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18 Apr 2019

Have we seen the 2,000 Guineas winner in the Craven?

The 4th of May will be quite an exciting day for horse enthusiasts. While in the USA the Kentucky Derby takes the spotlight, on the same day, in the UK, the traditional 2,000 Guineas race will take place in Newmarket. After the Craven stake last weekend, that crowned Skardu as the winner, will we see back to back wins for the thoroughbred? 

Both Masar and Roaring Lion emerged from the 2018 Craven Stakes to win Group 1 races later in the season, but neither colt was able to win the 2,000 Guineas just a few weeks later when Saxon Warrior claimed that prize for Aidan O’Brien. 

Haafhd was the last horse to complete the Craven-Guineas double back in 2004 while four horses accomplished that same achievement between 1985 and 1990 including the great Dancing Brave. Following the 2019 Craven Renewal, can any of those participants be considered capable of winning the second classic of the flat season? 

The Winner – Skardu 

After winning a Newmarket maiden by two lengths back in late September, Skardu was making just his second racecourse appearance when featuring in the Craven. Trained by William Haggas, the colt settled at the back in a slowly-run first half of the race before quickening well to lead in the final furlong and maybe idling towards the finishing line.

Skardu will probably progress from this race and has already become a Newmarket specialist. Although there may be a more generous pace in the 2,000 Guineas, the Craven winner has proven acceleration and he could be a major force in the classic. 

The Beaten Horses 

Royal Marine began the Craven as clear favourite having won a Group 1 contest at the ‘Arc’ meeting at Longchamp. However, the Godolphin colt disappointed at Meydan during January, and couldn’t settle at Newmarket before staying on to finish fourth. It may just be that he needs to relax more in races before justifying his decent reputation, and his form could improve as the season progresses. 

The Roger Charlton trained Momkin finished second and was not considered a serious threat based on a second finish in a three-horse race at Ffos Las in his final appearance last season. He may have improved considerably for that effort but seemed well-held by Skardu at the finish of the Craven. 

Both Set Piece and Zakouski who finished third and fifth respectively had raced only on all-weather surfaces prior to this contest and in the case of the latter, there were favourable reports based on his home gallops and winter progression. Do not be surprised then to see them clinch a Guineas victory. 

What of the other 2,000 Guineas contenders 

There is much speculation regarding the welfare of ante-post favourite Too Darn Hot after missing his intended prep race in the Greenham at Newbury due to a slight injury setback. Trainer John Gosden has indicated that a decision is likely after the Easter weekend, but he appeared in a confident mood when making that statement. His unbeaten colt will be difficult to beat if declared fit and reproducing last season’s form and he is the one leading the horse betting odds

Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien is likely to saddle both Ten Sovereigns and Magna Grecia without a prep race, with the former colt winning all three starts last season including the Middle Park Stakes. Racing over 6f on each occasion, there may be some stamina doubts regarding Ten Sovereigns as his sire No Nay Never was an American sprinter who won the Norfolk stakes in 2013. His dam was a moderate French middle-distance filly. 

Meanwhile, there is Galileo blood inside Magna Grecia, and he won last season’s Futurity Stakes at Doncaster after losing for the only time when beaten by Persian King at Newmarket. That race may have been a decent contest as the French-trained horse was a fairly easy five lengths winner in his recent seasonal appearance at Longchamp. If Andre Fabre targets the English classic, Persian King could be a threat. 

The Other Trial Winners Another contender could be Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas trial winner Never No More, also sired by No Nay Never. Racing over 5f or just over in his three races as a juvenile, the Aidan O’Brien colt has won both starts this season over seven furlongs with Guineas trial runner-up Madhmoon beaten for the first time in three contests. However, the French equivalent is the more likely option for Never No More. 

As for Greenham winner Mohaather, he has won his last three races in manner which suggests that he could be involved at the finish of the Guineas, and he appeals as an each-way contender.

Author: John Welsh