Qipco 2000 Guineas (Group 1)
THE first classic of the season went, as expected, to Godolphin and Charlie Appleby as Coroebus (James Doyle) took advantage of a favourable draw to beat the yard’s putative first-string Native Trail (Will Buick), with Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg (Ryan Moore) third in a race where the finish was dominated by the market principals.
The winner scored by three parts of a length, with a length and a half between second and third.
Coroebus may have been the lesser-fancied of a pair trained by Charlie Appleby in the Godolphin livery, but he was well supported, and the Autumn Stakes winner was sent off a 5/1 shot behind warm favourite Native Trail, with only Luxembourg splitting the pair in terms of the betting, and that proved an accurate assessment of the final result, albeit with the favourite unable to justify that position having come from what would transpire to be a poor draw.
With the pair drawn on opposite sides of the track, they raced wide apart for much of the contest, and while Buick was the first to ask a question, that is in the nature of the idle Native Trail, who typically responded well. Doyle had a smoother trip on Coroebus, who was still on the bridle as he made headway at the bushes, and picked up immediately when his rider asked him to accelerate a furlong out, gaining a length on his stable companion.
Native Trail dug in to narrow that gap, but the instant acceleration of the winner was the deciding factor.
Poorly positioned after stumbling in the first furlong, Luxembourg looked beaten some way out, but he responded to the urgings of Ryan Moore, and finished best of all for a creditable third, while Eydon is another to have run a fine Derby Trial by keeping on stoutly for fourth, a fine effort for the only horse dropping in trip.
In analysing the result, it must be admitted that the front pair are both top-notch milers, but Coroebus – now that he has proven himself in Group 1 company – is just the more brilliant, with his enthusiasm in contrast to Native Trail’s relaxed demeanour. The latter will stay further if required, while Coroebus would likely be champion sprinter if connections wanted to pursue that avenue, which seems unlikely.
The race was not spoiled by the draw, but the principals had to race on opposite wings, and it’s a shame that they were not able to battle side by side given their different styles of racing. Perhaps that would have given Native Trail the impetus to hit top gear sooner, but that’s all supposition now, and the pair will pursue different paths going forward, with no need for them to clash given the wealth of opportunities at a mile.
Luxembourg’s run met with a mixed response, but the Futurity winner has always looked more of a middle-distance horse on looks and action, and it can’t be forgotten how well he did to recover ground after that bad stumble – he appeared to clip heels soon after the start – had put him firmly on the back foot. He lost little in my eyes, and this certainly did nothing to dampen enthusiasm for his Derby prospects.
Asked how he felt about saddling the first two in the Guineas, Appleby said: “I feel like I felt in the lead up to the race all the way, to be honest – both those horses at every step took a step forward.
“Native Trail came here and won the Craven and the same morning Coroebus came for a gallop and William said he felt very exciting, but he couldn’t get off Native Trail with what he’d achieved.
“We’ll split them up now. It’s a nice discussion, but the winner I expect will go to the St James’s Palace and Native Trail will go back to the Curragh where he’s already won before, he’ll go for the Irish Guineas.”
Doyle has had to endure a frustrating time in British classics, having had a few close shaves since beaten half a length by Night Of Thunder when riding Kingman in this race eight years ago, and this breakthrough saw him very emotional. “I was thinking at halfway ‘this is all going pretty well’; I just thought I’d keep very patient – something joined me quite quick, and I just asked him a couple of questions going into the dip and he responded incredibly. If I’d sat a bit longer, he’d have been much more impressive.
“This race has been something that has always annoyed me, looking at replays of Kingman’s Guineas and Barney Roy’s Guineas, and then it goes as simple as it did today.”
THE signs that the draw could play a big part in the 2000 Guineas outcome were there in the previous race when the Charlie Hills-trained Khaadem (Will Buick) made most of the running from the lowest draw to land the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at 7/1.
The former Shadwell-owned gelding has been frustrating since blowing his rivals away in the 2019 Stewards’ Cup but, as on that occasion, he kept all his rivals on his left-hand side and, enjoying a solo on the far side of the track, he slipped his field.
The winner was very much in need of the line in the closing stages, but he had just enough in reserve to hold off the closers, headed by Existent (Stuart Williams/Marco Ghiani), who failed by just a neck to reel in the long-time leader.
Saint Lawrence (Roger Varian/James Doyle) fared best of those drawn high in third, a length behind the winner.
Khaadem looked sure to make a big impact in the top sprints when winning the Stewards’ Cup as a three-year-old, but he’s yet to be placed at the top level and is a horse who needs things to fall right.
He ran well in the Diamond Jubilee and the July Cup on his only starts as a four-year-old, but has been frustrating since, so it remains to be seen whether he can build on this in different conditions.
The one horse to take from the race is probably Twilight Calls, who was carried towards the stands rails in the early stages from the worst of the draw, but made a big move into the dip only for that effort to tell late in the day. He was only fifth but left the impression that he might have won in different circumstances.
Umm Kulthum (Richard Fahey/Christophe Soumillon) was another over the weekend to benefit from being drawn in stall one as she took the Listed Kilvington Fillies’ Stakes.
The odds-on favourite Flotus could finish only fourth despite enjoying the run of the race. Last year’s Cheveley Park Stakes runner-up has plenty to prove.
Michael Dods is a tremendous handler of sprinters, and he will have blacktype on his mind again after Blackrod took the honours in the six-furlong handicap under Connor Beasley.
The winner was scoring off a mark of 95 here, and still appears to be progressing, so ought to land a listed race at least before the summer’s out.