flyer in the five-furlong burn-up. With the penalised G1 Prix de l'Abbaye heroine Mabs Cross (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) in attendance alongside some established dragsters, last year's G3 Cornwallis S. scorer should have the fierce pace he needs as he builds towards the G1 King's Stand S. at Royal Ascot. The card's G2 Roaring Lion Jockey Club S. has seen better days, but a virtuoso from 'Rising Star' Coronet (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) would provide it with a much-required shot in the arm. Denford Stud's 5-year-old starts out on another crusade for an elusive Group 1 success that her record merits and she meets some members of the other sex who are beginning to look exposed.

Aside from those offered by the Guineas action, suggestions of Derby potential could also come from the Listed Lightning Spear Newmarket S. in which Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's impressive Apr. 17 Wood Ditton S. winner UAE Jewel (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) takes on a trio in another race whose reputation has suffered of late. Trainer Roger Varian said, “UAE Jewel has done nothing wrong since winning. He's highly promising and I look forward to seeing him back on the track.”

At ParisLongchamp, there are two more listed contests for colts and fillies with Derby and Oaks aspirations staged on the card headlined by the G3 Prix d'Hedouville for older horses. The Prix de l'Avre over a mile and a half acts as an intriguing diversion for the Charlie Appleby-trained Apr. 17 Newmarket novice winner Jalmoud (GB) (New Approach {Ire}), a son of the G1 Epsom Oaks heroine Dancing Rain (Ire) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}), while in the 11-furlong Prix de la Seine Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's impressive Apr. 1 Chantilly scorer Villa d'Amore (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}) is Andre Fabre's selected representative. It was nine years ago that Fabre sent out a Godolphin filly named Seeking Solace (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) to post a career-best when runner-up in this before she went off to the following year's Tattersalls July Sale. In 2016 she produced a colt from Camas Park Stud by No Nay Never. His Name? Ten Sovereigns.

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