It is Guineas weekend at Newmarket and the colts’ classic is expected to be run on good to firm ground this afternoon although there was the prospect of a passing shower.
In the 5f Palace House Stakes I was disappointed with the sole Meydan run of Lazuli (2.25) where he finished third to Equilateral earlier in the year although that form was franked by both the winner and runner up. He has been given 100 days to get over that run and must carry a 3lbs penalty which muddies the waters, but I think he can take this en route to a crack at the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. The selection is 11/4 with Boylesports.
Only five go to post for the Jockey Club Stakes but it is a fascinating renewal of this Group 2 contest. Al Zaraqaan has slowly been making his way up the ranks on the all-weather and there seems no reason why this striking son of Golden Horn will not be as effective on turf. I wonder if his optimum distance on turf will be over trips just shy of a mile-and-a-half although the excellent William Haggas clearly disagree as he has entered him in the Yorkshire Cup over 1m 6f later in the month.
Sir Ron Priestley should ensure there is plenty pf pace in the race, and I hope to see Pyledriver (3.00) make a winning return for William Muir and his son-in-law Martin Dwyer. The selection – 9/4 with MansionBet – gave weight to his rivals when landing the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York back in August and he travelled like the best horse in the race before his stamina gave way in the St Leger the following month. He has not raced on fast ground since winning at Salisbury on debut, but he is a talented colt who has a good record fresh. He can continue to progress.
Fifteen go to post in the 2000 Guineas and the Ballydoyle duo of Battleground and Wembley (3.40) have long been my fancies for the race and the latter gets the vote. He has been on my radar for the Classic since his fast finishing second in the National Stakes at the Curragh. He was drawn widest of all at the Curragh and met trouble in running before coming home best of all behind Thunder Moon who had a better run of the race. The step up to a mile will suit and he may get 10f although he does not strike me as being a Derby contender. The ew recommendation is 4s with William Hill who are betting 5 places.
I have also thrown a few quid on Mutasaabeq who looked very smart when landing a minor conditions event here over 7f last month. After just two career starts the unbeaten selection lacks experience but he is out of one of my favourite Guineas winners in Ghanaati and he could be very special. The value has, arguably, now gone but looked potentially top-class last time and has been supplemented by connections for the race.
Magical Land (5,25) looked ready for a step up to a mile when a staying on second over 7f here on his reappearance although he could hardly be described as being thrown in from an opening mark of 87. A son of Frankel the selection has finished runner up in all three starts but I am convinced today’s step up in trip will bring about the necessary improvement to end that frustrating sequence. The 5/2 with 10Bet looks about right.
The Tizzard stable have saddled two winners from their last three runners and Ofalltheginjoints (3.35) can land the feature Staffordshire Plate at Uttoxeter. The selection ran a much better race at Aintree than his finishing position would suggest, and he would have finished closer but for clouting a couple on the second circuit. This is a much weaker race than what he was contesting last term and Jonjo O’Neill takes over in the saddle. He would have been something to bet on were it not for the lingering doubts about the form of the yard. The ew recommendation is 13/2 with William Hill.
At Punchestown Concertista (3.50) was just touched off at Cheltenham in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham back in March but is a confident selection – 6/5 with William Hill – to go one better for Willie Mullins – who has carried all before him this week – fitting the mare with a first-time tongue-tie. The brilliant mare Laurina has her first start for new connections having cost 290,000 at Tattersalls Sales back in December. I thought her racing career was over, but it is possible – but not confirmed – that she has been covered and is having one last swansong on the track. Pregnancy was certainly no inconvenience to Colreevy earlier in the week that is for sure!