The Classics 2020 - Guineas, Derby, Oaks, St Leger

Classics 2020 ante-post portfolio

1,000 Guineas: Quadrilateral 4-1 Third

2,000 Guineas: Pinatubo Evens Third

The Derby: English King 5-2 Fifth

The Oaks: Frankly Darling 9-4 Third

St Leger: Hukum 4-1 Fifth

7th September 
The betting for the final and oldest of the Classic the St Leger has it as a fairly open-affair at this stage, the biggest question perhaps, as so often is the case, being which horses will the Ballydoyle lads send over? Santiago and Love are two towards the head of the market and either would of course be feared but they do have other targets to be considered. Delphi is another to perhaps consider at a bigger price. For the home team York winner Pyledriver and Hukum, tipped on here for his last win in the G.3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury, the major payers. I have the 4-1 about the Owen Burrows runner as I really like the way he travels and he loved every yard of the 1m5½f at Newbury leaving me to think this trip of 1m6½f will hold no fears for him. After only four starts surely there is better to come yet, plus big race jockey Jim Crowley and Angus Gold, racing manager for owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, both seem to agree with me. I am on and feel fairly confident in my selection.

2nd July:

Sadly, none of us can be there but the silver lining to the Covid 19 cloud is we get both Classics on one card this year with Epsom hosting the Derby and Oaks on Saturday.  

I will deal with the two big races in reverse order starting with the Derby due off at 4.55. The one that’s been on my mind for a while, see the Dirty Dozen page, Military March has been ruled out of the Investec Derby after suffering a setback. Andrew Balding’s 2000 Guineas winner Kameko reportedly impressed in a gallop at Kempton ahead of his attempt to join an elite list of Guineas and Derby winners. No horse has followed up at Epsom having won the Guineas since Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot in 2012 and I am not convinced he’ll stay the trip anyway. Ballydoyle don’t have a standout entry this year, I think their better horses ran in Ireland last weekend. That said they come mob handed with six likely running including Royal Ascot scorer G.3 Hampton Court Stakes winner Russian Emperor, Irish 2,000 Guineas second Vatican City and Mogul, who disappointed in the King Edward VII Stakes last time. I can't truly fancy any of them unless Mogul comes on a bundle for the run at Ascot, I still think he might prove a good middle-distance horse and O’Brien said this week “he's bounced out of Ascot with a big smile on his face begging for more." Pyledriver comes after his win in the G.2 King Edward VII Stakes, Mogul fourth, but he wasn’t on my mind for that race and I think he won what will prove to simply be a bad race and Highland Chief won a handicap last time and takes a huge step-up in grade. Lingfield Derby trial winner English King is the jolly off the back of that victory and Berkshire Rocco, who was second that day in Surrey, filled the same spot behind subsequent Irish Derby winner Santiago in the Queens Vase at the Royal meeting giving the form a decent look. It should be remembered English King was slowly away that day and yet I am reliably informed by my mate with the stopwatch the colt was the quickest winner of the race in 37 years, beating the time set by High-Rise in 1998; you might remember he went on to Derby glory. Dettori gets the ride, replacing the unlucky Tom Marquand, and the Italian showman has certainly been talking his mount up. It's no secret that owner Bjorn Nielsen would dearly love a Derby winner and no doubt Lambourn based trainer Ed Walker would love to get his name on the honours board; he has only ever had one runner in any Classic! Take a look at the very good At The Races video on YouTube with connections, these guys do the hard graft and they want this. The colt is the one for me in an open looking year. I am on at 5-2 and my biggest concern is ‘team tactics’ from the Ballydoyle battalion, they wouldn’t do that, would they?  

They line-up for the Oaks earlier on the card at 3.40. Another trained by Bin Suroor White Moonlight was mentioned in the Dirty Dozen as a possible Oaks filly sadly won’t be here and hasn’t run yet this year. This looks a two horse race with the greatest of respect to the others. 1,000 Guineas winner Love has an obvious chance but any value in her price is long gone now and she’s 11-10 best. She should stay but is not stonewall guaranteed to get the trip and though her two full-sisters (Flattering and Peach Tree) have won Group Three’s over middle distances neither were prolific winners and I have a nagging doubt about the filly getting the 1m4f. I am prepared to take her on. I was impressed with Frankly Darling at Ascot and arguably she is better bred for the job in this. She looked every inch a Group One middle distance filly when winning the G.2 Ribblesdale Stakes at the Royal Meeting with Dettori far from hard at work in the saddle. Aidan O'Brien trained pair Ennistymon and Passion were second and third and it’s hard to see them reversing the form to my eyes. After just three runs she could well have more to come yet and you know Gosden and Oppenheimer will have been planning a campaign built around this over the winter; I have the 9-4. Frankie Dettori rides again and he will be a right nuisance if he does it but I think Dettori might be on for a Classic double Saturday! Prepare for flying dismounts, kisses all round and over excited interviews.  

Update 5th June:

Going into the first big weekend of the Turf season Pianatubo is now odds-on across the boards and 5-6 to take the 2000 Guineas, Quadrilateral has also strengthened her position at the top of the 1000 Guineas market at 9-4. All being well they will both remain unbeaten on Sunday evening! 

Update 4th June: 
The hotpot 2,000 Guineas favourite Pinatubo will break from stall 7, slap bang in the middle of the 15 runner field. Fillies' Mile winner Quadrilateral is also set to face 14 rivals in Sunday's Qipco 1,000 Guineas and she has been drawn in the middle as well coming out of stall 8. She has been declared to wear a tongue-strap for the first time in the Classic.

I have two bets placed ante-post for the Guineas and as it stands on the Wednesday as I write I am very happy with them. Quadrilateral, a member of my Dirty Dozen 12 horses to follow this season, is reportedly doing nicely over the spring and trainer Roger Charlton has been keeping an eye, as we all have, on developments regard the Classics this season. I said in the Dirty Dozen column I think the Qipco 1,000 Guineas will be perfect for her and as I write it is a case of all roads leads to Newmarket and the Rowley Mile. Charlton told Sky Sports Racing a few weeks back “I think she’s wintered very well really. She came into training quite late last year and she was always a well-grown, strong filly. She hasn’t actually grown much, but she has put on weight, she weighs 500 kilos, which is quite a lot for a three-year-old filly. She’s a very attractive, easy to train filly and obviously her races progressed and she toughed it out I thought in the Group One at the end of the year. Probably a furlong out she wasn’t going to win, then we got a lucky break up the rail and clearly a mile plus will suit her this year.” I have the 4-1 ante-post with Coral and as it stands I am happy with that. As touched upon above she was too good for Love in the G.1 bet365 Fillies' Mile at the end of her two-year-old campaign and I see no reason for that form to be reversed. Millisle is perhaps the biggest danger if Jessica Harrington has worked some magic over the winter months. The big question is will she stay? She has never tried further than six furlongs and though the way she finished to land the Cheveley Park Stakes over six last Autumn suggests the extra two furlongs might be within her range but it is still a big question mark next to her name.  

Quadrilateral was added to my ante-post bet on Pinatubo for the 2,000 Guineas at Evens from earlier in the year also with Coral. The Godolphin colt simply looked head and shoulders above the rest last year and if nothing else, I will be amazed if any of the other colts have improved enough to catch up to him not allowing for any improvement from the Godolphin owned colt himself! I mentioned it in the Dirty Dozen piece on the main website Pinatubo's pedigree suggests he should train on and, scarily for the opposition, improve further at three. If that is the case, he surely only has to show-up to win. Get on!

Last month Jim McGrath produced an enlightening article for the Godolphin website after he spoke to Charlie Appleby, the big question being how will Pinatubo perform in the 2000 Guineas? This is what the trainer had to say:  "I think the mile is going to be his trip. I believe that because of his mental attitude. He is a relaxed character, and if he was later asked to step up in trip, I think he has the right mindset for it. As for his physical attributes, he won six races as a juvenile, and three of them were on three of Britain’s most challenging courses — Epsom, Goodwood and Newmarket. His athleticism is a key asset. He has pleased me in his work in preparation for the Guineas, and provided there are no hiccups, I think he will give a very good account of himself."