Dual Group One winner Churchill has the runs on the board and is the one to beat in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, but rival trainer Richard Hannon has high hopes for his undefeated colt Barney Roy in the first leg of the English Triple Crown.
Race fitness could prove an important factor in the Group One, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Churchill having his first start of the season, while the other nine runners have each had at least one run, which could provide an edge.
Barney Roy was terrific when running down fellow Godolphin-owned three-year-old Dream Castle in one of the key lead-up races last month and his trainer is hopeful he can extend his winning streak to three.
“Barney Roy is one of the most exciting horses we have had here in a very long time, and hopefully he will run a very big race in the Guineas,” Hannon said.
“Since his trip to run in the Greenham (Stakes) at Newbury, we have been delighted with him. He has been taking it pretty easy and just ticking along since his win.
“He did a little piece of work on Tuesday morning and did it very well. He is a pleasure to train – very simple, straightforward and sound.
“The Guineas is a very different race to the Greenham but our horse will know a lot more and will be a little fitter.”
Watch: It's a one-two for Godolphin as Barney Roy hunts down favourite Dream Caste in the JLT Greenham Stakes. pic.twitter.com/LmSTDLVH0N— Newbury Racecourse (@NewburyRacing) April 22, 2017
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor hopes the addition of a hood can turn around the fortunes of Dream Castle, who was run down after leading early.
“He ran free at Newbury. He was far too keen,” bin Suroor said.
“Really, he was lacking experience. It was only his second race. Silvestre de Sousa has since come to ride him at home, with the hood fitted, and it is a case of so far, so good. I would like him to be nice and relaxed in the race.”
The Martyn Meade-trained Eminent was terrific winning the Craven Stakes last start and is trying to follow in the footsteps of his famous father Frankel, while also giving his sire a first Classic win.
“Eminent is a very different looking horse now than he was last year which is just what I wanted,” Meade said. “He’ll also be a better horse going into the Guineas than he was going into the Craven. I really think he can win, although whether he can beat Churchill I don’t know.”
Eminent, an unbeaten son of Frankel trained by Martyn Meade, lands the bet365 Craven Stakes pic.twitter.com/EBPxjOQwju— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) April 20, 2017
French hope Al Wukair comes into the race after a last-to-first victory in the Group Three Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte, with legendary trainer Andre Fabre chasing a third success in the 2,000 Guineas.
“I gave Al Wukair a light two-year-old campaign as some of our horses had a virus, but what he did in the Djebel told me he is ready for this and I’m quite confident he will finish in the first three with my only concern being his lack of experience,” Fabre said.
Early markets have Churchill on top at $2.10, just ahead of Al Wukair ($4.50), Barney Roy ($5) and Eminent ($6).
The 2000 Guineas is one of six races the Jockey Club is simulcasting from Newmarket on Saturday night, starting from 8.50pm.