The Classics 2018 - Guineas, Derby, Oaks, St Leger
1000 Guineas - Alpha Centauri 33-1
2000 Guineas - Masar 7-1
The Oaks - Sarrocchi 25-1 each-way
The Derby - Saxon Warrior 7-2
St Leger - Kew Gardens 25-1
Tuesday 24th April 2018:
The more I look at the Derby ante-post market the more I find myself asking the question will this horse stay. Stamina has come more to the fore than ever in recent years, 12 of the last 14 winners were sired by a sire with a stamina index of at least 1m1f and there was stamina on the dam’s side to boot. O’Brien trained colts dominate the market and three have been on my mind most of all. The Pentagon is one toward the top of my short list being by the top boy Galileo out of Group One winning mare over 1m2f Vadawina. He is a half-brother to four winners, three rated over 100, including Vadamr who won a Group Two over 1m4f out in France. He didn’t do a lot in the Ballysax Stakes over 1m2f in April but that was on heavy. Stable mate Nelson won that race and he is by Frankel, whose progeny are showing the ability to stay middle distances – see Cracksman as on example - out of Moonstone. The dam was second in the 2008 Oaks before winning the Irish version. He is a full-brother to US Army Ranger, second in the 2016 Derby, and top performer over middle distance trips at three. Saxon Warrior is the 7-2 jolly in April and being by Deep Impact out of Maybe he ticks all the boxes as they say on breeding at least ad far as stats are concerned. It will be fascinating to see how the colt goes as a three-year-old and could prove massive for the Shadai Stallion Station where Deep Impact stands if this colt can win the Derby. I have taken the plunge and backed him at 7-2 as if he comes out and goes well in the 2,000 Guineas the price will shrink pretty fast. I think the mile trip will be too sharp for him this season, all three starts and wins at two were over a mile, and Guineas winners without form over shorter than a mile at two are rare, Camelot being the only one in the last 30 years.
Monday 23rd April 2018:
Veracious, who was due to be the mount of Frankie Dettori, has been ruled out of the Qipco 1000 Guineas due to a "training setback". The Sir Michael Stoute-trained daughter of Frankel was an impressive winner of a Newmarket maiden last October and had impressed Dettori in a gallop before racing at last week's Craven meeting. In a statement to Press Association Sport, Stoute said: "Veracious will not be running in the 1000 Guineas because she has had a training setback." Veracious had been as low as 6-1 for the Newmarket Classic on May 6.
Thursday 19th April 2018:
Masar is a member of my Dirty Dozen for 2018 and as mentioned on that page his trainer had the French Derby as his long term target. Well he has a short term target now having blitzed the G.3 Craven Stakes field at Newmarket by nine lengths – tipped on here at 15-2 each-way. A return visit for the 2,000 Guineas is a must now and I have the 7-1 about him for that as I was very, very impressed with what can only be called a spectacular front-running display leaving the odds-on Roaring Lion whimpering back in third. William Buick in the saddle made the straight-mile contest a thorough test winding up the gallop with over two furlongs to run and I would expect similar tactics come Saturday 5th May.
Wednesday 18th April 2018:
All three of my ante-post punts have run over the last few days and at least there were no disasters. Sarrocchi run at Leopardstown in the G.3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes over seven furlongs on Sunday 14th April and finished down the field in 8th on heavy ground keeping on one paced and not knocked about. She remains 25-1 for the Oaks and this run can been seen as nothing more than a run to blow away the cobwebs as she is all about middle distances to my eye. Alpha Centauri was 10th in the race on ground she would have hated; she made some good headway six horses wide to press the leaders about two out but faded out of it in the heavy ground. She has drifted to 50-1 in places for the 1000 Guineas and I hope come May she will get the ground she requires as I believe she is a different filly on good fast ground.
Kew Gardens was third in the Listed Fielden Stakes at HQ over 1m1f on his seasonal bow on the first day of the Craven meeting. He took a while to pick-up and to my eyes was far from hard-ridden as he stayed on at the same pace pleasingly enough in the final furlong bearing in mind the trip was a long way short of what I expect to be his optimum and he remains generally 25-1 for the St Leger.
Thursday 12th April 2018:
I think I may have found one in the plethora of likely types housed with Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle that isn’t actually at the head of the market for one of the Classics but I think should be backed for the Oaks. The filly in question is Sarrocchi. By Galileo out of Thai Haku the sire needs little introduction so I will not waste ink. The dam won a Listed race out in France as a three-year-old and ran at Group level for the rest of her globetrotting career without winning including at Meydan in Dubai and Belmont Park in the States.
Sarrocchi was owned in partnership by the ‘lads’ of Coolmore and China Horse Club International Ltd before their parting of the ways. The ‘lads’ bought her back at the Goffs October sales for €215,000 and she promptly went out and won a maiden at Leopardstown over seven furlongs in late October before being put away for the winter. To my eyes she did it pretty comfortably in the end despite being well back in the field and green as grass before the penny dropped and she knuckled down at which point she went passed her rivals nicely. She a middle distance type and might just have progressed past her better known stable mates of Happily and September to name but two come Friday 1st June.
You can get 25-1 as I write in April and I have had a little tickle at that each-way as if she comes out and goes well or wins on her first start at three, is entered in the G.3 Ballylinch Stud 'Priory Belle' 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown on 14th April, that price will shrink quicker than a cotton vest in the boil wash
Wednesday 27th December 2017: On a cold and wet day between Christmas and New Year what else are you going to do other than get out the crystal ball and consider your ante-post bets for the following years Classics.
Very unusually the first name on my list for the Classics in 2018 was in fact my fancy for the St. Leger. It seems crazy to be thinking about the St Leger three months before the season even starts but I honestly think Ballydoyle has a contender in their colt Kew Gardens. Naturally he will be in the Dirty Dozen for the season and everything about him says he will stay as he matures. Being by Galileo, no introduction required, he is out of Chelsea Rose who won a Listed heat over 1m4f in her career and went in with some of the best, second in the G.1 Pretty Poly of 2006. On breeding a mile-and-a-half will likely be the minimum trip for this colt as he matures; unsurprisingly entered in the Epsom Derby and Irish equivalent. The grand sire on the dam side Desert King won the Irish Derby and grand dam Cinnamon Rose was campaigned up to a mile-and-a-half as well. As a two-year-old he played second fiddle to some more obvious Guineas type stable mates over a mile, such as Saxon Warrior when fourth in the G.2 Beresford Stakes, before signing off his first season winning the Listed Zetland Stakes over 1m2f at HQ in October drawing clear and looking to love every yard of the trip that day. At 25-1 he is a very long-range punt for me in the 2018 St Leger as I think that has to be the race for him. Stable mate Delano Roosevelt heads the market, he was second in the Beresford mentioned above, along with Saxon Warrior who basically heads every list for the 2018 Classics!
As for the other Classics Ballydoyle and ‘the lads’ yet again have a stranglehold at the head of the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas markets over the winter. For the fillies the market is headed by Clemmie with Happily and September whilst the market for the colts sees the aforementioned Saxon Warrior as favourite with stable mates Gustav Klimt and U S Navy Flag just behind in the betting.
The Oaks sees Happily and September top the list with that colt again Saxon Warrior favourite for the Derby with yet another Ballydoyle inmate The Pentagon second in the betting.
The problem here is a simple one, more than ever this year you just do not know what horse Ballydoyle will campaign where and as was the case last season the one all the ‘experts’ think is the best just simply might not be; see Wings Of Eagles beating Cliffs Of Moher in last years Derby as just one example of a lesser fancied Ballydoyle runner winning the big one. If you are going to punt ante-post over winter on any of the early 2018 Classics you have to go against the Ballydoyle entrants.
For the fillies Alpha Centauri is a horse I like and will be another member of the Dirty Dozen for 2018. By Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mastercraftsman out of the unraced Alpha Lupi the grand sire on the dam side Rahy was a high-class two-year-old who went on to be a smart dirt miler, with the grand dam being East Of The Moon a multiple Group One winner over a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter out in France including the G.1 1994 Poule D'essai Des Pouliches. At 33-1 for the 1000 Guineas I honestly believe she would be half that price if at Ballydoyle rather than with Jessica Harrington and she clearly did not enjoy the very soft underfoot conditions when beaten in the G.1 Moyglare. It will be better ground at HQ on 6th May and 33’s could look huge by then.
As for the colts there are a couple on my mind. Expert Eye owned by Khalid Abdullah and trained by Sir Michael Stoute was one many were talking about after his first two starts; destroyed the field in the G.2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. Unfortunately he finished lame in the G.1 Dewhurst won by U S Navy Flag on his third run. Would have to be on your mind for the 2000 Guineas on the Vintage Stakes form if he comes back from the injury at three as good as he was. The Qatar Racing owned Roaring Lion trained by John Gosden went unbeaten until losing out by a neck to Saxon Warrior in the G.1 Racing Post Trophy and is an interesting one with his American breeding. By Kitten’s Joy, five-time leading Turf sire in America, out of Vionnet, winner of a Turf race at Del Mar in her short racing career. Grand sire on the dam side is Street Sense, 2006 champion US 2yo who won BC Juvenile that year making the great grand sire 2002 Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry.
For now I am keeping the powder dry regards the 2000 Guineas, Derby and Oaks and await the ‘trial’ races such as the Craven Stakes, Greenham Stakes and Dante Stakes with anticipation.