Kevin Blake

    With the first Group 1 2yo contest of the season having taken place at the Curragh on Sunday, Kevin assesses the leading juveniles of both sexes and weighs up their Classic credentials.
  • Monday 14 August 2017
  • Blog

Have we already seen next year’s Guineas winners?

With the first Group 1 race for two-year-olds of the season now in the books, perhaps it is a good time to take stock of what we have seen in the juvenile division thus far with a view to the future. While the first Classics of 2018 might seem a long way away, as the following table illustrates, history suggests that we more likely than not have already seen the winners of next year’s 1000 and 2000 Guineas in action on the track by now.

Last 20 winners of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas

1000 Guineas Debut date 2000 Guineas Debut Date
Cape Verdi May 31st King of Kings May 25th
Wince June 1st Island Sands August 20th
Lahan October 2nd King's Best August 6th
Ameerat August 3rd Golan September 7th
Kazzia September 9th Rock of Gibraltar April 21st
Russian Rhythm June 28th Refuse To Bend August 14th
Attraction April 29th Haafhd August 1st
Virgina Waters September 5th Footstepsinthesand October 17th
Speciosa June 9th George Washington May 1st
Finsceal Beo April 23rd Cockney Rebel July 22nd
Natagora May 1st Henrythnavigator May 6th
Ghanaati September 22nd Sea The Stars July 13th
Special Duty July 4th Makfi November 29th
Blue Bunting July 31st Frankel August 13th
Homecoming Queen April 30th Camelot July 13th
Sky Lantern May 24th Dawn Approach March 25th
Miss France August 1st Night Of Thunder October 13th
Legatissimo July 3rd Gleneagles June 4th
Minding June 11th Galileo Gold May 30th
Winter May 11th Churchill May 22nd

As is shown, of the last 20 winners of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, 31 of them had already made their debut by this stage of their respective two-year-old seasons. Indeed, it might come as a surprise, but no less than 14 of those 40 Classic winners made their debut on or prior to June 1st. So, have we seen already seen next year’s Guineas winners? Let’s run through some of the more likely candidates.

The most appropriate place to start in this review is with the first Group 1 for two-year-olds this season, the Phoenix Stakes. The two main players on paper were Gordon Elliott’s Railway Stakes winner Beckford and Aidan O’Brien’s Norfolk Stakes winner Sioux Nation and they duly came to the fore in a contest that both sets of connections are likely to come away from with their heads held high. What proved to be the deciding factor on the day was the turn of foot Sioux Nation was able to show just over a furlong out that gave him a lead that Beckford couldn’t quite claw back.

With a view to the future, it is worth considering that they are two different types of horses. Sioux Nation is a son of Scat Daddy that is already a hardened juvenile, this being his sixth start of the campaign. In terms of where he is going to end up, he is likely to be more of a Commonwealth Cup type than a Guineas type. While Beckford is by a sprinter in Bated Breath that has primarily sired sprinting types in what are the early stages of his stallion career, there is enough stamina on the dam side of Beckford’s pedigree coupled with how he shaped on Sunday to suggest that he is likely to end up over a mile in the fullness of time. In that context, Beckford ran a fine race and he will be a leading contender for the National Stakes at the Curragh next month.

The National Stakes is always a major pointer to the following year’s Classics and this year’s renewal is already shaping up to be highly informative. Aidan O’Brien is likely to have more than a couple of serious candidates for the race and one of the more obvious ones is Gustav Klimt. The son of Galileo impressed many when getting himself out of serious trouble to win the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket last month, but he may need to have sharpened up in the meantime if he is to win a National Stakes, as the manner in which he has come off the bridle so early in his two victories to date may leave him vulnerable to a sharper rival over seven furlongs.

Speaking of potentially sharper rivals, one that has been spoken of as a potential National Stakes runner is what is arguably the most exciting juvenile seen out on either side of the Irish Sea this year, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Expert Eye. The son of Acclamation created a genuinely tremendous impression when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood earlier this month. Indeed, whisper it softly, but the manner in which he made powerfully smooth headway over three furlongs from home before surging away in a manner that shouldn’t have been possible given his exertions to that point was reminiscent of Frankel’s performance in the same silks in the Royal Lodge Stakes. The fact that the runner-up Zaman had finished just 1½ lengths behind Gustav Klimt in the Superlative Stakes gives the form a solid look and wherever Expert Eye runs next, he will be exceptionally hard to beat.

While the colts are always likely to be given the most attention in any given year, this season has seen the juvenile fillies make a strong claim for being a stronger bunch.

The one that leads the way in terms of ratings achieved thus far is the Mark Johnston-trained Nyaleti. She showed clear promise when second to September in the Chesham at Royal Ascot having set overly strong fractions and while she was no match for Clemmie in the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket on her next start, she put it all together when absolutely bolting up in the Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot last time. With her now looking more relaxed in her races, she looks ready for a return to seven furlongs and based on her pedigree, there is every chance she will stay a mile next year.

While Aidan O’Brien may seem to be lacking a stand-out colt amongst his two-year-olds, he has what appears to be a very strong group of juvenile fillies, including the only two fillies to have beaten the aforementioned Nyaleti in September and Clemmie.

September’s task was certainly helped by Nyaleti doing too much in front in the Chesham, but that shouldn’t take away from her own performance on the day which was very good indeed. The main concern with regard to her longer-term prospects is that she lacks physical scope and isn’t an overly clean mover, which suggests that others may have improved past her by the time the first Classics roll around next spring.

With the longer term in mind, Clemmie appeals as being the better prospect of the two, with the full-sister to Churchill having improved with each of her four starts culminating in a comfortable victory over Nyaleti at Newmarket last time. While she may not be quite as physically imposing as her brother, she has plenty of scope and can be expected to continue to improve.

Mind, there will be plenty that feel O’Brien might have an even better prospect on his hands in the shape of Happily. The full-sister to Gleneagles and Marvellous may not have achieved as much in form terms as the above fillies in winning her last two starts, but the style of those victories has been very pleasing to the eye.

A clearer pecking order of these fillies is likely to be established in the Debutante Stakes at the Curragh this coming weekend, as at least a couple of the aforementioned Ballydoyle fillies are likely to clash and it should prove to be very informative indeed. If they were to all line up on good ground, my personal preference would be for Clemmie.

Another formline that has to be brought into the mix in this discussion is that of the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot. On that occasion the Matthieu Palussiere-trained Different League maintained her unbeaten record by taking the highly-regarded Alpha Centauri’s unbeaten tag from her. The form of that race has been working quite well since and Different League will bid to continue her winning run against the colts in the Prix Morny this Sunday. While Different League is clearly speedy, there is enough stamina in her pedigree to make her worthy of consideration as a potential Classic contender.

Meanwhile, Alpha Centauri is being kept fresh with a view to going straight to the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh next month, a race where she is all but certain to meet the winner of the aforementioned Debutante Stakes amongst others.

All told, the two-year-old scene is warming up nicely and with a succession of significant contests coming up in the next few weeks, it is only likely to get even better in the near future.

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