The Classics 2017 - Guineas, Derby, Oaks, St Leger

Rhododendron 1,000 Guineas 11-2 Ladbrokes = 2nd

Churchill 2,000 Guineas 2-1 Coral = 1st

Wuheida The Oaks 14-1 Coral

Rhododendron The Oaks 13-8 Hills = 2nd

 Dubai Thunder The Derby e/w 20-1 Hills = 11th

St Leger ?

  Derby & Oaks

Godolphin owned Saeed bin Suoor trained Dubai Thunder stormed (see what I did there) into the Derby picture winning a Newbury maiden in the style of a very good horse, finishing ten lengths clear. That was over 1m2f and he took a while to really get going but when he did he left the others for dead; a mile-and-a-half looks ideal.

The colt was sired by top class miler and leading sire Dubawi whose progeny are known for progressing well and include Makfi, Postponed and al Kazeem. I know all about the Dam, Gonbarda, as she was the Dam of an all time favourite of Triple G Farhh! A five time winner, the colt was never out of the frame in ten runs and two of those five defeats were to Frankel! He achieved an OR of 127 in his career that culminated in victories in the G1 Lockinge and finally G.1 Champion Stakes. She is also the Dam of G.3 winner Racing History rated 118 and Basem rated at 113.

This colt is well bred and jockey Adam Kirby was clearly impressed at Newbury saying "He's very nice. He was very babyish beforehand and a bit randy, but he's got a serious engine. He liked getting his toe in, but I'm not saying he needs it soft. He's got class." Asked if the Derby was a million miles away, he added: "All I can say is he's a horse with a big engine."

In a year when there is not a stand-out contender, I know Cracksman has looked good and Permian did the form line no harm by winning the Dante but I am not wholeheartedly convinced by either horse, at 20-1 with William Hill the Godolphin colt looks a good each-way punt to me at this stage.

With original ante-post punt Wuheida sidelined I see no reason to oppose Dirty Dozen member and my bet in the 1,000 Guineas Rhododendron in the Oaks as I haven’t as yet seen a filly I think can beat her over the mile-and-a-half. The world and their wife seem to agree and she is short at 13-8, Hills again, but she’s the gal for me!

Is Churchill A Derby Horse?

I was on for the 2,000 Guineas and duly impressed but I simply can’t bring myself to see Churchill as a Derby horse. Yes he is by Galileo, little more need be said, but the female line is all about speed.

His Dam Meow was a five furlong sprinter! Her sire (grand sire to Churchill) was of course Storm Cat, a great sire in his own right, but not known for middle distance types; even Giants Causeway arguably his most successful offspring in Europe was limited to a mile-and-a-quarter. The dam of Meow (grand-dam of Churchill) is Airwave herself a very good sprinter but she never went further than six furlongs until the last three runs of her career and then only up to a mile. Her sire (Churchill’s great grand sire on the dam side) Air Express won the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1997 but never went further than a mile either. The dam of Airwave (third-dam or great grand-dam on the female line) was Kangra Valley who was another sprinter who never raced over further than five furlongs.

He won the Guineas well and there isn’t an obvious Derby favourite just yet so he may prove to be the best in a year without a standout mile-and-a-half horse but I cannot be taking 5-1 (notably the biggest price on offer and being offered by Paddy Power who don’t take make chances with Ballydoyle inmates) about a doubtful stayer in the Derby at this stage (9th May). We have plenty of ‘trials’ over the next few weeks and I am keeping the powder dry. 

In case Mr O’Brien and ‘the lads’ from Ballydoyle are reading I would keep it simple for this year: 

20th June: G.1 St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot

2nd August: G.1 Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood

21st October: G.1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Ascot Champions Day

Or (due to the proximity of the dates)

4th November: G.1 Breeders Cup Mile Del Mar

I am sure they will make a note of my advice :o)

Guineas Bets:

Rhododendrons of course are a flower grown for their spectacular blooms in the springtime – here’s hoping the filly
Rhododendron blossoms come next May as at the moment she is my 1,000 Guineas fancy.

Her breeding is a thing of thoroughbred beauty. Her sire needs no introduction truth be told as a Derby, Irish Derby and KGVI & QE Stakes winner who has gone on to become champion sire in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015! Galileo was by Sadlers Wells, the record breaking 14 times champion sire, out of Urban Sea, winner of the 1993 Arc, and arguably the best broodmare in recent history having produced six other winners including of course Sea The Stars!

Her dam halfway To Heaven was a top class filly over a mile winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2008 as well as the G.1 Nassau at Glorious Goodwood and G.1 Sun Chariot at Newmarket. Grandsire on the dam side Pivotal was a top class sprinter who won the G.2 Kings Stand and G.1 Nunthorpe who has gone on to become an excellent sire known for  progeny that progress well from two-three.

Churchill is also by Galileo and simply as mentioned above his sire needs no introduction.

On the dam side the colt is the second foal produced by the 5f Listed winner Meow, who was runner-up in the G.2 2010 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot. Meow is a half-sister to the Group 3 winner Aloof and Listed winner Orator being out of x2 G.2 winner and G.1 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Airwave. Grand-sire on the dam side Storm Cat was a leading two-year-old out in the US before injury cut his racing career short and was a leading sire for many years prior to his death at thirty in 2013. Known as an excellent source of top class two-year-olds here in Europe and across the pond he is to be found in the pedigree of many top class thoroughbreds - he is the great-grandsire on the dam side of American Pharoah winner of the 2015 U.S. Triple Crown for example.

The bloodlines are quite frankly just about as good as they get and thus far from what we have seen on the track both are good horses. They could turn out to be remembered as excellent if they go on to mop up more races next season including their respective Classics and at this stage they look un-opposable in the 1,000 Guineas and 2,000 Guineas to my eye.

Update 5th May 2017

Fourteen horses have been declared for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas with Aidan O'Brien set to saddle three as Hydrangea and Winter join favourite RhododendronO'Brien will not send over Rain Goddess or Roly Poly and I would think they will head to Deauville for the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches. John Gosden's Fred Darling winner Dabyah was also among the list of absentees and also should head to the French equivalent. 

Update 4th May 2017 

Churchill heads a field of 10 for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

Aidan O'Brien's colt was the leading juvenile last season after winning the Dewhurst Stakes in fine style. O'Brien also runs Lancaster Bomber, second in the Dewhurst and last seen finishing fourth in the UAE Derby, and Spirit Of Valor. Saeed bin Suroor runs Frankel colt Dream Castle, who was second to Richard Hannon's Barney Roy in the Greenham. The two horses are owned by Godolphin and renew rivalry at Newmarket. Hannon also runs Larchmont Lad in the first Classic of the season, with Bin Suroor double-handed with Top Score. Martyn Meade's Craven winner Eminent, another son of Frankel, has also been declared. As has the unbeaten Al Wukair, trained in France by Andre Fabre's and owned, like last year's winner Galileo Gold, by Al Shaqab Racing. James Tate's Law And Order completes the field.

The O'Brien-trained Peace Envoy and William Haggas' Group One winner Rivet were not declared. Rivet, who was runner-up to Eminent in the Craven, who now heads for the French 2000 Guineas at Deauville. Haggas told At The Races: "I thought the winner (Eminent) was impressive so I can't see the point of taking Churchill and others on at a track like Newmarket, which I'm not saying doesn't suit, but I think Deauville will suit him better. He didn't race in the Craven. He ran like a hare with his ears up, having a good look."

Update 4th May 2017 

Aidan O'Brien insists ante-post favourite Churchill is "well ready" for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday. Last season's Dewhurst winner is all the rage for the first domestic Classic season, but will be having his first start for 210 days. O'Brien, though, believes the Galileo colt will be fit enough to do himself justice.

He told the Telegraph: "He seems to be fine. Everything has gone well. "He was a very mature two-year-old, big and strong with plenty of scope. I've been very happy with him over the winter. We think he is well ready to start. I'm very happy with him at the moment."

Churchill has not yet raced beyond seven furlongs and still holds an entry in the Investec Derby at Epsom. When asked what will be the champion two-year-old's best trip this season, O'Brien said: "I'm not sure. The Guineas should be no problem. He travels very smoothly through his races and has a lot of pace."

Update 2nd May 2017:

Aidan O'Brien is looking for an eighth win in the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday, which would make him the most successful trainer in the race's history.

"He seems fine at the moment. Everything has went well and it's so far so good with him," the Ballydoyle handler said of Churchill at the weekend.

When asked what could join Churchill in the field, O'Brien responded: "I'll probably talk to Ryan (Moore) and go through the make-up of the field and see what he thinks."

O'Brien, who was last successful with Gleneagles in 2015, could also run Lancaster Bomber, Peace Envoy and Spirit Of Valor, but there was no Caravaggio amongst the confirmations. Churchill is the 6-4 favourite with Coral, ahead of Al Wukair at 7-2.

"Although Churchill retains his place at the head of the 2000 Guineas betting that he has held all winter, trial wins for Barney Roy, Al Wukair and Eminent in recent weeks have ensured the Ballydoyle colt faces a proper challenge on Saturday, and this is reflected in far more open betting than we may have expected at one time," said Coral's David Stevens.

The Ballydoyle trainer is likely to have at least three runners in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on Sunday. Ante-post favourite Rhododendron tops 18 fillies confirmed for the Group One contest and she is likely to be joined by stable companions Hydrangea and and Winter. Last year's Fillies' Mile winner Rhododendron is one of a five-strong team left in by O'Brien, who is aiming for a fourth win in the Classic over the Rowley Mile.

"We'd be thinking of running Rhododendron and probably the two fillies from the trial at Leopardstown that were first and second, Hydrangea and Winter," said the Ballydoyle handler. "If we were to run another it could be the filly that ran in Newbury (Rain Goddess). Roly Poly is in it, too. We were thinking of going to France with her but she's left in it."

Update 26th April 2017:

Ante-post favourite Rhododendron (and Triple G ante-post punt) is among 27 fillies remaining in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 7 following the latest acceptance stage. Aidan O'Brien's daughter of Galileo proved herself one of the very best of her generation when ending her juvenile campaign with victory in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket in October. O'Brien also has Asking, Hydrangea, Rain Goddess, Roly Poly and Winter, while his son Joseph relies on Intricately, winner of the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes.

John Gosden has left in Daban and Dabyah, winners of the Nell Gwyn and Fred Darling Stakes last week, while Roger Charlton has Fair Eva, one of Frankel's many talented offspring. Among the others still in the mix are Godolphin's Really Special, Sobetsu and Dubai One, plus Owen Burrows' once-raced winner Talaayeb. Though the Pascal Bary-trained Senga has been scratched, there are still two possible French raiders in Freddy Head's Alrahma and Cavale Doree, from Christophe Ferland's stable.

Swiss Storm is a notable absentee after just 19 colts stood their ground for the Qipco 2000 Guineas. The son of Frankel rounded off his juvenile campaign with a maiden victory at Newbury in September and was around 20-1 for the Newmarket Classic on Saturday week. Although the three-year-old will not be appearing at Headquarters, he does still hold an engagement in the Dante Stakes at York on May 18. Hugo Palmer's Escobar is another who will not be heading to Newmarket.

Ante-post favourite Churchill (and Triple G ante-post punt) is one of six horses still in 2000 Guineas contention for Aidan O'Brien. The Ballydoyle handler has also left in Caravaggio, Intelligence Cross, Lancaster Bomber, Peace Envoy and Spirit Of Valor. Martyn Meade's Craven hero Eminent and the Richard Hannon-trained Greenham scorer Barney Roy are two major hopes for the home team. Al Wukair, trained by Andre Fabre, Lucky Mistake and Spotify are three possible French raiders.

Update 13th April 2017:

Charlie Appleby's Group One-winning filly Wuheida has been ruled out of the Qipco 1000 Guineas after suffering a stress fracture.

The twice-raced daughter of Dubawi enjoyed her finest hour when landing the Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly on Arc day and, as well as the Newmarket Classic, she also held an engagement in the Investec Oaks.

She is expected to be on the sidelines for the remainder of Spring and most of Summer -- ruling her out of the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on 7th May and the Oaks at Epsom on 2nd June after sustaining a stress fracture to her right hind leg.

Appleby told "It is very disappointing for all of us at Godolphin. She had been doing so well in her work at home, and we were really looking forward to the Guineas."

He went on: "The recuperation period is six to eight weeks, so she misses some important races. But if she progresses well in her recovery, we should be looking to having her back, running again, in the second half of the season. She is a high-class filly, as she showed so impressively at Chantilly last autumn."

I have been talking of Wuheida as a potential Oaks filly al winter. As mentioned in the Dirty Dozen she is two from two at two having won on debut at HQ before going on the win the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac in October when really catching my eye and Charlie Appleby clearly likes her. By Dubawi out of Hibaayeb (Singspiel) her Dam won a G.1 at two over a mile before going on at three to win the G.2 Ribblesdale over 1m4f as well as a Grade 2 at Belmont Park over 1m3f and a Grade One Fillies & Mares event at Hollywood Park over 1m2f. I have the 14-1 about her and at this time there is no other filly I’d rather be on come Epsom in June.