Pinatubo looks real deal but history tells us to be cautious
It's not a race for betting - but it's been a while since I've been as excited about a horse as I am over Pinatubo, Charlie Appleby's outstanding two-year-old which is expected to go off around 1/3 for this afternoon's Group One Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket (3.30).
With an official rating of 128, he's already rated higher as a two-year-old than the greatest Flat horse I've ever seen, Frankel, and it's no surprise to see Pinatubo 11/10 in the betting for the 2020 2,000 Guineas. I didn't think I'd see a horse as good as Frankel in my lifetime so it's fantastic to see such potential, but amidst all the excitement, you have to remember that we have a list as long as a TD's expenses sheet of two-year-olds which didn't live up to their potential.
Indeed, I remember tipping Dream Ahead on these pages for this race in 2010, also rated 128 at the time, with the eventual winner Frankel then rated 123. Dream Ahead was a great three-year-old no doubt, winning a number of Group Ones, but he wasn't invincible and also lost a couple too.
Timeform have also been highly impressed with Pinatubo, giving him a rating of 134 with the potential for improvement and that's the second-highest juvenile rating they've given in the modern era, behind Celtic Swing at 138 in 1994. But again, Celtic Swing was ultimately disappointing as a three-year-old and a lot can change physically over the winter months.
So while I'm very excited about Pinatubo, that enthusiasm is coated in a big dose of realism, and I've no interest in backing him right now for any race that takes place next year. Fingers crossed he does the business in great style once again, having destroyed a very good field by nine lengths in a very fast time in the Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh last time out. For me, it's a race best enjoyed without the stress of a bet, and although history says it's unlikely, we may well be witnessing another true great like Frankel emerging.
Despite winning this race half a dozen times, Aidan O'Brien finds himself as the underdog here but if there's one horse that might make a race of it, it's Wichita, which was supplemented on Monday.
He was very impressive in the Group Three Somerville Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket last time out, although on all known form, Pinatubo has got a stone in hand here and if the favourite is as good as we think, the 7/2 about Wichita is not the greatest value.
For something at a decent price, have a look at Matterhorn, which is trading around 3/1 in the Group Three Darley Stakes (5.20 Newmarket). Mark Johnston's colt is very effective on the all-weather and that's where most of his eight career wins from 19 races have come, but he's been making the frame in some Group races on the turf lately, and certainly wasn't disgraced when second to Space Traveller in the Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown last time, having traded at 1/2 in-running.
That came on the back of two runner-up spots in Group Three races, and he's finally climbing back up in the ratings, despite this five-loss run being the longest he's had to date. He's been a great servant to connections; one of those consistent sorts that's usually thereabouts, and he can be relied upon to get a good run for your money at the least, especially at this level.
Pincheck is the one most likely to give the selection something to worry about. Jessica Harrington's gelding finished behind Matterhorn in the aforementioned Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown, but he's since given a good account of himself when second in a Listed race at Cork.
Earlier on the same card, I'm surprised to see Subjectivist as the 20/1 outsider of the field in the Godolphin Flying Start Zetland Stakes (2.20). With five victories in total, his trainer Mark Johnston holds the record for the most number of wins in this race, which has been upgraded to Group Three level for this year from Listed.
A novice winner in July, he's closely related to some very decent sorts and while he's fallen short at Listed level in his last three starts, the seven-furlong and eight-furlong trips have been inadequate and he's crying out for more.
Do the Double
Georgia have put in a few decent shifts lately, most notably their draw with Denmark last month - and they'll be fairly confident of giving Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland a tough game in Tbilisi this afternoon. A lack of goals is the problem for both sides in this competition, but at least the Irish are not being beaten. I'm tempted to go for the draw here, but I've seen one bookie offer of 7/5 on an Ireland win which has tempted me in.
The Roger Varian-trained colt Molatham has a good piece of form under the belt having beaten Wichita in a Listed race at Doncaster, and this afternoon's Group Three Dubai Autumn Stakes looks within his reach. That came after a very good run when he won a maiden at York, and I've stuck him in the notebook as one to follow. Yesterday evening's odds of 9/4 seem generous, with Charlie Appleby's Al Suhai the best of the rest at 9/2.
Willie Mullins won the Cesarewitch (4.10 Newmarket) last year with Low Sun, and he's got a very strong hand in 2019 with three entries, most notably Buildmeupbuttercup under Frankie Dettori. He looks well-in off a rating of 94 and he's sure to be thereabouts, although odds of 4/1 look short in a 31-runner field. Instead, preference is for an each-way bet on Darksideoftarnside, which looks far too big to me at 33/1. Trained by Ian Williams, he went very close off today's rating of 82 at Ascot last week, and he'll appreciate the cut in the ground. Jockey Gabriele Malune claims 3lbs and with a bit of luck in running, he could be in the mix.
2.20 Newmarket: Subjectivist
2.55 Newmarket: Molatham
4.10 Newmarket: Darksideoftarnside (e/w)
4.30 Chepstow: Man Of Plenty (e/w)
4.45 Newmarket: Beauty Filly
5.20 Newmarket: Matterhorn