The Classics 2024 - Guineas, Derby, Oaks, St Leger

“The thoroughbred exists because its selection has depended, not on experts, technicians or zoologists, but on a piece of wood: the winning post of the Epsom Derby.”  Frederico Tesio

Classics 2024 ante-post portfolio

Classics Bets 2024 

2,000 Guineas: Iberian 40-1 each-way - 11th

1,000 Guineas: Dance Sequence 6-1 - 9th

See The Fire 8-1 - 12th

The Oaks: 

The Derby:  Arabian Crown 12-1 each-way

St Leger: 

17th May 2024: 

A post on the Godolphin X account has revealed Arabian Crown (I am on at 12's and the colt was as low as 3's yesterday) will miss the Derby! The tweet states: An update from Moulton Paddocks: Unfortunately Arabian Crown will miss the @EpsomRacecourse Derby due to a set back. He will now be aimed at a late summer campaign. Hopefully he'll be back and show how good he is in the summer but my nightmarish May continues......................Gutted. City Of Troy is now around 2-1 clear favourite. 

16th May 2024: 

Ancient Wisdom was pushed out to 20-1 for Epsom off the back of his defeat at York in the G.2 Dante Stakes, but Charlie Appleby is not ruling out the possibility of firing a twin assault on Derby saying afterwards “Derby-wise I think we’ll just let it all settle down. I know it’s only two and a bit weeks to Epsom and people want us to make a call sooner, but I think it depends how much he progresses from it really. A mile and a half is definitely going to be his trip. Will said he wouldn’t be worried about Epsom or the ground, it’s just whether he wants a sterner test because as we all know you can be a mile-and-a-quarter horse round there and get the mile and a half because you’ve got to be able to travel. This horse will come on a lot and he’s allowed himself more time in the spring than Arabian Crown has. Arabian Crown came early and came in his coat, whereas this horse is still not there in his coat now. Arabian Crown looked more a staying type than this horse we felt on all evidence we’ve seen and we’ll have to see how much this horse jumps forward.” When asked whether he felt Buick would face a difficult choice if he does run both horses in the Derby, Appleby said “I think at the moment Will would have a job to get off Arabian Crown really, but if this horse comes out and does a decent piece of work it might be a different ball game.”

As far as the Derby is concerned we haven't learnt a lot over the last few days and City Of Troy and Arabian Crown have actually both shortened slightly with City Of Troy now best priced 11-4 in places and Arabian Crown available at 4's with a couple of bookies, as short as 3's with others. Following their exploits last weekend Ambiente Friendly is around 7's having won the Listed Lingfield Derby Trial and Los Angeles 8's having taken the Derby Trial at Leopardstown. 

14th May 2024:

Aidan O’Brien has been talking about his Oaks and Derby runners this week and you simply have to take note. Dealing with the fillies he said of Ylang Ylang “We’ve been very happy with Ylang Ylang. She’s always looked an Oaks filly more than a Guineas filly, but we let her run in the Guineas and she ran very well. Ryan let her find her feet and she was coming home very well. “She won the first two times ridden forwards, but that was just the way it happened. Then she was a little bit keen and got beaten twice. She ran a shocker in the Moyglare, but then got back in the right mindset and she turned all that form around in the Guineas, they were a good bit behind her so it’s amazing how things can swing around. Ryan (Moore) is confident that 10 furlongs will be no problem at all to her and if they stay 10 furlongs, there’s usually a good chance of staying 12 furlongs at Epsom. Going from the Guineas to the Oaks is just a natural progression and what we’ve always thought she would do. She’s by Frankel and he speaks for himself.”

As for 2,000 Guineas flop City Of Troy the master of Ballydoyle said “Everything has been good since (the Guineas) and we just accepted that all these things just happened and went wrong on the day and we’ve decided to stay with the plan. He’s done nothing since to make us change the plan. The plan was always to start with the Guineas and go on to the Derby and then go wherever after that and that’s where we still are. Sometimes it happens and obviously it happened in the Guineas and it happened again last weekend (in the French Guineas, with Henry Longfellow). Sometimes things don’t work and really I would always say that it’s my responsibility to make sure it works and when it doesn’t work, well we’ve done our homework but maybe we didn’t do it all properly. That’s the way I would look at the Guineas. When he went down to the start he should have been relaxed, but he went into the stalls and he was revved up. He wasn’t flustered, but obviously his mind wasn’t in the right place, because he’s a very good natured horse as you can see – unusually good for a colt. He’s very calm and relaxed, but it all just happened at the wrong few seconds. It will make it very interesting the next day. For us, I’m not sure we’ve ever sent a horse to the Derby with as much ability as this. If we can get him to come out of those gates and everything to work properly for him then we can have him in the right place.”

QIPCO 1,000 Guineas

The first fillies Classic of the season, the 1,000 Guineas, has a slightly more open feel to it than than the 2,000 Guineas, in fact you can make a fairly strong case for half-a-dozen in the field at least. Fallen Angel is certainly bred to be a miler and having won the 7f G.1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh last September was put away for the winter with this race very much in mind. She has been backed into favouritsim but I am not convinced the Moyglare Stud Stakes was that good a renewal and the form possibly questionable. The grey is bidding to give her trainer, Karl Burke and jockey Danny Tudhope, their first British Classic success. Ylang Ylang ran five times as a two-year-old, putting in a couple of below par efforts in September including in the aforementioned Moyglare Stud Stakes having won her first two starts, before getting back to winning ways in the G.1 bet365 Fillies' Mile over this track and trip in October on the soft; See The Fire third. She hails from a family that has produced plenty of winners but most were better over 1m2f-1m4f and I wonder if middle-distances will be more her thing this season and there could be a couple in here with a tadge more pace than her. Ramatuelle warmed-up for this by finishing second in the 7f G.3 Prix Imprudence on heavy ground last month behind Romantic Style. She is an interesting runner as connections have chosen to send her for this rather than stay in France and the daughter of Justify should pick-up some decent prize money but I can’t see her winning. Darnation beat Pretty Crystal in the 7f G.3 Prestige Fillies' Stakes and See The Fire in the mile G.2 May Hill Stakes on soft last year and is perhaps overpriced. You would think she wouldn’t want the ground on the firm side so any more rain would definitely help her chances. Cinderellas Dream will be partnered by French jockey Mickael Barzalona. Charlie Appleby was talking of potentially keeping this one fresh for the Irish 1,000 Guineas having had a couple of runs out in Dubai, winning the Listed mile Jumeirah 1000 Guineas in early March. She will need to step-up on that form here but with a couple of runs under her belt has confirmed her wellness and could pick up a place but this is a step-up on what she has achieved so far. Pretty Crystal took a major step forward on what she achieved at two when winning the 7f G.3 Nell Gwyn Stakes here last month on seasonal debut. That said I think she may turn out to be best over the intermediate trip and the filly that came second to her will definitely reverse the form here. Romantic Style is being aimed by Charlie Appleby at the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, the trainer convinced the easier mile around a bend will suit her, which leaves Dance Sequence who looks the main hope of the team from Moulton Paddocks. I said after she was second in the 7f G.3 Nell Gwynn (I tipped her) that she still looked green as grass in the finish but kept on to only be beaten a neck and you'd say she would have won if it was a mile. The trials, as I said at the time, are just that and the run will have brought her on, taught her a little more and was more invaluable experience of the Rowley Mile; she won the G.3 7f Oh So Sharp Stakes last season on the course despite being green in the finish. By Dubawi, who of course won the Irish Guineas & Jacques le Marois in his racing career before going on to be a leading sire, she is out of Tearless a winner at Listed level in her day. The family have produced plenty of winners ranging up to middle-distances and many that progressed well throughout their careers. Charlie Appleby said after the Nell Gwynn “There was a bit of pace on and, when they started to quicken, those six and seven-furlong horses just caught her out. Once the penny dropped and she hit the rising ground, it looked as though she was going to do it, but then she had a look at the stands. It was all a bit raw, but importantly there is improvement there mentally as well as fitness-wise.” I am hopeful she will be more track wise on Sunday and I am prepared to give her another chance and I am on at 6-1. See The Fire, a member of the Dirty Dozen this year, didn’t make her debut at two until August when she won over 7f here at HQ. She finished second in the mile G.2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster on her next start when still noticeably green and then third in the G.1 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket behind the more seasoned Ylang Ylang and Shuwari. Jeff Smith's homebred is by Sea The Stars and out of Arabian Queen, she is bred to be good, you’d expect improvement as she matures on pedigree and she’s likely to get a little further as the season progresses suggesting a stiff mile may be perfect at this stage. Trainer Andrew Balding has aimed her at this all winter and she is worth a punt at 8-1.

QIPCO 2,000 Guineas

The going at Newmarket is good having seen some pretty horrid weather on Friday. All being well they should have more sunshine than showers on Saturday and Sunday but there is the chance of rain during racing.

City Of Troy is all the rage for the 2,000 Guineas and with no colts putting in an outstanding eye-catching performance in the trials on last years form the Aidan O’Brien trained colt obviously has a massive chance. Unbeaten in three starts as a two-year-old, including the 7f G.2 bet365 Superlative Stakes on the July course in July and the 7f G.1 Dewhurst Stakes on the Rowley Mile in October, you can’t knock the form. That said, as big a chance as he has, I can't be backing one odds-on for the Guineas. I won’t be at all surprised if he wins, probably will, but it will be his first run of the season, not that O’Brien isn’t capable of getting one ready, and that is a slight concern, albeit only slight. Notable Speech arrives unbeaten in his three career starts so far, all this year, all on the Polytrack at Kempton. It would be a most unorthodox route to Guineas glory. By Dubawi out of Swift Rose, an Invincible Spirit mare than won once on the track, on breeding there is enough stamina in there to suggest this relatively stiff mile will be fine but let's be honest he’d be a bigger price if it wasn’t for connections. Rosallion was beaten just once in four starts at two, in the 7f G.2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, he signed off his juvenile campaign winning the G.1 7f Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Second that day, Unquestionable, went on to win the G.1 mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita in November giving the form a nice late season boost. That said third, fourth, fifth and sixth in the Jean-Luc Lagardere have all been beaten already this season in lesser company so there are now question marks about the form for me. By star sprinter Blue Point there is enough stamina on the dam side to suggest he’ll see out the testing straight mile here but has 8lb to find with City Of Troy on official ratings so will need to have improved markedly over the winter. Trainer Richard Hannon said this week “Mine don’t usually go to the Guineas without a run, but Rosallion has been to Kempton twice and he also went to Newbury the other day, when he had a nice breeze on the bridle.” Juddmonte homebred Task Force is bred for the task being by the all-conquering Frankel, spectacular winner of the race in 2011 and out of Special Duty who won the 1,000 Guineas on 2010 when awarded the race in the Stewards room. He steps up from six-furlongs but there is of course every reason to think he’ll get the trip and the colt underwent wind surgery last autumn following his second-place, behind Vandeek, in the G.1 Middle Park Stakes here in September where he ran on into second looking like a step-up in trip would suit. Ghostwriter is yet to taste defeat having won all three starts as a two-year-old last seen winning the mile G.2 Royal Lodge Stakes over track and trip in September. By top sprinter Invincible Spirit his dam Moorside is a Juddmonte mare who won over 1m4f and stayed further, her dam Marching West was a sprinter, so who knows what this one's best trip might be! The form of the Royal Lodge Stakes is another that looks questionable now, Capulet beaten at odds-on at Chelmsford City, Macduff second in a Derby Trial and Son beaten in the Greenham Stakes this season. He holds a Derby entry and there's every chance he’ll be a middle-distance colt. Alyanaabi finished fourth behind Rosallion at Ascot in the Listed 7f Pat Eddery Stakes in July before winning the 7f G.3 Tattersalls Stakes here at HQ and signed off his two-year-old campaign when a well held second to City Of Troy in the G.1 Dewhurst here so in theory holds each-way claims but he has plenty to find in order to win the race. Night Raider won a 7f Novice Stakes at Southwell in December before kicking-off his three-year-old campaign with a win in the same grade over the same track and trip in Nottinghamshire in March. Similar to Notable Speech it would be an unusual route to a Guineas victory and on breeding there has to be doubt about his ability to stay the stiff mile; by star two-year-old sprinter Dark Angel out of seven-furlong filly Dorraar. Haatem won the G.3 Craven Stakes over track and trip last month and you can’t ignore that but was behind a few of these last season and his stablemate Rosallion certainly appears the yard number one. A big looking colt Haatem may be better when stepped-up in trip to more like 1m2f. Inisherin and Teb Bob Tony are big prices for a reason and shouldn’t be troubling the judge. I mentioned Iberian a little while back in the previews as a horse I know a bit about from last year. The colt won the race Treasure Time, the horse I have a handful of shares in, made his debut in at Newbury so I had a good look at him there and he looked a prospect. Following that he was second to Haatem in the 7f G.2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood given quite a bit to do racing out the back early, before winning the 7f G.2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, beating Rosallion. On his final start last season he tired out of contention in the G.1 7f Dewhurst Stakes, won by City Of Troy. He got it all wrong that day, dwelt at the start and out the back early he perhaps had to do too much to get into the race before fading noticeably in the final furlong where he looked to me to get a little unbalanced on the day (trainer said colt was unsuited by the soft ground). The son of French 2,000 Guineas and Derby winner Lope De Vega got the start wrong a couple of times last season and you would think plenty of work has been done on that over the winter by Charlie Hills and the team. Dam Bella Estrella is a High Chaparral mare that won over a mile three times in her career up to Listed level. At best price 40-1 I think he he is worth a speculative each-way punt with Tom Marquand in the saddle again.

3rd May 2024:

In what looks a fairly open year sixteen fillies will go to post for the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday with the runners for the second Classic of the season confirmed

Cinderella's Dream Mickael Barzalona (3)
Dance Sequence William Buick (13)
Darnation Clifford Lee (6)
Elmalka Silvestre de Sousa (16)
Fallen Angel Daniel Tudhope (5)
Porta Fortuna Tom Marquand (15)
Pretty Crystal Oisin Orr (1)
Ramatuelle Aurelian Lemaitre (1)
Regal Jubilee Kieran Shoemark (8)
Rolica Hollie Doyle (14)
Sacred Angel Jason Hart (9)
See The Fire Oisin Murphy (2)
Star Music Jim Crowley (7)
Star Style Pat Dobbs (10)
Tamfana Jamie Spencer (4)
Ylang Ylang Ryan Moore (12)

2nd May 2024 

Eleven colts will go to post for the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday with the runners for the first Classic of the season confirmed. The runners and riders can be seen below. 

Alyanaabi Jim Crowley (8)
City Of Troy Ryan Moore (2)
Ghostwriter Richard Kingscote (3)
Haatem James Doyle (5)
Iberian Tom Marquand (11)
Inisherin Tom Eaves (7)
Night Raider Danny Tudhope (1)
Notable Speech William Buick (6)
Rosallion Sean Levey (4)
Task Force Rossa Ryan (9)
Ten Bob Tony Saffie Osborne (10)

1st May 2024: 

French raider Ramatuelle had her final major piece of work at Chantilly on Tuesday morning reportedly pleasing both her trainer and big-race rider Aurelien Lemaitr with trainer Christopher Head saying he cannot wait to saddle his first British Classic runner in Sunday's QIPCO 1,000 Guineas. The daughter of Justify will tackle a mile for the first time at Newmarket. She finished her two-year-old campaign being beaten a short neck to Vandeek in the 6f G.1 Prix Morny, and began her three-year-old campaign finishing second to the Godolphin owned Romantic Style, who is being aimed at the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, when trying seven furlongs for the first time in the Prix Imprudence at the start of April.

29th April 2024:

The confirmations for the first Classic races of the Turf season are in with the 2,000 Guineas running Saturday and 1,000 Guineas Sunday: 

Qipco 2,000 Guineas confirmations 

Alyanaabi Owen Burrows
City Of Troy Aidan O'Brien​​
Diego Velazquez Aidan O'Brien
Ghostwriter Clive Cox​​
Haatem Richard Hannon
Henry Longfellow Aidan O'Brien
Iberian Charlie Hills
Inisherin Kevin Ryan
Night Raider Karl Burke
Notable Speech Charlie Appleby
River Tiber Aidan O'Brien
Rosallion Richard Hannon
Task Force Ralph Beckett
Ten Bob Tony Ed Walker

Qipco 1,000 Guineas confirmations 

Brilliant Aidan O'Brien
Cinderella's Dream Charlie Appleby
Content Aidan O'Brien
Dance Sequence Charlie Appleby
Darnation Karl Burke
Elmalka Roger Varian
Fallen Angel Karl Burke
Finsceal Luas Jim Bolger
Lunar Eclipse David Simcock
Porta Fortuna Donnacha O'Brien
Pretty Crystal Richard Fahey
Ramatuelle Christopher Head
Regal Jubilee John and Thady Gosden​​
Rolica Jane Chapple-Hyam
Sacred Angel Charlie Johnston
See The Fire Andrew Balding
Star Music Richard Hughes
Star Style Richard Hannon
Tamfana David Menuisier
Ylang Ylang Aidan O'Brien

26th April 2024: 

Before racing at Sandown Park today, and specifically the 1m2f Group Three bet365 Classic Trial, I have back Arabian Crown each-way for the Derby. My thinking is simple, he clearly has a chance on what he has achieved thus far and if he wins the trial, as I believe he will, 12's will be long gone. Trainer Charlie Appleby said this week “Arabian Crown has track experience at Sandown, which is always handy, and we were pleased with his recent racecourse gallop at Newmarket. It’s the same situation with a lot of early three-year-olds as we are trying to find out where the rest of the season lies. We will hopefully be a lot wiser afterwards as to whether he’s a Derby horse or not.” By Dubawi he is out of Dubai Rose who comes from a family that have produced a number of middle-distance winners and she herself has a number of winning offspring notably multiple middle-distance Group winner in France The Juliet Rose. He went well in a morning workout at Newmarket during the Craven meeting and all being well will book his place in the big race this afternoon.  

24th April 2024: 

Reportedly City Of Troy has continued to impress Aidan O'Brien and "hasn't put a foot wrong" according to the master of Ballydoyle in his preparation for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. I know O’Brien is unlikely to put out a bad report but it must have others worried with the Guineas potentially the first leg of what might just turn into a Triple Crown bid for last season's champion European two-year-old. 

Ralph Beckett-trained Task Force will likely be one of those trying to topple City Of Troy come the first weekend of May in the Qipco 2000 Guineas. The colt had a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Monday and it is all systems go for Newmarket now. Barry Mahon, European racing manager for owners Juddmonte said afterwards “The gallop went well and the horse did everything Ralph wanted him to do. He worked six furlongs and Ralph came away happy with the horse and it leaves him on track for the Guineas on Saturday week. He is bred to win a Classic as he’s by a Guineas winner out of a Guineas winner and there are not many horses who boast a pedigree like that. He’s a nice horse and showed good form last year. He’s done well from two to three and has changed shape a lot. We feel he definitely doesn’t look a sprinter and last year he was a bit keen and a bit mentally immature, so we kept him to six furlongs and he had the talent to be able to perform over that distance. Now we’re looking forward to seeing if he can be just as effective to win over a mile.” Mahon continued “We’re under no illusions and it’s going to be a hard task to beat the two at the top of the market who both look exceptionally talented colts, but it’s a Classic and we have a horse who has shown Group One form and who we think will stay a mile so we have to give it a go and we’re excited to run him. We won’t find out until the day whether we’re up to that standard or not, but it’s nice to be able to partake and if there are any weaknesses in the top two, then we hope we are there to pick up the pieces.”

22nd April 2024: 

It is the first year for many that I have had not one ante-post punt on any of the Classics weeks if not months in advance. The reason is simple, I think it is a strange year. City Of Troy sits at the head of the market for the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby and is second favourite for the St Leger! It's wonderful to think we have have one of the all time greats potentially to look forward to in 2024 but it does make having a bet somewhat more complicated when you have a colt that appears, as it stands, to be head and shoulders above the rest. Ocean Of Dreams was on my mind as a potential big price each-way Derby bet but he came out at Leopardstwon in the 1m3f G.3 Ballysax Stakes in April, jumped the path 7f out, and returned lame! I can't be backing him at the moment. Godolphin owned Arabian Crown is due to run in the G.3 1m2f bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown so won't be at Newmarket after that whilst stablemate Ancient Wisdom may run but is surely more a Derby colt. That leaves the main hope for Moulton Paddocks Notable Speech who will arrive unbeaten in his three career starts so far, all this year, all on the Polytrack at Kempton. It would be a most unorthodox route to Guineas glory. Haatem won the 7f G.3 Craven Stakes and could run a race at a fair price, Hannon certainly likes the colt. Iberian is another at a larger price that could run a race, especially if it comes up fast on the day. The colt won the race Treasure Time, the horse I have a handful of shares in, made debut in at Newbury so I had a good look at him there and he looked a prospect. Following that he was second to Haatem in the 7f G.2 Vintage Stakes, winning the 7f G.2 Champagne Stakes and tiring out of contention in the G.1 7f Dewhurst Stakes won by City Of Troy on soft ground at the end of the season; clearly did not enjoy the going. 

As for the fillies the issue is the complete opposite in that it is, at the moment at least, a very competitive year and I for one could make a case for several fillies in the 1,000 Guineas; the injury to winter favourite Opera Singer muddying the waters further. We may see Opera Singer in the Irish 1,000 Guineas but she won't be at Newmarket. Fallen Angel currently heads the 1,000 Guineas market and goes straight to the race having had a racecourse gallop at the Craven meeting. Last seen winning the G.1 7f Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September she has an obvious chance and Karl Burke and the team are making all the right noises about her. I agree with Charlie Appleby that Dance Sequence finishing second in the 7f G.3 Nell Gwyn Stakes isn't perhaps such a bad thing; the 'trials' are there to be trials at the end of the day. She still looked green as grass in the finish but kept on and was only beaten a neck and you'd say she would have won if it was a mile. She will have learnt a bit again and it will have blown away the cobwebs, I wouldn't write her off yet. I noted Charlie Appleby saying on the Godolphin website "We are delighted with Dance Sequence. I said to William in the paddock, ‘don’t forget how raw she was last year when winning’. She has been handled very well through the winter and the most important day is in two and a half weeks’ time. Today was a stepping stone towards the Guineas and it happened exactly how we thought it might do. There was a bit of pace on and, when they started to quicken, those six and seven-furlong horses just caught her out. Once the penny dropped and she hit the rising ground, it looked as though she was going to do it, but then she had a look at the stands. It was all a bit raw, but importantly there is improvement there mentally as well as fitness-wise.” Ylang Ylang has always looked potentially more an Oaks filly to me and signed-off her two-year-old campaign winning the G.1 bet365 Fillies' Mile at HQ, over the Guineas track and trip, in October. If it was soft going for the first weekend of May, and it could be the spring we are having, she would have to be on any shortlist. See The Fire is one of my Dirty Dozen for the year and Andrew Balding is aiming her at the 1,000 Guineas early in the campaign. Having won on debut she was Second in the G.2 mile Betfred May Hill Stakes at Doncaster before finishing third in the G.1 bet365 Fillies' Mile being the far more experience Ylang Ylang hanging left towards the end and losing out late on. I wouldn't be surprised if she stays a little further as the season progresses but with a winter on her back she may be able to reverse the form with Ylang Ylang at this trip. I noted Balding saying in the stable magazine "She has wintered very well at Littleton Stud, is back in work at Kingsclere and full of beans in her morning exercise. She is likely to head straight to the 1,000 Guineas without a prep race as she handled the challenges of the Rowley Mile when third in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile on her latest start..........she will have entries in all the top fillies’ races to keep her options open. She is a hugely exciting horse to have in the yard." 

It's 8's the field for the Oaks with double figure odds available about everything barring Ylang Ylang.