Newmarket Pre Guineas Media Day 2016

Every now and again us scribes get an invite to the home of flat racing (in the UK at least) when Newmarket welcomed a select few to a lunchtime soiree at the famous Jockey Club Rooms in the High Street ahead of the 1000 and 2000 Guineas this weekend, the first two Classics of the British season.

After wandering the ancient halls agog at the never ending collection of paintings of famous horses and racing characters (Sir Mark Prescott is my personal favourite), we were sat down in front of a four-man panel made up of trainers Brian Meehan, Chris Wall, and Hugo Palmer as well as Coolmore representative Kevin Buckley who kindly stepped in at the last minute as a “replacement” for absentee Peter Chapple-Hyam who was otherwise engaged.

Having travelled furthest from his Manton base they let Brian Meehan start the Q and A session where his 1000 Guineas hope Blue Bayou was the focus of most attention. For those new to her form, she was a top class juvenile with wins at Haydock and Newmarket as well as a desperately unlucky third (only beaten a neck at the line) in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket in July. On to her chances this season, and her trainer told us she has been back in training since the 1st of January and has grown and filled out a little, but how could she possibly reverse last September’s Curragh form when she was well beaten by all the O’Brien runners on Minding, Ballydoyle, and Alice Springs. Although not showing too much confidence, Brian seemed unperturbed and told us all that the race in Ireland had turned tactical and was all against his filly – a truly run race on Sunday would be more up her street. More importantly, her preparation has gone well, and she would have missed Newbury because of the heavy ground regardless, while the transfer to the all-weather at Chelmsford was seen as an unnecessary risk and they are quite happy to go to the race without a prep run. She worked yesterday morning (Sunday) on the polytrack gallop at the Richard Hannon yard to give her a change of scenery and an “away day ahead of the big one.  Apparently she is pretty lazy/relaxed at home so they still don’t really know just how good she is, but on decent ground Brian seems to be expecting a big run, though with Plan A winning the 1000 Guineas and heading to the Coronation Stakes, and Plan B including a drop back to seven furlongs for the Jersey Stakes, we have to wonder if even her trainer has fears about her stamina?

Next in the spotlight was Chris Wall who must be getting pretty excited ahead of Sunday when he will be hoping for a big run from Mix And Mingle for which the three-year-old is currently trading at 50/1 but it seems she may not be the no hoper those odds suggest! He described her as the best filly he has had for a long time, and went on to assure us she has improved considerably since her fourth to Nathra in the Nell Gwynn here on the twelfth of April. Unlike Blue Bayou who wasn’t the rains to stay away, the daughter of Exceed And Excel will be happier on a softer surface but it did come over that they are concerned about the extra furlong despite her breeding suggesting she should get it with ease.

Hugo Palmer came next on the scene and was his usual articulate self, reeling off facts and assumptions so fast we had trouble keeping up! His 2000 Guineas entry is Galileo Gold, a 25/1 shot but certainly an each way option. Although he may not have the pace to match the best of these on a quicker surface Good or softer could slow them down enough for him to get a look in, and Frankie Dettori certainly seems pretty keen to ride him. A big rangy sort, he will do nothing but improve all season and may even head to Epson for the Derby where he may yet be better suited by the trip so we will be watching him carefully on Saturday expecting him to the running on strongly at the death. Gifted Master seems the apple of his eye (though we could be wrong), and we got the feeling that he is hoping he goes to the very top of the three-year-old sprinters tree. He has own his last four races including an easy victory at Newmarket on his return and he heads to Ascot on Wednesday this week where it looks like he has Washington DC to beat, after which it could be all systems go for Royal Ascot.  Home Of The Brave is reportedly in fine fettle after his win at Leicester and hardly had a race, though he will be stepped up in class and trip in the Lockinge at Newbury next where they will see if he can get a mile these days, with so few seven furlong contests at the highest level to aim at. Hyperfocus is the two-year-old Hugo unleashed at Leicester, and he sluiced up by five lengths and went in to everybody’s notebooks.  A gorgeous jet black beast, athletic and imposing, the plan with him is a novice race at Lingfield on Derby trial day where he gets in with a three pound winners penalty – and remember, you read it here first. Covert Love is still perhaps his best horse and she is bigger stronger and heavier than last season so will take a lot of beating – but she won’t be seen on soft ground again after two defeats. She may well head to the Tattersalls Gold Cup where she could well come up against Found, and after that it’s a struggle to find any filly races for her so she may well be forced to take on the colts.

Busy scribbling way our last guest was Kevin Buckley representing Coolmore who was interrogated about all things Ballydoyle as you can imagine! Although it is hardly re inventing the wheel, the confidence behind Air Force Blue was tangible – his preparation has been “faultless”, they are pretty confident he will get the mile, and we were reminded that he isn’t actually three until after the 2000 Guineas being born on the second of May, suggesting we can expect a lot more improvement this season. Minding is the stable number one for the 1000 Guineas and is the best of their fillies “from what I am heaving and what she has done”, and Ryan Moore was very impressed with her at Newmarket and will be on her again barring any last minute changes. Johannes Vermeer is out until later in the season following a setback but they clearly think an awful loot of him so the big autumn events may be on his radar, while Derby springer US Army Ranger may head to Chester for experience next and is one to keep on the right side of this season regardless and appears to have always been well liked at Ballydoyle.

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