Saturday sees the flat season’s first classic contested as 13 three-year old colts go to post for the Qipco 2000 Guineas at 15:45. It headlines a stellar seven-race card at Newmarket which also features last year’s St Leger winner Simple Verse and Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes (15:05).
Sprinting veteran Sole Power will bid to make it a hat-trick of wins in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes over five-furlongs. Eddie Lynham’s stable-star won the contest in 2013 and 2014 but will need to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing run in Meydan last month.
Here are two selections on what is set to be a mouth-watering day of racing.
Newmarket 14:00 – championsofracing.co.uk Suffolk Stakes (Class 2 Handicap)
An intriguing 16-runner handicap over nine-furlongs kicks off Newmarket’s card, and a pair of Sir Michael Stoute inmates head the betting. Mutamakkin is the market leader at 11/4 with SkyBet following a pleasing reappearance at the track a fortnight ago to finish third behind Accession.
The four-year old filly Intimation is next in the betting at 9/2 and she could be well-handicapped off of a rating of 90 as she boasts some lucrative entries later in the season. The daughter of Dubawi may be a group-level contender and should be winning a race of this nature if she is.
However, it is Marco Botti’s quirky gelding EMERALD that catches the eye at 12/1. The four-year old ran well to finish eighth in the Lincoln earlier this season, a performance that was backed up next time at Chelmsford.
On that evidence, a mark of 88 looks workable and he should relish this return to turf amongst a competitive field. A strong pace is important for this hold-up performer who also boasts solid form on the ground and at the course. At 12/1, he is worth supporting each-way.
Newmarket 15:45 – Qipco 2000 Guineas (Group 1)
Red-hot antepost favourite Air Force Blue has been all of the rage for this season’s opening classic following a glittering first campaign that saw the son of War Front finish as Europe’s leading two-year old.
In terms of official ratings, Aidan O’Brien’s colt is eight-pounds clear of his nearest rival and offers the stand-out form of all contenders. His victory in last year’s Dewhurst showcased his superb speed and lethal turn of foot. It was a performance that symbolised this move up to a mile, from seven-furlongs, is well within his grasp, along with his ability to race on a variety of ground conditions.
Quite frankly, he should take the world of beating before moving on throughout a lucrative three-year old campaign. In that case, the betting is far more competitive in the ‘Without Favourite’ market.
The standout in the betting without is last season’s Racing Post Trophy victor MARCEL at 4/1 with Paddy Power. Trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, Marcel produced a fantastic performance to win the two-year old Group 1 over a mile at Doncaster. At 33/1, it may have been a upset though on later inspection it was a fully deserved success.
Many have argued that favourite Foundation was unfortunate in that race but the manner in which Marcel crossed the finishing line was that of a cosy winner. He travelled and quickened very well in the contest and should relish any juice that Newmarket may have in their ground on Saturday afternoon.
Early reports in spring suggested connections were pleased with how Marcel had developed over the winter, and Chapple-Hyam is expecting a bold showing in the season’s first classic. He has been well-supported in the build-up to the race as punters realise he arrives as very much under the radar.
However, I believe there is still juice in the 4/1 in the without Air Force Blue market as he could prove to be one of the most improved colts throughout the three-year old campaign.
Newmarket 14:00 – Emerald 12/1 E/W
Newmarket 15:45 – Marcel 4/1 (w/o favourite)