Qipco Guineas Festival at Newmarket best bets for the weekend of horse racing plus Kentucky Derby

It is Guineas weekend with Newmarket hosting the first Classics of the year the Group One 2000 Guineas and Group One 1000 Guineas on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Plus there is a big race at Churchill Downs in America which is worth more than a second look. It is going to be a long weekend but finding a winner of two will hopefully help combat tiredness.

Firstly I’ll look at Newmarket and Saturday and start with the big one. The main event is the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes over a mile is due off at 3.35. I, of course, took the 7-1 about Masar after he left the G.3 Craven Stakes opposition looking like trees over course and distance in April. The price has steadily shortened about the Godolphin owned Charlie Appleby trained colt since. I am feeling pretty happy about the bet and fingers crossed all goes well. The trainer said talking on Thursday "I have been pleased with his preparation and he's come out of the Craven in good order – I can't give you a negative. The way he galloped down into the Dip in the Craven was very good, he handled it well. He's very athletic. I'm very happy where we are with him."

As for the rest of the card, the speedsters are out for the Group Three Palace House Stakes over five at 2.20. Havana Grey is the obvious choice on the known form being rated 113 and getting in under the race conditions with only 8-11 to shoulder. Second in the G.1 Prix Morny last season and the G.2 Flying Childers having won the G.2 Molecomb Stakes you’d like to think he improve at three and if he has wintered well he should win this. I have the 9-4. Karl Burke is certainly happy with his charge the North Yorkshire handler saying this week: “We’re very happy with him. He’s wintered really well. He’s grown and looks in great condition for his first run…….He’s in great order and hopefully he will run well enough to have a go at the Temple Stake at Haydock at the end of the month.”

The Group Jockey Club Stakes at 2.55 looks at the mercy of Defoe. I went against him at Newbury on his seasonal reappearance but he won that G.3 over 1m4f comfortably and this looks well within his grasp hence he is 1-2 and not a betting proposition for me at that price.

Tribal Quest from the Appleby yard interests me in the Hot Streak Handicap at 4.10. His two-year-old campaign petered out somewhat having been runner-up on debut over 6f at Newmarket in June he was just touched off back there again the following month upped to 7f before running down the field Goodwood on his final start in August. The snips came out and he was gelded over the winter before returning to the track as a three-year-old in February when he won a 6f novice event at Kempton with ease. Drying ground is fine and as it appears to the operation has done the trick I have the 5-1 about the gelding to win this.

The Listed Newmarket Stakes at 4.45 over 1m2f has some potentially decent lightly raced three-year-old colts lining-up. It’s that man again Charlie Appleby who sends Old Persian who won on his first run at three over track and trip in a handicap in April and the Dubawi colt has a chance. He does have future entries in the G.2 Queens Vase and King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot. The Moulton Paddocks trainer also sends once raced winner Key Victory. The colt won over seven here in October and was put away for the winter looking a nice prospect as they say. The form of that run looks strong with four of those behind winning since, including Qaysar who was second winning all three runs subsequently the latest a decent handicap at Newbury last month. The colt was also entered at Windsor this coming Monday so the fact he comes here and is the ride of William Buick looks significant; also has future entries for the G.1 St James's Palace Stakes and Irish Derby. You are backing on potential as much as form but I think he could prove half decent this season and that being the case can win this and have duly taken the 7-4.  

If that isn’t enough for you, and you’re still going strong, don’t forget Ryan Moore is out Stateside at Churchill Downs where Mendelssohn lines up for the G.1 Kentucky Derby, or as they like to call it ‘The Run for the Roses’. Travel plans went wrong when his flight from Ireland on Monday evening was diverted from Louisville to Indianapolis owing to confusion with travel documents meaning the colt had to make a 125-mile journey from the airport to Churchill Downs. Reportedly all is well though. There is a 5 hour time difference meaning they are due to face the starter at 11.46pm our time. You had to be impressed by the way the colt won in Dubai, G.2 UAE Derby, and my stats guy informs me the draw in stall 14 is okay - nine of the last 17 Kentucky Derby winners since 2000 have broken from stall 13 or higher. He must have a great chance of securing his stable's first victory in the race at 4-1. Hopefully, the form will have been given a timely boost as Rayya contests the Kentucky Oaks on the Friday card for new trainer Bob Baffert. She performed well throughout the Dubai Carnival, for former trainer Doug Watson and won the UAE Oaks before finishing 18-length second to Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby.

And so on to Sunday at HQ as the ladies take centre stage, as with Saturday I shall start with the dish of the day. My original 1000 Guineas ante-post punt Alpha Centauri at 33-1 will not be here but I think I have found the one who can win the first fillies Classic of the season. The Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes is due off at 3.35 over the mile and the filly I am on is Soliloquy tipped on here when she won the G.3 Nell Gwyn in some style. As covered on the Classics page I have been waiting and on weather watch and it has all come good for her with the sun shining and the ground drying by the minute. I have the 13-2.

As for the rest of Sunday the Group Two Dahlia Stakes due off at 2.20 sees a Triple G Dirty Dozen member lining-up. The G.1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Wuheida was supplemented earlier this week and has sat at the head of the market ever since. She has 12lb+ on the opposition on official ratings so the 5lb extra she has top carry shouldn’t hinder her and understandably she is a shade odds-on at 4-5. I will be shocked if she does not win.

The Listed Pretty Polly at 4.45 over 1m2f has a select band of lightly raced three-year-old fillies lining-up. Expressiy has been going well in Dubai, third in Listed 1m UAE 1,000 Guineas and then second in G.3 1m1½f UAE Oaks; that is the best form in the book and I am on at the best price available Sunday. Stablemate Espadrille has far less experience having won on the all-weather at Kempton over a mile on her second and final run as a two-year-old and over 1m2f on her first start at three down at Chelmsford City. Lah Ti Dar was very impressive winning on her debut last month but that was on soft going and it is hard to know what she beat none of those behind having run since. 

No apologies are made for how many Charlie Appleby inmates are being tipped this weekend, I assure you it was not intentional just the way I see the races. Hopefully, they will be kicking their heels up at Moulton Paddocks celebrating come Sunday evening after a Guineas double and not to be out down they'll be tucking into buckets of fried chicken at Ballydoyle having nicked the Kentucky Derby!

Be lucky