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The QIPCO 1000 Guineas: Leading contenders

18 Mar 2021

Just 40 Days remain until the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, we've had a look at some of the main contenders for the first Fillies' Classic

Aidan O’Brien’s exploits in the QIPCO British Champions Series include saddling the first three home in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas in 2016.

Five years later, there is the prospect of another O’Brien 1-2-3 in the fillies’ Classic, but this time with a twist, with Aidan and his sons, Joseph and Donnacha, all having credible contenders.

Let’s hope all three are able to be at Newmarket to watch what unfolds on May 2. There are just 40 days until the mile showpiece. Here’s our guide to the leading contenders.

PRETTY GORGEOUS

Trainer: Joseph O’Brien. Form: 12121. Odds: 8/1

The Lawman filly capped a fine campaign when landing the be365 Fillies’ over a mile at Newmarket in October, having landed the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at The Curragh earlier in the season. And in between those victories she was runner-up in another Group 1, the Moyglare Stud Stakes. Her form gives her excellent prospects. Moreover, she’s a good short physically who promises to do even better with another winter behind her.

SANTA BARBARA

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Form: 1. Odds: 10/1

Aidan O’Brien’s Guineas horses, colts and fillies, generally do not lack experience or previous big-race credentials. Santa Barbara ticks neither box, having only run in a mile maiden on soft ground at The Curragh in late September. However, she created a deep impression that day in beating her 17 rivals in decisive fashion. On the minus side, the runner-up and fourth horse home did not frank the form afterwards. O’Brien has landed four of the past five renewals.

INDIGO GIRL

Trainer: John Gosden. Form: 112. Odds: 12/1

Her sister, Journey, won the Fillies & Mares Stakes over 1m4f on Champions Day in 2016 for John Gosden and the trainer will be hoping she can prove a similar force. The portents are most encouraging because Indigo Girl has been a much quicker learner. She established herself as one of the top two-year-old juvenile fillies by winning the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September before finishing a ½-length second to Pretty Gorgeous in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket. Like her sibling, she is equipped with a hood.

SHALE

Trainer: Donnacha O’Brien. Form: 611216. Odds: 16/1

Shale’s clashes with Pretty Gorgeous last year proved an entertaining sub-plot during the season. The score between them ended 2-2, and 1-1 when they met in Group 1 contests. Shale had Pretty Gorgeous behind when landing the Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh but finished behind her in the  Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.  A few “judges” suggested Shale did not handle Newmarket in the autumn but her dam, Homecoming Queen, certainly did as she won the Guineas by nine lengths at 25/1 in 2012.

ALCOHOL FREE

Trainer: Andrew Balding. Form: 121. Odds: 20/1

Alcohol Free kept the spirits of her connections high during 2020, the highlight being her tenacious defeat of Miss Amulet in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in late September. The daughter of No Nay Never showed a good turn of foot to prevail under an exultant Oisin Murphy that day. She raced exclusively over 6f but her pedigree, and performances, suggest she will have no trouble staying at least seven furlongs. Will she stretch to a mile? We are unlikely to find that out until the big day itself. Before her Cheveley Park win, she had won on her debut at Newbury and been runner-up to the prolific Happy Romance in the Group 3 Dick Poole Stakes at Salisbury.

MOTHER EARTH

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien. Form: 23133032. Odds: 20/1

Despite last season only really starting in early June, she ran eight times in three different countries, with all bar her debut being in Group company. The Zoffany filly had only a Group 3 win at Naas to show for her endeavours but that is misleading because she ran a fine race when third in the Fillies’ Mile (beaten a length) in October and when subsequently runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland, when not enjoying the rub of the green. O’Brien’s Homecoming Queen was having her 13th race when landing the Guineas for O’Brien in 2012, so do not discount her.

SAFFRON BEACH

Trainer: Jane Chapple-Hyam. Form: 11. Odds: 20/1

Saffron Beach was among several to excel for first-season sire New Bay last year and had clearly been showing something at home ahead of her debut in a 7f maiden at Newmarket in late September because she was backed at fancy odds to beat 14 rivals. She duly won in taking style under Adam Kirby, and confirmed that impression just 13 days later over the same course and distance when landing the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes sponsored by Godolphin. She should have no trouble staying a mile and the Rowley Mile holds no fears.

MONSOON MOON

Trainer: John Gosden. Form: 31. Odds: 25/1

She’s a half-sister to the stable’s 2019 St Leger winner Logician among others. Her debut defeat at Ascot in early September can be attributed to perhaps not the best ride in a tactical race, but she made no mistake over a mile at Newmarket a fortnight later. Gosden was happy to put her away for the year afterwards, noting that she perhaps was not physically or mentally ready for bigger tests. A tall filly with plenty of scope, it might be that Gosden continues to adopt a softly-softly approach. Wherever Monsoon Moon runs, she’s one to keep the right side of.