The 2016 British Flat season starts in earnest this weekend with the running of the first Classics of the season at Newmarket.
By John Doyle
Aidan O’Brien looks to hold a very strong hand in both Classics as his star Juvenile performers from last season return to the fray with outstanding chances of success. In the 2000 Guineas, Air Force Blue is a red hot favourite and looks to be the sole representative for the O’Brien team this year.
The usual hype from the O’Brien team around their horses has been backed up by superb efforts in his races from Air Force Blue.
In the Dewhurst, the sustained support in the betting ring before the race suggested that this was a Superstar horse who didn’t disappoint, powering clear for an impressive win. Not seen since, the vibes from the stable are very strong that he has done well over the winter months and with Ryan Moore in the saddle, will be very hard to beat. It is not easy to make a case for many of the opposition but one that could be competitive is the Mark Johnston trained and Godolphin owned Buratino.
This horse was on the go early last year and inflicted Air force Blue’s only defeat in the Coventry at Royal Ascot. He impressed in a racecourse gallop recently and can be expected to run a good race.
Stormy Antarctic won the Craven Trial race over the course recently in what was an impressive win against the odds. In a race run on very heavy ground, in atrocious conditions, Stormy Antarctic pulled hard early before quickening in fine style to dominate the contest.
It is hard to see such tactics working as well in a top level race. Marcel, though a surprise winner on the day of the Racing Post Trophy is another who has a decent chance as his turn of foot is a potent weapon. The 1000 Guineas is a much more competitive renewal with more of the contenders having strong credentials to win the race.
The O’Brien team again have the dominant favourite in the lovely looking filly, Minding. This filly improved through her Juvenile season, producing her best result on her final run in the Fillies Mile at Newmarket, where she stormed clear to see off her rivals decisively.
Nathra and her stablemate, Ballydoyle, were well beaten that day and it is hard to see either of them reversing the form, although Minding looks more of an Oaks type who could be susceptible to a speed mile type. Nathra for the John Gosden team has only suffered defeat at the hands of Minding, winning her other races readily.
On her comeback in the Nell Gywn trial race, she was heavily supported before the race and always looked to be the winner without being overly impressive.
Afterwards Gosden mused that they might avoid Minding and run in the French 1000 guineas instead. Ballydoyle is another top class Filly for the O’Brien team who has already won good level races as a Juvenile, ending her campaign with a win in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. In another year, this Filly would be close to favourite but her form with Minding puts her behind that Filly.
The Mark Johnston team provide strong opposition in the shape of Lumiere. This Filly made a super impressive debut at the Newmarket July meeting, winning easily by 6 lengths. She then ran green in the Lowther stakes at York before returning to Newmarket to make all in the Group 1, Cheveley Park stakes. Lumiere is a super exciting filly in the making and has worked well in the build-up to the big race.
Connections are confident that she will get the Mile trip and if she does, she will be a big danger to all. Illuminate is another interesting contender for the Richard Hannon team.
Her form links in well with all the main contenders and she will need to improve on last year’s efforts to trouble her main rivals but it is not inconceivable as her racing style will be suited to the how the race is run this year. In summary, Aidan O’Brien looks to have an outstanding contender in Air Force Blue for this year’s 2000 Guineas and it is hard to look beyond him.
In the 1000 guineas, he has a strong hand too and it isn’t difficult to see the Coolmore team fielding a few contenders to guarantee a very strong run race, so giving Minding the maximum chance of success.