Declan Rix

Recent updates from Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby about Champion Two-Year-old and 2000 Guineas favourite Pinatubo, means Declan Rix is looking forward to the son of Shamardal returning to action.

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As you can imagine, in the midst of a pandemic, the build-up to this year’s 2000 Guineas has been anything but standard. In a normal year with plenty of racing on in the build-up to the first Classic of the season – usually run in late April or early May - racing fans on both sides of the Irish Sea would have seen and heard plenty interviews from connections of the main players heading to Newmarket.

With not one Flat meeting taking place in Britain on grass and a single fixture in Ireland being run, fans have understandably been starved of consistent updates on this campaign’s Classic stars. Over the last couple of weeks however, we have got news on the brightest 3yo (potential) star, as Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby broke his silence in relation to last season’s exceptional juvenile and 2000 Guineas favourite, Pinatubo.

Appleby’s words and gut feelings concerning his inmate are important, not least because he is the man who sees the horse every day, but, because, at least in my own mind, the main concern I would have with Pinatubo potentially being turned over as a hot 2000 Guineas favourite – all being well in terms of a good preparation etc. - would concern the son of Shamardal not training on.

With Pinatubo, for him to maintain his current level (officially rated 128, Timeform-rated 134p) from his last juvenile run in the Dewhurst Stakes, to a 2000 Guineas run in June, the Godolphin-owned colt will need to have improved 9lb over the winter, according to Timeform’s weight-for-age scale (thanks to Simon Rowlands for his help in getting the right figure here).

With Appleby’s colt being such a precocious and quite frankly near freakish juvenile, the query of Pinatubo being as good at three should be intelligently questioned; it is natural, especially when dealing with a generally odds-on Classic favourite.

Having wintered in the UK with Appleby and Sheikh Mohammed making the long-term decision to go straight to the 2000 Guineas, the latest updates from the Moulton Paddocks-trainer you would have to put down as highly encouraging. Here, when discussing the current state of play around the horse, you are looking for a steer on any physical, as well as mental, progress, or otherwise.

Appleby didn’t disappoint talking to, saying, “He’s done very well. We’ve had a mild winter and physically he’s done great. He’s strengthened into his shoulders and his neck. He looks fantastic and he’s a very exciting horse to be dealing with. His demeanour hasn’t changed and he’s still very relaxed, but we’re not going to fully know if he’s trained on until the Guineas, but my gut feeling is that he has”.

Appleby continued, “His demeanour is the same from two to three. He remains totally relaxed. Physically, though, I do see change. He has grown and strengthened over winter. You can also tell he is an experienced racehorse now. He goes about his business professionally, and nothing fazes him."

Sage and highly exciting words from Appleby. Sage, because Appleby knows the horse ultimately must do the talking on the track and exciting, because racing could have another genuine superstar on its hands, and superstars, in any sport, you can never have enough of.

Appleby’s words recently have been greatly appreciated, but say the Godolphin trainer didn’t speak to the media of his colt on the build-up to the Guineas, what would Pinatubo’s pedigree say about his chance of “training on”?

By Shamardal and out Dalakhani mare, Lava Flow, in short, I can’t see any major worries from Pinatubo’s page that would suggest he won’t be as good at three as he was at two. His own dam progressed from an above average juvenile into a Listed winner in her Classic season. She was by Dalakhani and out of a Barathea mare, and both those stallions have a history of their stock improving with time.

Although he has yet to race over a mile, Pinatubo’s pedigree would also comfort you, if indeed you have any doubt with regards the trip, that eight furlongs on Newmarket’s Rowley Mile won’t be of much inconvenience to him. With the 3yo having enough speed to win over 6f and yet to prove himself over a mile, there is always that doubt in your mind with regards trip, but his page, and more importantly, how he has hit the line over 7f, would give one every confidence 8f won’t be the variable that (potentially) topples him in a Guineas.

I would say, at this time, with Charlie Appleby’s latest bulletins in mind, my excitement about Pinatubo returning is increasing as we get closer to the 2000 Guineas. I really do try to keep my feet on the ground about horses, and form, but if you can’t get excited about an unbeaten-in-six Champion Two-year-Old who was, and is, one of the best juveniles we have ever seen, then this game isn’t for you.

Let’s hope he is more Frankel than Air Force Blue come June 6th!

Declan Rix
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