The Classics 2021 - 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 2021 ante-post portfolio

1,000 Guineas:  A’Shaari 33-1 N/R

2,000 Guineas: One Ruler 5-1 - sixth

1,000 Guineas: Alcohol Free 7-1 - fifth

Derby: Hurricane Lane 6-1 - third

Oaks: Santa Barbara 15-8 - fifth

St Leger: Hurricane Lane 11-4

15th July 2021

Following an emphatic victory in the Group One Grand Prix de Paris yesterday from Hurricane Lane my biggest concern about the ante-post bet for the St Leger is whether the colt will go for the race! He looks a truly class act and the Arc must be under serious consideration now obviously. The two races are just about far enough apart, 11th September and 3rd October, especially for a colt that seems to thrive on racing and I have actually taken 8-1 about him for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as well now. 

William Buick said: This horse is a superstar. He really had the perfect race today, unlike at the Curragh. The layout of the racecourse, the ground, the rhythm – everything was perfect for him. He has a good cruising speed and a strong acceleration. Even more so, he is a very relaxed horse in his head. Off the back of that, I think that the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe has to be a serious option for the autumn time.”

Trainer Charlie Appleby added: “He’s obviously been a very exciting horse to deal and he’s only been beaten once in his life and that was in the Derby when I felt inexperience caught us out. Today’s performance has franked him as one of the best three-year-olds in Europe and he’s an exciting horse. As we always do, we’ll allow the dust to settle but you would have to be thinking about him as a serious contender for the Arc. We’ll give him a bit of a break now because he’s run in an English Derby, and Irish Derby and then backed it up two and a half weeks later in a Grand Prix de Paris. He deserves to have a break, but whether he can give himself a break is another thing. He ran in the Grand Prix because he’d come out of the Irish Derby so well. He has a great constitution. He has a great mind and he shows his wellbeing in the morning.”

8th July 2021: 
Charlie Appleby has been speaking about both of his Derby winners today Adayar and Hurricane Lane and were both reported to be in top form. The most notable snippet for me was “Hurricane Lane has come out of the Irish Derby very well. It looked a tough, hard race – and I thought he’d sleep for a few days afterwards, but he’s come out of the race bouncing. We’ll potentially go straight to the St Leger with him.” I have the 11-4 about him winning at Doncaster as he has loved it the further he has gone this season and looks a very strong horse who just keeps going. 

4th June 2021: 
The big Epsom Festival two-day meeting is upon us. My two ante-post punts, Santa Barbara in the Oaks and Hurricane Lane in the Derby are both due to run and both will line-up with with big chances.

Ladies first and all that and I will start with the Oaks.

It's hard to believe that Snowfall was rated 90 when winning the G.3 Musidora Stakes at York, they could have placed her in a handicap, how much would she have had in hand!! She will find it harder to dominate here compared to the soft lead she had that day and Ryan Moore has opted for her stable mate. Zeyaadah ran well in defeat under a penalty in the Cheshire Oaks and could have more to come but stall one has to be seen as a negative whilst Dubai Fountain, who won that race at Chester, is another to consider for the places. I am surprised the favourite has drifted as she has in the betting as I really do think she is a solid bet; as I said on the Dirty Dozen page at the start of the season I think she might become a middle-distance type. Talking recently Aidan O'Brien said of Santa Barbara "Santa Barbara is very well. She's come out of Newmarket like we hoped she would and everything has gone well since with her. We trained her for Newmarket like it was her first run of the season, we had to be careful, but this time we got to train her for a Classic. Obviously she's only had the two runs but she is intelligent and for a filly only having her second run she did very well, we thought." I got it wrong taking the ante-post price, if I was you I would be grabbing the 5-2 that is about on the morning of the race. 

It's the big one on Saturday The Derby. 

Ballysax Stakes and Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial winner Bolshoi Ballet remains jolly but as I mentioned before I am not convinced his form, IE who he has beaten, is that great. I still think Mac Swiney is a likely non-stayer, looked that way to me over 1m2f in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial when fourth behind the favourite and he surely wants it softer. Mohaafeth won at HQ last time in a Listed heat impressively, Dirty Dozen member Secret Protector back in second, but his is a whole different ball game. Fellow Listed winner John Leeper will be ridden by Dettori which I assume is a factor in his price shortening as he has too have improved a chunk to win this though I suppose you could argue he got a lot wrong at HQ last time and still won. Dirty Dozen member One Ruler has place chances but I still feel a mile to a mile-and-a-quarter will be his game.  Talking on the Godolphin website Charlie Appleby said “There is a lot of depth to this year’s’s a fascinating race with several strong contenders...and I am looking to all our three — Hurricane Lane, One Ruler, and Adayar — to improve on what they have already shown on the racecourse this season. Hurricane Lane goes to Epsom unbeaten in three starts and the winner of York’s G2 Dante Stakes, a trial that has long been a reliable pathway to the Derby. He finished off strongly in the Dante, and stepping up to the mile and a half shouldn’t worry him. He lacks racing experience but he has done well since York and one of his great attributes is he is laidback. Sometimes, the occasion can get to horses on Derby Day, but I don’t think it will be any problem to him. I thought he showed character in the Dante. He’s a colt you can put anywhere in a race, so he should adapt to any tactical moves. Hurricane Lane ticks many of the boxes you want to see ticked by a strong Derby contender,” On the draw the trainer added “I feel stall five is a nice draw for Hurricane Lane, who is a strong stayer. It is the same with any draw, it depends on how you jump, but we saw in the Dante that he is very amenable. A good break will hopefully allow William to assess what pace there is and ride the horse how he sees fit – whether he needs to go forward or drop in."

3rd June 2021:
A final field of 12 was declared for Saturday's Derby on Thursday.  Having had six left in on Wednesday Aidan O’Brien and the Baldoyle team will have just the one runner in the Derby now, Bolshoi Ballet. I said after the Dante I thought High Definition would stay in Ireland for the Irish Derby but I am perhaps a little shocked that ‘the lads’ run just one. With High Definition missing the race Frankie Dettori was briefly without a ride but has now been confirmed to ride John Leeper. 

2nd June 2021: 
A field of 14 has been declared for Friday's Cazoo Oaks on Wednesday morning when it was revealed Frankie Dettori would ride second favourite Snowfall for Aidan O'Brien.

1st June 2021: 

Noon Star has been ruled out of the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom because of a blood disorder. A statement issued on behalf of Sir Michael Stoute read: “Noon Star will not now be running in the Cazoo Oaks on Friday, due to a blood disorder.”

Preparations are well underway for the Cazoo Derby Festival at Epsom with Epsom clerk of the course Andrew Cooper confirming he has begun watering the track for this week’s meeting. The ground is described as good, good to firm in places for the two-day meeting which starts on Friday and hosts the Oaks that day and the Derby on Saturday. My Derby ante-post bet Hurricane Lane has drifted slightly in the betting but I am still pretty happy and fancy his chances. As for the Oaks Santa Barbara has also drifted ever so slightly but remains a solid favourite.

24th May 2021: 

I stated in the piece on Santa Barbara for the Dirty Dozen page that I thought she might turn out a middle-distance type, her run when fourth in the 1,000 Guineas really only backed up that feeling for me as she stayed on but looked to lack that bit of zip required for a mile. As mentioned as well on the Dirty Dozen page by Camelot out of Senta’s Dream she is a half-sister to some fairly decent ones including Order Of Australia and in a relatively weak looking renewal it’s not as if she needs to be extraordinary to win this Oaks. As much as for the reason that I can’t really fancy anything to beat her I have taken the 15-8 for her to win come Friday 4th June as she looks the most solid option.  

13th May 2021:

I write just after Hurricane Lane has won the Dante (tipped on here at 13-2) and I have taken the 6-1 about him winning at Epsom. Opinion seems split on the race but I think it was a good trial, the Ballydoyle team clearly wanted it to be a test and made sure it was with Hollie kicking Roman Empire for home five out. It looked to me the winner won well and jockey William Buick appeared more than happy. Buick said: “I was very pleased. This is usually the most important trial and it’s not very often you get a Group 1 winner [Gear Up] in there. It looked like a strong renewal and this race always throws up a live Derby candidate. Hurricane Lane is still learning on the job. We got a nice position early on and I was able to leave him alone and build him up how I wanted to. It rode like a good race and this horse will benefit from going over a mile and a half. He has a lovely attitude and loves nothing more than having a battle. He’s not comparable to Masar [2018 Derby winner] really. Masar was very quick, whereas Hurricane Lane is a different model but will definitely stay the Derby trip.” I mentioned before the chestnut son of Frankel is out of Gale Force who won up to two-miles and full-brother Frankel’s Storm won over a mile-and-a-half so middle distances really should be his game. We know Megallan (second) will got to France and, I think, High Definition will go to the Curragh as I cannot see that one being suited by Epsom, he might have a better chance in the St. Leger at Doncaster the way he runs. I mentioned the other day (see below) Bolshoi Ballet has looked good visually but has been beating basically the same horses in Ireland and for me the Godolphin owned colt has a very live chance of winning the big one. 

10th May 2021: 

Bolshoi Ballet sauté arabesque'd to the head of the Cazoo Derby ante-post market following his victory in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes at Leopardstown over the weekend. It was certainly visually impressive but it should be noted he was really only beating horses he has beaten before in the shape of Taipan, Lough Derg and Fernando Vichi plus Mac Swiney who clearly didn't stay so I am not sure I will be jumping on at 7-4; there are more Derby and Oaks clues to come in the next few days. 

Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes 2021

I took a bit of the 5-1 ante-post about One Ruler a while back and at this time feel as confident as you can in what appears to be a pretty open affair though he has drifted a bit this week in the betting. Reports are he really impressed in a recent workout on the Rowley Mile and all being well I have judged this one right and William Buick has messed up. Following his Craven win Buick has sided with Master Of The Seas, with James Doyle set to partner the selection. Talking on the Godolphin website earlier this week Charlie Appleby said “Kieren Fallon, who has been riding him all winter, took him for a routine gallop at Moulton Paddocks on Saturday, and he was pleased. Kieren won the Guineas five times, so it’s great to have a rider with that experience on the team. We took One Ruler for a gallop at Chelmsford four weeks ago, and he also had a racecourse gallop at the Craven Meeting earlier this month. His prep has gone well, and this is the perfect starting point for his Classic season.” Naval Crown inflicted a shock defeat on Master Of The Seas in Dubai earlier in the year, but appears to be here on pacemaker duties if anything having been beaten in the Listed European Free Handicap last time.  

Aidan O’Brien had entries galore and a fair few hours work must have gone in to working out who goes where judging by an interview he gave on Monday which also suggested team Ballydoyle don’t appear to be too sure which is the best colt. As it turns out he will saddle three for this, Wembley, Battleground and Van Gogh and they all have to be shortlisted with his record in the race. One thing I noted from the interview at the start of the week was his comment “Wembley has form on both (good and soft ground) but would love fast ground” which he looks likely to get. St Mark's Basilica is perhaps the most notable absentee from Ballydoyle I would assume in search of softer ground so France might be an option for that colt now. Mutasaabeq has been supplemented having won both his starts to date, both at Newmarket over seven on the Rowley Mile. The fact connections have taken the chance suggests he should be taken seriously but this is a big step-up in class. Chindit, winner of the Greenham Stakes (tipped on here) is another for the shortlist but might come up just shy at the very top level.  

Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes 2021  

Aidan O’Brien has proved in recent years he can train one to win this race first time out for the season with the likes of Love, Hermosa and Minding winning this on their first start as three-year-olds so the fact he sends Santa Barbara straight here is not as surprising as it may have been a few years back. The filly is though ridiculously short priced and as impressive as she was at the Curragh winning her only start the form of the rest of that field since is pretty average with a couple of handicap wins the best of it. Sacred won the Nell Gwyn but Ryan Moore in the saddle seemed pretty confident seven furlongs was her trip but connections are taking a chance anyway. The same could be said for Alcohol Free, the winner of the Dubai Duty Free, though I feel she might come on for that run and the eight furlongs might just be within her stamina capability. If you watch that race back she showed some guts to win, the front two clear of the rest, whilst still showing a little greenness at times. After that win Balding said “We expect her to improve a whole load as she's backward in her coat and hasn't done a huge amount of work at home. It's really encouraging that she's got it. She stayed the seven furlongs well there and it wasn't easy for her. She was down the wing but showed really good acceleration. She settled well and Oisin Murphy is in no doubt that she'd stay an extra furlong." If she wins it almost certainly won’t be by very far but she should have enough to get her head in front where it matters in what is a weakish looking Classic. I have a bit of the 7-1 about here and fully expect to be doing the Betting Shop lean and shouting ‘hold on’ in the closing stages!!

30th April 2021:

A bad start to the weekend for Joseph O'Brien. The trainer has Tweeted this morning: "Unfortunately due to an unsatisfactory scope Pretty Gorgeous will not be declared for the 1000 Guineas this weekend."

29th April 2021:

St Mark's Basilica was perhaps the most notable absentee from the final field for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday after 15 colts were declared today for the first Classic of the season. My bet One Ruler runs and James Doyle will ride. 

I have plumped for Alcohol Free in the 1,000 Guineas at 7-1. I can't back the jolly at the price based solely on a rumour about a piece of work she has done and I think there is more to come yet from Alcohol Free and she should come on plenty for her win in the Dubai Duty Free. 

19th April 2021:

St Marks Basilica, Wembley, Thunder Moon and Master Of The Seas were all quite tightly matched as two-year-olds, see the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes last season. Master Of The Seas was masterful in the Craven Stakes on his three-year-old debut and gave the form of the National Stakes a big boost in the process. It is no surprise to see these four to the fore in the Classics betting. Jockey William Buick and Trainer Charlie Appleby were clearly both happy with their charge after the run at HQ last week. Jockey William Buick told ITV Racing: “I just wanted to give him some room so he could run home and go through the gears which he did. It threatened to be a very messy race but the two class horses came through. This will have done this horse the world of good. He was relaxed and did everything right. I think he’s a Guineas horse. Only the very good ones manage to quicken down the Dip and when they hit the rising ground they go again and that’s what this fella did. When he ran in Dubai he was a bit of a mess and I’m just glad to get him back on track." Charlie Appleby added post-race “I wasn’t worried when he got beat in Meydan because our eyes were on Europe. Our plan didn't actually work out as we wanted it today. I was hoping La Barrosa was going to break a bit better and get closer to the front to take everybody up the middle. William had to manoeuvre himself out of there and he said the horse is a great mover, very slick. I thought it was a good performance. Master Of The Seas was the class act of the race with his solid two-year-old form."

One Ruler is yet to race against any of the aforementioned colts that head the 2,000 Guineas market with him. As mentioned on the Dirty Dozen page, the colt being a member of that select group this season,  he was tipped on here a couple of times as a two-year-old and he mixed it with some of the best of the juveniles all season. If he is better than Master Of The Seas, and everything Godolphin have done so far suggests he is, he surely has to go close at in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday 1st May. He appears to be versatile ground wise having won his maiden over 7f on good, the G.3 Autumn Stakes at HQ over a mile on soft, and was second in the G.1 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes at Doncaster at the end of the season on heavy. He has also proved already the eight furlongs hold no fears. I have taken a drop of the 5-1 ante-post as I think this son of Dubawi, out of Group winner Fintry, will be the one ruling the roost at HQ in a couple of weeks.

9th February 2021:

There is snow on the ground and temperatures at Triple G Towers are forecast to dip to -6 so naturally my mind has wandered to spring, Newmarket, and the Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas to be precise. A'Shaari is in the Dirty Dozen this season, a chestnut filly trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin and tipped on here on her debut at when she won. She is by Dubawi out of Hibaayeb, a G.1 winning mare over eight and ten furlongs who was trained by Saeed bin Suroor from three onwards. She is a full-sister to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Wuheida, also trained by Appleby and a favourite of mine, and a winner in France for Godolphin Ophelia's Dream so the team know the family! Her win on debut was at HQ over seven furlongs and she won as she pleased with the form working out three of those behind that day in August subsequent winners. I think she is over-priced at 33-1 and have taken a bit ante-post in the hope she will come out and improve passed the likes of Pretty Gorgeous and Shale.