Aiden O’Brien has favourites for the two Guineas at Newmarket this weekend and one looks vulnerable. The case for his Churchill has been made for the 2,000 Guineas but Daban is the horse that could upset the market leader in the filly’s equivalent. Churchill looks a good thing in the first Classic but Rhododendron will have a tough nut to crack in Daban in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday.
The race is run on the Rowley Mile over eight furlongs and as a Classic only three-year-olds are eligible. It’s the first leg of the filly’s Triple Crown which is completed by the Oaks at Epsom in June and the St Leger at Doncaster in September. The last horse to win all three races was Oh So Sharp in 1985. Horses are now bred for middle distances so winning Group 1 races from one mile to one mile six furlongs over five months is too much for anything but a superstar in the modern era.
In the last 10 years four Irish trained horses have won the 1,000 Guineas, three based in Britain have been successful and three have travelled from France to prevail. Six winners over the last decade raced in their three year old season ahead of the Classic, five had won or been placed over one mile and all but three had winning or place form at Newmarket. The two most important trials are the Nell Gwyn Stakes and Fred Darling Stakes but no horse has won one of those races and the Guineas over this 10 year period.
Since 2011 two winners of the 1,000 Guineas had a trial and Rhododendron is trying to win the race first time out. The horse has a similar profile to Minding who won the race for O’Brien last year. Rhododendron will have to have improved over the winter like Minding to justify favouritism and that is perfectly feasible. However, in Hydrangea and Winter O’Brien has horses that have run well in a trial this season. Winter has been backed from 33/1 to 8/1 this week but O’Brien has the best idea about the relative ability of his horses and their potential to win a Classic.
Two sons of Frankel are leading contenders for the 2,000 Guineas and one of his daughters in Fair Eva is about the third favourite for the 1,000 Guineas. Frankie Dettori rode the horse when see won over six furlongs at Ascot in June but he will be riding Daban in the Classic. Fair Eva has run below expectations in two subsequent races and comes into the race without the benefit of a trial. It would be a great story if offspring of Frankel won both Classics from his first three-year-old crop but other hoses have better claims and children of the iconic horse may only make the frame.
John Gosden has started the season like a winners machine and Daban and Dabyah won two key trials for the 1,000 Guineas from his stable. The latter looks like running in the French version Guineas but Gosden still has a great chance with Daban, Statistics suggest he is a man worth following in Group 1 races for three-year-olds and Daban can enhance his record in races of this nature.
Daban won the Nell Gwyn over seven furlongs of the Guineas course. The horse was settled behind a steady pace and travelled through the race like a good thing. She quickened well over the final furlong and handled the undulations of the Rowley Mile. Daban has to prove the extra furlong is within her scope but she ran powerfully to the line in the Nell Gwyn which suggests that should not be an issue.
The 1,000 Guineas provides the puzzle of the benefit or not of having a trial before the race. It might be foolish to bet against O’Brien in this context but this year he may have got it wrong by taking his horse to the Guineas first time out. Rhododendron is in the camp that has not raced before this season but Daban can use the experience from winning her prep race and win the 2017 1,000 Guineas on Sunday.