Frankel sets the Classic standard
Frankel is charged with confirming the imperious talent that he displayed as a juvenile when he tackles 12 opponents in this afternoon's 2,000 Guineas.
Any other year, it would be unthinkable for a colt to be as short as 1/2 in a Guineas field that also contains the winners of the Racing Post Trophy, the National Stakes, the Criterium and the Craven. That is a measure of Frankel's established superiority.
Pathfork and Roderic O'Connor are the only two Irish-trained representatives among his rivals. Should a kink materialise in the favourite's armour, both have the potential to return the first Classic of the season to these shores for a seventh time in 10 years.
Roderic O'Connor represents Aidan O'Brien as the Ballydoyle trainer bids for a sixth triumph in the Newmarket Group One. An easy winner of the Criterium in heavy going, Roderic O'Connor was previously dismissed by Frankel in the Dewhurst.
He obviously has potential, but it's difficult to see him turning the form around with an on-song Frankel on quick ground. Pathfork is a more interesting contender today.
Jessica Harrington's unbeaten American-bred colt accounted for the subsequent Racing Post Trophy winner Casamento when landing the National Stakes in September, so he boasts solid Group One form.
Harrington and Berry are both seeking a debut Classic success, and Pathfork will likely be the horse to oblige them.
However, they may have to wait for the Irish equivalent in three weeks' time.
At Newbury a fortnight ago, Frankel's no-nonsense win in a muddling race proved that he has trained on, though it was also clear that he hadn't been primed for the occasion.
Henry Cecil, who has 24 British Classics to his name already, is a past master at nurturing such prodigious types through their three-year-old campaign, so his son of Galileo is expected to be an even more potent force now.
Given Frankel's tendency to race freely, Tom Queally is sure to earn his fee once again, but the Waterford native should leave Newmarket on a more positive note than when denied a first Classic after Jacqueline Quest lost the 1,000 Guineas in the stewards' room 12 months ago.
The only other Irish runner on the card is last year's Nunthorpe hero Sole Power in the Palace House Stakes.
Eddie Lynam's four-year-old has had just one outing since the Nunthorpe, finishing 14th of 16 behind JJ The Jet Plane at Meydan in March.
He is sure to come on for the run, so he could reward each-way punters at a big price now.
Iver Bridge Lad, which is having its 10th run of 2011, may be a better win option, however. A brilliantly consistent colt, Iver Bridge Lad won convincingly over the minimum distance at Nottingham on his penultimate outing.
He then ran well when second off level weights to the six-pound higher rated Genki in a Listed race over six furlongs, so he could be hard to beat over five.
Later on, the Makfi Newmarket Stakes sees the impressive recent winners Cai Shen, Discoteca and Ocean War figure among seven hopefuls for a 10-furlong Listed event. Cai Shen has achieved the most on the track so far, his commanding win at Newbury two weeks ago his third on the trot.
Richard Hughes's mount is decent, but may be worth opposing with Namibian. A Doncaster maiden winner, Mark Johnston's colt ran well here when fourth to Auld Burns on his reappearance, form that has since worked out well. In the concluding mile handicap, Michael Dods' Well Sharp is taken to build on a promising reappearance. This is a competitive contest, but he's lightly raced.
Best bet: Namibian