Estidhkaar to provide Hannon with valuable Guineas double
We've a couple of Grade One races at Punchestown this afternoon to help wave goodbye to the jumps season but there's little or no time to catch a breather between codes.
We are full-on with Flat meetings from here on in, not least of which is this weekend's Guineas meeting at Newmarket. The build-up to this year's 2,000 Guineas, which goes to post at 3.45, has been relatively quiet and you get the feeling that 9/4 favourite Gleneagles (Aidan O'Brien) has been installed at the top of the market almost by a process of elimination.
What I mean to say is that we've not seen much from any other horse in today's field which would make you sit up and say "that's one for the Guineas". While Gleneagles was disqualified from first place for causing interference in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last time, he ran very well overall and probably would have registered a second Group One had the race been staged in Britain or Ireland. The French are a lot stricter - although it must be pointed out that it wasn't the first time he edged to the right and unless O'Brien has sorted that trait out, he risks losing more races as he expends extra energy at the finish.
That said, he's a strong traveller and I've no doubt he'll be able to step up in trip to a mile so it will be interesting to see at what point Ryan Moore, who rides the Galileo colt for the first time, puts his foot on the gas. Presumably, he'll keep it simple enough but at the prices, he's one to swerve this afternoon.
Joseph O'Brien rides Ol' Man River and, although impressive when winning his two starts to date including a Group Two, he's quite inexperienced compared to the rest of the field and I'd rather take a watching brief today.
Richard Hannon won this race last year with 40/1 outsider Night Of Thunder and is well represented today with four runners. Richard Hughes rides Ivawood and that one is sure to be popular in the betting but I like the look of Estidhkaar (Paul Hanagan), which is generally available at 7/1.
He was quite smart as a two-year-old and won a couple of Group Two races at Newmarket and Doncaster although he signed off the season with a laboured run in the Dewhurst. But he didn't appear too comfortable on his way to post and it was clear as soon as they left the stalls that he wouldn't be winning.
I'm going to make allowances for that off day and he was only beaten by a neck in Newbury's Greenham Stakes recently, having traded below 1/2 in-running. Ivawood was third in that race but there's no reason to believe the placings will be reversed today.
In tomorrow's 1,000 Guineas (3.40), John Gosden's Jellicle Ball gets the vote at 8/1. She almost beat Redstart in the Fred Darling last time and should have room to improve.
No, your eyes haven't deceived you. Paul Nicholls has booked Frankie Dettori to ride one of his horses this weekend. But the flamboyant Italian won't be going over hurdles or fences any time soon as All Set To Go happens to be one of the Ditcheat handler's select few which competes on the level.
The gelding is 8/1 for the Makfi Suffolk Stakes Handicap (2.00 Newmarket) but that seems to be a bit short and bookmakers are possibly expecting some bets due to the novelty jockey/trainer combo.
Instead, preference is for Knight Owl each way at 14/1. A son of Rock Of Gibraltar, James Fanshawe's charge won a couple of useful handicaps last year and a spiritless performance at Kempton recently can be attributed to a lack of fitness. Jockey Cam Hardie's 3lb claim will prove useful.
2.00 Newmarket: Knight Owl (e/w)
2.30 Newmarket: Stepper Point
3.05 Newmarket: Telescope
3.45 Newmarket: Estidhkaar
4.25 Punchestown: Qualando
3.40 Newmarket: Jellicle Ball (Sunday)