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The QIPCO 2000 Guineas: The leading contenders with 50 days to go

12 Mar 2021

Just 50 days left until the first Classic of the season. We've taken a look at the star names that could be lining up.

The first place to look when trying to find the winner of the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 1 is the stable of trainer Aidan O’Brien.

The master of Ballydoyle has been responsible for a record ten winners of the mile contest, which annually launches the 35-race QIPCO British Champions Series.

King Of Kings was his first winner in 1998 and Rock of Gibraltar (2002), Footstepsinthesand (2005), George Washington (2006), Henrythenavigator (2008), Camelot (2012), Gleneagles (2015), Churchill (2017), Saxon Warrior (2018) and Magna Grecia (2019) have followed suit.

And there have been several near-misses, including last year when Wichita was beaten a neck by Kameko.

The open nature of this year’s Guineas is reflected by the bookmakers going 9-1 the field. But perhaps not surprisingly it is O’Brien who is responsible for a handful of colts prominent in the ante-post market.

There is lots of water to flow under the bridge but O’Brien has suggested St Mark’s Basilica, Wembley and Van Gogh are on course to represent him, with Battleground and High Definition, also towards the fore of the betting, heading elsewhere. With 50 days to go until the big race, here’s a guide to ten top contenders

ST MARK’S BASILICA

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Form: 25131. General odds: 10/1

He was something of a slow-burner last year but signed off with a convincing victory in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes on softish ground at Newmarket in October, having previously been beaten in two other Group 1 assignments. Frankel (2011), Dawn Approach (2013) and Churchill (2017) have achieved the Dewhurst/Guineas double since the Champions Series was launched in 2011. The Siyouni colt is a half-brother, Magna Grecia, won the Guineas for the same connections in 2019. He ticks lots of boxes, with a mile sure to suit him.

WEMBLEY

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Form: 322122. Odds: 12/1

The Galileo colt took four attempts to win a maiden but upped his game in Group 1 races in the autumn, finishing runner-up in the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes (split Thunder Moon and St Mark’s Basilica) and Dewhurst, when he divided the same horses. Stepping up to a mile seems sure to suit him but he will have to cut out a tendency to start slowly if he is to fulfil his potential.

THUNDER MOON

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien. Form: 113. Odds: 12/1

He won in taking style on his debut at The Curragh and then showed a striking turn of foot to win the Group 1 National Stakes in great style at the same track a month later. That form is rock-solid with Wembley, St Mark’s Basilica, Master Of The Seas and Lucky Vega being the next four home. He was unable to confirm his superiority over the placed horses when third in the Dewhurst but the softish underfoot conditions might have played a part and he remains open to improvement.

MASTER OF THE SEAS

Trainer: Charlie Appleby. Form: 114-2. Odds: 16/1

The Dubawi colt won his first two starts, including the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket in July. He was unable to retain his unbeaten record when fourth to Thunder Moon in the National Stakes, but he had been off 10 weeks before. Suffered a surprise defeat on his return at Meydan last month (February) but was far too fresh and Appleby remained upbeat. Masar and Pinatubo have gone close to Guineas glory for the trainer in two of the past three years.

CHINDIT

Trainer: Richard Hannon. Form: 1119. Odds: 20/1

Looked exciting when winning his first three races, all over 7f, completing his hat-trick with a length victory over Albasheer in the Group 2 bet365 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster. He was a leading fancy for the Dewhurst after those victories but he trailed home ninth of the 13 runners, finding little after travelling smoothly. Perhaps he did enjoy the tacky ground or was merely not at his best. Don’t be surprised if he bounces back in one of the spring trials for a trainer who won the 2014 Guineas with Night Of Thunder.

LUCKY VEGA

Trainer: Jessica Harrington. Form: 12152. Odds: 20/1

The Lope de Vega colt did little wrong last summer but is he going to be a sprinter or miler this year? It was impossible not to be impressed by his emphatic win in the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes over 6f at The Curragh in August and he went down on his sword when runner-up to Supremacy in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes over the same trip at Newmarket in late September. In between, he had been fifth behind Thunder Moon over 7f in the National Stakes, shaping better than the bare result after meeting traffic problems. He appeals as the type to do well from two to three.

CADILLAC

Trainer: Jessica Harrington. Form: 12154- Odds: 20/1

 There was plenty to like about the way he thumped Van Gogh over a mile in the KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown in September after a narrow defeat at the hands of Mac Swiney in the Futurity Stakes at The Curragh. The form has worked out well – both those horses subsequently won Group 1 races – and the suspicion is that we don’t not see the best of him in the autumn when he was fifth in the Dewhurst and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf . He’s one to keep in mind this year.

VAN GOGH

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Form: 4262121. Odds: 25/1

Had the distinction of giving his sire, American Pharoah, a first European Group 1 victory when a commanding winner of the Criterium International over a mile on heavy ground at Saint-Cloud in late October. And just two weeks earlier he got a taste of Newmarket when runner-up in the Emirates Autumn Stakes over the Guineas course and distance. Van Gogh had taken five attempts to get off the mark before that (three runs in Group company) but O’Brien believes he is open to plenty more improvement. It is not difficult to imagine him running over middle distances later in the season.