Declan Rix

The day after Pinatubo finished his perfect season with victory in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, Declan Rix reflects on the race and looks to the future with the Champion 2yo elect.

  • Sunday 13 October
  • Blog
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Champion Juvenile elect Pinatubo put the seal on his brilliant and unbeaten two-year-old career at Newmarket on Saturday, when running out a ready 2-length winner of the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes from the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Arizona and Wichita.

We didn’t see the fireworks of his monster Group 1 National Stakes victory last month, where the son of Shamardal put a colossal 9 lengths back to subsequent Prix Jean-Luc Lagardère third, Armory, but in “winning ugly” – in comparison to what we have witnessed since his Vintage Stakes coronation – we saw a different side to Charlie Appleby’s inmate.

The National Stakes victory confirmed we were witnessing racing royalty, at least in a juvenile capacity, as his official rating of 128 post-Curragh romp saw the Godolphin-owned colt rated higher than the great Frankel at this juncture of their respective careers, but in winning the Dewhurst Pinatubo showed he could overcome adversity in unfavourable conditions; the sign of a Champion.

Soft ground in October was the slowest terrain the unbeaten-in-six galloper had ever encountered, and it was surely the main factor in the below par performance on Saturday, at least in comparison to the Curragh. While he didn’t reach the levels of the National Stakes (125) Pinatubo has still managed to run to a top-class juvenile level, 117 for me.

He deserves extra credit too, not only because the ground didn’t show him off to his best, but the fact William Buick had to race off the pace and off the rail away from the good speed wasn’t ideal, whereas the runner-up and Coventry Stakes winner Arizona had clear sailing throughout, making the running just off the rail.

In the end, the front two came nearly three lengths clear of the third horse with the runner-up running a career best, closing the gap on Pinatubo significantly from their last clash.

During the race, Buick always looked confident, asking his mount to get closer three out with the pair coming to two out looking a big danger, as you might expect of a 1/3 shot. The picture got a bit more desperate a furlong from home as Arizona still led with Buick now in a full drive, but Pinatubo’s superior class and stamina kicked in, and in the end, he was quite a convincing winner.

The winner’s ability to stretch, be generous off the bridle and in essence, his good attitude, is one of his strongest strengths.

Winning Europe’s most prestigious juvenile contest was the cherry on top of what has been a long and successful campaign. Sheikh Mohammed’s charge has come a fair way from his summer evening fixture debut success on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton in mid-May, an understatement in truth.

Since then, we have seen victories on the biggest stages on each side of the Irish Sea; at Epsom on Oaks day, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood, as well as Group 1 glory in Ireland and Britain’s most sought-after juvenile races. With every single step taken Pinatubo either improved and/or sharpened his tools on route.

The former statement is true of every race, the Dewhurst aside, while the latter, concerning stamina specifically, allowed us to see a stronger-staying performer in a soft ground Dewhurst. On the back of Saturday’s victory, Pinatubo looks to have a fine chance of seeing out a mile, the distance of the 2000 Guineas, a trip he has yet to tackle.

By a French Derby winner in Shamardal, out of a Dalakhani 11-furlong-winning mare who is from the family of French Oaks heroine Rafha, on pedigree, there should be no issue with Pinatubo staying a mile, especially on good or better ground.

The visual impression he gave in his first starts however, suggested we were maybe dealing with a sprinter/seven-furlong horse given his natural exuberance, but as the season has continued the more relaxed and professional Pinatubo has become.

The main worry for some will be, “will Pinatubo train on?” “Training on” is a term I think has different meanings for different people, which was already discussed briefly concerning Pinatubo, after he won the National Stakes.

We are essentially in the dark with that kind of chat, and won’t really know until next season, but while Pinatubo is obviously a precocious horse, are we maybe over-thinking his three-year-old campaign in terms of him training on?

In the last 10 seasons, three 2000 Guineas winners have made their juvenile debuts in or before May; Churchill (May 22nd), Galileo Gold (May 30th) and Dawn Approach (March 25th!). Gleneagles started on June 6th

Pinatubo made his first start on May 10th and probably doesn’t have the physical scope Churchill and Galileo Gold had (I can’t remember Dawn Approach) but then again, all the aforementioned didn’t have the ability Pinatubo possesses.

In terms of foaling dates, Pinatubo was born on March 11th. Below, is a list of the foaling dates concerning the last 10 2000 Guineas winners:

Magna Grecia (February 25th)

Saxon Warrior (January 26th)

Churchill (January 31st)

Galileo Gold (January 31st)

Gleneagles (January 12th)

Night Of Thunder (March 12th)

Dawn Approach (April 23rd)

Camelot (March 5th)

Frankel (February 11th)

Makfi (March 4th)

As you can see from the above, eight of the last 10 2000 Guineas winners had an earlier start in life than Pinatubo, some obviously greater than others, and on this bland data, some confidence may be able to be taken in terms of him “training on” to win a 2000 Guineas.

In reality, based on Pinatubo’s National Stakes victory, he wouldn’t need to improve at all, and could even regress slightly, to win the first Classic of the next season. With a quality pedigree shoring him up genetically, along with his sound and relaxed mental outlook on life, when mixed into the melting pot of a horse that is starting to become even more of a pro in his races, it would be a huge disappointment if Pinatubo couldn’t win the 2000 Guineas off an uninterrupted preparation and a fair crack.

With a top-class trainer in Charlie Appleby doing the handling, powered by the phenomenal resources of Godolphin, Pinatubo has every chance of going on to be a Champion at three, and in truth, it’s about time Godolphin won THE Guineas with one of their own trainers.

Pinatubo wins the Dewhurst
Godolphin currently have the 5/4 favourite for next year's 2000 Guineas

Island Sands, in 1999, was the last Godolphin-owned colt to win the season’s first Classic under one of Sheikh Mohammed’s trainers. For an organisation as strong as Godolphin, that is simply far too long, especially from a Darley perspective, but in Pinatubo they have a horse undoubtedly good enough to break that barren spell.

Only last season, the Godolphin Derby hoodoo was broken by Masar, where we finally saw the famous blue silks of Godolphin carried to victory at Epsom. In a breeding industry that appears to be favouring precocious speed over late-developing middle-distance horses, Pinatubo could arguably be an even more important winner of the 2000 Guineas than Masar was the Derby.

With that being the case, I’d leave no stone unturned and start Pinatubo’s 2020 off in the Greenham, granted favourable conditions, before going on to Newmarket. If it was good enough for Sir Henry Cecil and Frankel, it’s good enough for me.

Let’s hope Pinatubo is as good as Sir Henry’s great horse, for all, he has a long way to go. As is often said, you can never have enough stars in this game, and the industry has got a potential fan recruiter in Pinatubo.

At the moment, he remains perfect, while I remain excited. To be continued.....

Declan Rix
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