Tuesday 23 January 2018

Ballydoyle's Maybe definitely not a foregone conclusion

Aidan O'Brien's filly faces some dangerous rivals at Newmarket, writes Ronan Groome

If you were to pick one British Classic to best showcase the power of the Ballydoyle operation, it would not be the 1,000 Guineas.

In the past 10 seasons, Aidan O'Brien has only struck once in the fillies' Classic. Indeed, the 2005 victory with Virginia Waters remains the sole winner for team Ballydoyle in this race.

Interestingly, O'Brien has only run 14 horses here through the past 10 years, quite a low number given that a total of 23 horses have represented Ballydoyle in the 2,000 Guineas, 31 in the Oaks and 41 in the Derby.

Once again only one horse will represent O'Brien today, yet in this case it's no surprise that all hopes are pinned on a single arrow.

Maybe is a filly which went into the superstar bracket last season. Five wins from five runs, and with each run she became more impressive. Today they will talk about her performance in the Moyglare Stud Stakes as her starlight victory, or perhaps the devastating turn of foot she showed in the Debutante Stakes. However, to gain more substantial evidence on her chance today, you have to go back further in her career.

In the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot on only her second start, she became only the third filly in 20 years to win that race. She won despite sweating up badly in the paddock beforehand, despite a market drift of alarming proportions and despite worries her trainer had about the soft ground. It was a sign of her class that she was able to negotiate the ground, and given the late game-changer of soft going for today's race, Maybe's CV is covered in this regard.

That the daughter of Galileo will be a short-priced favourite is a sign of her class rather than the opposition she faces, with more than a few dangerous fillies lurking in the field. The challenge of Ballydoyle's great rivals Godolphin is two-fold, with Discourse and Lyric Of Light out to follow up Blue Bunting's success here last year for the boys in blue.

However, trying to split the pair is the difficult part. Originally, Discourse was bound for the Group One Fillies Mile after an impressive victory on Newmarket's July course. However, a minor setback cut her season short and as a result Lyric Of Light was substituted into that race via a supplementary entry. The daughter of Street Cry duly won impressively, coming from off the pace and wide on the track to grab Samitar late on.

The sub-plot here is the new competition for jockey places at Godolphin, who recruited both Silvestre De Sousa and Mikael Barzalona during the winter. It would appear that Frankie Dettori is still top dog and he has opted for Lyric Of Light.

French raider Mashoora looks the best of those which have had a run this season, following her cheeky success in Maisons-Laffitte. Four out of the previous 10 winners had a prep run in the same season while two out of the last five winners were trained in France.

You have to go all the way back to 1997 to find Kevin Prendergast's last Classic winner but with La Collina here, the Kildare trainer has a reasonable chance of breaking that duck. A daughter of Strategic Prince, she got the closest to Maybe last year in a listed race at Leopardstown and then posted a Group One success with a terrific late surge to down Power in the Phoenix Stakes.

The other Group One winner in the field comes in the form of Ger Lyons' Lightening Pearl, which produced one of the stories of last season when posting a first Group One success for the Meath-based trainer. Lyons reported last week that his filly was in good form and ready for racing but voiced his worries about the ground. "Our quandary with the filly is seven furlongs to a mile and to be fair to her I don't want to turn around and be saying she didn't get the trip because it was heavy ground. The last furlong would be a worry on very testing ground.

"She won her Group One last year and I said that if we had the same filly next May that will do me. She's fit and well and when you've got one as good as her you've got to take your chance providing the ground is okay."

While the ground is one obstacle to overcome, Maybe is another.

"As far as I'm concerned, Maybe is as good a filly as I have seen in many a year and with any normal improvement she won't get beaten. She was brilliant last year and if the same filly turns out this year she'd beat the rest of us every day of the week," said Lyons.

It's very likely that he is not the only trainer worrying about the favourite. Yet it's worth pointing out that we have been here before with the likes of Rainbow View and Six Perfections, which swept all before them in their two-year-old careers and were beaten at Newmarket.

Also, the last 13 winners of the 1,000 Guineas have come from 13 different stables. There is still hope for all.

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