2000 GUINEAS PREVIEWFrankel reappears on Saturday for his biggest test yet -- the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket. You can bet it at www.twinspires.com. Race 3 at Newmarket on Saturday, 10:10am eastern time.
I had a chance to virtually sit down with professional gambler Rob Dove this week, and together we went through the field horse-by-horse. Before we get to that, let's do a bit of background about the race for the unitiated. UK fans feel free to skip straight to the analysis.
The 2000 Guineas is the first leg of the English Triple Crown. The 2000 Guineas is named after the original amount of prize money, a guinea being a unit of currency worth 1.05 British pounds. The race is somewhat analogous to our Derby (“Durbee”), in that it is the first Triple Crown race, and it usually happens the first Saturday in May, though this year it works out to be a week earlier. It is run on a straight one mile course at Newmarket (the Rowley Mile Course). Newmarket just oozes with racing history and is known as “HQ”, the headquarters of British flat racing.
The second leg of the English Triple Crown is the Derby (“Darby”) at Epsom, run over 1 ½ half miles in early June (usually the same day as the Belmont Stakes but not this year). It is the most prestigious of all the European Classics and carries with it a lot of the same bells and whistles in terms of celebrities and fashion that its eponymous non-homophone USA counterpart does.
The third leg is a true stayers’ race, the St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster, run at 1 ¾ miles in early to mid September.
It might surprise American readers to learn that the “Triple Crown” concept in the United Kingdom is largely a dead one. Since 1970, only two horses have won both the Guineas and Derby and no Derby winner has even *entered* the St. Leger in almost 25 years. The problem is that the Leger is too close in proximity to a far more valuable target (in terms of both purse money and especially for breeding purposes), the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France.
On to this year’s 2000 Guineas (odds listed represent a 100% value line):
#1 BROOX raced exclusively in sprint races at 2, producing figures that wouldn’t have been good enough to win this. It’s hard to think he will improve going farther, especially given the step up in class. 200-1.
#2 CASAMENTO goes out for Godolphin for the first time -- that’s not always a recipe for improvement. At least he has gone to Mahmood Al Zarooni, who has started the season well. CASAMENTO progressed nicely through his 2yo career, winning his maiden, then finishing 2nd to Pathfork in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland. He then won a Group 2 easily before winning impressively (visually and on the clock) at a mile in one of the big 2yo races, the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster (previous winners have included High Chapparal, Authorized, and Motivator, all of whom went on to win the Derby). Casamento looks a type to improve for more distance if he goes the right way for his new connections. He can't be ruled out here but might look even better in a few weeks’ time at Epsom. 14-1.
#3 DUBAWI GOLD was Listed class (just below Group stakes caliber) as a 2yo and they struggled to get him to settle in his races. Since moving to Richard Hannon’s yard he's won 2 Listed class affairs in nice fashion. In the first one they got him settled out the back and he quickened up nicely to win. In the next race he went straight to the front and jockey Richard Hughes couldn’t get him settled. It looked for all the world like he’d tire badly, but he didn't. However, that form is a long way short of what is required here, but if he settles he could run well and secure a minor placing at a nice number. 50-1.
#4 FRANKEL is 5-for-5 career so far and has shown amazing natural speed and clocked some fantastic sectionals/final times along the way-- he is a legitimate standout. He vibes like one who will improve even more off a strong pace, thus the presence of a pacemaker again today (it’s also notable that his pacemaker in the Greenham didn’t do the job, running the first quarter in 27:6 seconds according to Dove’s hand-timed sectionals, after which Frankel powered home the rest of the seven panels in 57:6). One problem he may face is his draw. He’s drawn in the opposite side of the gate as his pacemaker and it’s not inconceivable that he might struggle to get cover and settled (he has pulled hard early in most of his races). Everything suggests he is a potential superstar at around a mile but can he handle the big occasion? If his odds are greater than 1-to-2, we just might pay to find out.
#5 FURY’s claim to fame is his sweet win in the Tattersalls Millions at the end of last year. That race is a valuable prize for horses bought at the big Tattersalls yearling sale. Donatavium won it previously before going on to BC Juvenile Turf success. The ground was soft that day but Fury should be as effective on quicker ground. The bare from of his Millions win leaves him with a good few lengths to find but it was only his second start and we don't really know how good he is yet. The extra furlong should suit as well. He’s a contender if the big horse falters. 20-1.
#6 HAPPY TODAY probably isn’t good enough. He ran second in the Feilden stakes, a Listed class race. He was close to a soft pace that day and may have been flattered by that. He has tons to find anyway. 500-1.
#7 LOVING SPIRIT won his maiden impressively on soft ground before running a decent race in his second start. He needs to find a lot and has a pedigree to run better over further. If he runs well here he could be one for the Derby. 200-1.
#8 NATIVE KHAN won the Group 3 Solario Stakes at 2, then went on to finish 4th behind Casamento in the Racing Post Trophy. There’s no reason to think he is better than that. He came out at 3 and won a weak renewal of the Craven Stakes (the 2nd, Libranno, has come back and been beaten since). He has a lot to find and may be an underlay but at least he's had a prep. 33-1.
#9 PATHFORK looked excellent as an undefeated 2 year old, culminating with his score in the Group 1 National Stakes over 7 furlongs last September. He beat Casamento and they finished five lengths clear of Zoffany, who had won a Group 1 on his previous start. The form appears rock solid, but it was on soft ground, which Zoffany probably hates and Casamento was making only his 2nd lifetime start so you can maybe project more improvement from him. Pathfork is by Distorted Humor and was supposed to run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (dirt) but he met a minor setback (not expanded on). There was also talk of him being aimed at the Kentucky Derby but that never materialized. He's wearing a first time tongue tie today, which is worrying (maybe a little breathing problem?), but he's solid enough in the market so must be doing well at home. A tricky one to price up. 14-1.
#10 is Frankel’s pacemaker, REROUTED, and he is a good horse in his own right. He won a Group 3 at 2 and finished six lengths behind Roderic O'Connor in the Gran Criterium. He has run this season in the European Free Handicap, a Listed class race. He went very hard in front but managed to keep going and just got beat by Pausanius. Dove’s hand-timed sectionals suggested he would have won if he'd gone a bit slower. He is likely to go off too hard again here: they have put first time blinkers on him to make sure of it. One to keep an eye on in the right spot later in the season, and his form will be sufficiently darkened to where we can expect a price. 100-1.
Aidan O'Brien has won this race four out of last ten years with Henrythenavigator, George Washington, Footstepsinthesand, and Rock of Gibraltar, so has to be respected with whatever he runs. #11 RODERIC O'CONNOR was ignored in the betting on his racecourse debut when he was 3rd but that maiden was pretty hot and he improved tenfold winning next out in an eye-catching performance over Kentucky Derby starter Master of Hounds (who he'd finished behind on debut). He then went on to the prestigious Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes where he was ignored at 25/1 but ran well to finish second. Dove’s sectionals say he set a slowish opening quarter though and may have been flattered by his proximity to Frankel. Next, he went to France and won the Group 1 Gran Criterium in heavy ground. He's got plenty to find with Frankel, but the extra furlong and a winter to grow up may help him close the gap. 16-1.
#12 SAAMIDD has been hyped to the eyeballs since his impressive maiden score (he was quoted at 25/1 for the 2000 Guineas after that win and is now 33-1). He won his second start in good fashion as well as the Group 2 Champagne Stakes but the form from that has not worked out brilliantly. Next up was the Dewhurst - where he was supplemented for 20,000 GBP and was thought to be a big danger to Frankel. But he didn't want to load and when they broke was beat after a furlong, trailing in last. Will the Godolphin “Boys in Blue” have him back to his best? Will that be good enough anyway? I wouldn’t bet on it. 66-1 (Side note: his young French-based jockey Mickael Barzalona looks like a future star.)
#13 SLIM SHADEY’s presence in the race begs the question: will the worst horse in the race please stand up?
BETTING STRATEGY: We could see keying Frankel on top of FURY, CASAMENTO and DUBAWI GOLD in exactas, as well as playing those three over FRANKEL for a smaller amount.