Aiden O’Brien has trained the winner of the 2,000 Guineas seven times and he has a worthy favourite for this year’s race at Newmarket on Saturday. Churchill runs for the first time this season in the first Classic as O’Brien sticks to the strategy that has served him well in the past. His Guineas horses generally contest the races on their seasonal debut and Churchill is good enough to win the race first time out.
There is an extra dimension to the race this year because it features two off spring of Frankel in his first Classic generation. Eminent and Dream Castle share the same famous Father and will be popular winners. However, Barney Roy has the best chance to make the payout places even though beating Churchill may be beyond him. The Coolmore syndicate that owns Churchill choose names carefully and they have kept back the surname of the former Prime Minister for a tough operator.
The 2,000 Guineas is run over the straight Rowley Mile at the home of Flat racing. Its an anomaly of the Classics that fillies can run in all five but colts can only contest three. Male horses are stronger and faster than female horses so it takes an exceptional filly to compete with the other gender at the highest level. Each sex has its own Triple Crown but in theory a filly could win five Classics but it never happens.
Over the last decade five Irish trained horses have won the 2,000 Guineas, four were based in the UK and one travelled from France. Only three winners had already raced in their three-year-old season, the same number had won or been placed at Newmarket and one more had proven win or place form over one mile. Four winners had won at Group 1 level as a juvenile. Camelot in 2012 was the first winner not to have raced over less than a mile since Dancing Brave in 1986.
There are three key trials for the 2,000 Guineas but only one horse has won the Greenham Stakes, Craven Stakes or Free Handicap since 2008 and then won the Guineas and that horse was called Frankel. The famous horse won the Greenham in 2011 before producing a devastating performance in his only Classic. Eminent and Dream Castle have earned their place in the Guineas but will never achieve the exalted rating that their Dad produced on the track in an unbeaten 14 race career.
Three of the five Irish winners over the last ten years were trained by O’Brien and were winning the Guineas first time out for the season. The trainer clearly believes a trial is not required and he has gone down that route with Churchill. We are due to see the horse for the first time this year at Newmarket on Saturday. Only time will tell if this approach suits the horse and it will only be vindicated if he wins the race.
Churchill was last season’s champion two-year-old in Europe but faces a tough task in the Guineas against horses that have shown great potential in some key prep races. That is the case none more so than with Al Wukair who looked impressive in a major trail in France. However, the Rowley Mile could be a different proposition and other horses are preferred to chase the selection Churchill.
It would make a great story if a Frankel son won for the horse from his first crop of three-year-olds which is the age group for all the Classics. Eminent won the Craven Stakes in style, beating a Group 1 winner in Rivet in the process. He looks like a horse that could get further and the Derby may be more suited to his pedigree and style of running. Dream Castle could not beat Barney Roy in the Greenham and there is no reason to suggest the horse can reverse the form at Newmarket.
Barney Roy produced an impressive burst of speed in the Greenham to catch Dream Castle and then move clear to win the race by two lengths. The race has a decent record as a Guineas guide and this could well be the case this year. Last year the first four finishers in the Guineas were running in the race first time out but with scope to improve Barney Roy could change that trend. However, Churchill is the most likely winner which would make him another horse to win the 2,000 Guineas on his seasonal debut which O’Brien is a past master at delivering.