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Ratings Update: Newmarket Guineas Festival

The 2000 Guineas on Saturday looked a vintage renewal beforehand, with the top two-year-old of 2016 and a trio of impressive trial winners all featuring in a 10-strong field, the smallest for the race since 1995.

Ratings Update: Newmarket Guineas Festival

The 2000 Guineas on Saturday looked a vintage renewal beforehand, with the top two-year-old of 2016 and a trio of impressive trial winners all featuring in a 10-strong field, the smallest for the race since 1995.

The race failed to live up to the billing in many ways, however, as the relative lack of pace meant that the field finished in something of a heap. Churchill (up 6 lb to 126p), who was better-placed than most in a race where it paid to be handy, can be rated no more than an average Guineas victor as a result, clearly behind Sea The Stars, Dawn Approach and Frankel among those successful in the last decade.

Churchill
Churchill Picture:Pat Healy Photography


Churchill Horseform is entitled to progress further from this, though, and there can be no crabbing his overall profile, having now won his last six starts. He looks sure to be a tough nut to crack wherever he goes next and currently heads the market for the Irish 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St James’ Palace Stakes. Barney Roy (up 4 lb to 125p) did extremely well to take second, seemingly unsuited by the way the race developed and enduring trouble in-running. He remains a top-class prospect and is likely to go next for the St James's Palace Stakes, a comment that also applies to Al Wukair (up 6 lb to 125p). He proved better than ever to snatch third in the closing stages, but was essentially too far back to land a blow and should prove capable of better still.

Rhododendron
Rhododendron Picture:Pat Healy Photography

The field for the 1000 Guineas on Sunday featured a mix of leading two-year-olds and those that had made an impact in the trials, as well as one highly promising maiden winner, and there's every reason to think this year’s renewal was well up to standard. Winter (up 13 lb to 120p) is perhaps a shade behind 2016 victor Minding at this stage, but showed much improved form to run out a dominant winner and remains open to further progress after just five starts. She looks very much the one to beat in the top fillies’ races over a mile this summer and may even stay a bit further if required.

Seventh Heaven
Seventh Heaven Picture:Pat Healy Photography

Rhododendron Horseform (up 1 lb to 119) is likely to have finished close to the winner with a clear run, though it is hard to say she would have beaten her, and the way she finished her race suggests she is ready for a step up in trip. Indeed, she looks a leading Oaks candidate on form and pedigree, and remains one to keep on side at the highest level. Nell Gwyn winner Daban (up 7 lb to 114p) progressed again over this longer trip and was seemingly beaten by lack of ability more than lack of stamina in third, while Talaayeb (111 from 99p) ran a race full of promise for one so inexperienced in fourth. She looks likely to stay further and could yet prove capable of even better if lining up in the Oaks.

The best performance at the Guineas Festival actually came from Marsha Horseform (up 6 lb to 127), who overcame a Group 1 penalty to win the Palace House Stakes on Saturday. Nominally a Group 3, it is a measure of the race's quality that the first two had filled the same places in the Abbaye last autumn and the winner's high-class effort is unlikely to be bettered in too many sprints over the course of the season. She looks the one to beat in the division as things stand. The runner-up, Washington DC (up 1 lb to 122), proved at least as good as ever and seems sure to remain a major player in all the top sprints throughout the season.

Interestingly, it was only that defeat that prevented Aidan O'Brien from winning all five Group races over the two days at Newmarket, with Seventh Heaven Horseform (up 1 lb to 127) and Somehow (up 4 lb to 118) also taking the Jockey Club Stakes and the Dahlia Stakes, respectively. The former proved different class to her rivals in what was by no means a deep race for the grade, but she won with such authority that it augurs well for more demanding tasks ahead, and the Coronation Cup at Epsom next month looks a logical target. Somehow is thriving at present and won't be out of place in the Lockinge given her current rate of progression.

O'Brien's dominance extended to Leopardstown on Sunday, with the trainer saddling the first three home in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. The Epsom picture looks no clearer after it, however, with the relatively unfancied Douglas Macarthur (up 2 lb to 110) battling on in game fashion to see off first Capri (down 2 lb to 111) and then the more patiently ridden Yucatan (up 2 lb to 111). The latter is perhaps the best prospect moving forward and won't be one to dismiss lightly if connections decide to send him to Epsom.

Meanwhile, there was a good midweek card at Ascot last Wednesday, which saw last year's Cesarewitch winner Sweet Selection Horseform (up 7 lb to 114) take the Sagaro Stakes under Silvestre de Sousa. It was a big advantage to be prominent in a race run at a steady pace, but the winner produced a career-best effort to hold off the attentions of Prince of Arran (up 5 lb to 116) and looks set to be a leading player in all the top staying races this season.

The Pavilion Stakes is an early trial for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and Blue Point Horseform (unchanged on 118) looks a leading contender for that race, having made the most of a good opportunity when beating Harry Angel Horseform (118 from 111p) last week. He was a clear pick on form, but there was plenty to like about the style of his success (new course record), and he certainly deserves another chance at the top level. Harry Angel shaped with promise under a penalty on his first start for eight months, not settling fully and doing well to finish as close as he did. He looks sure to be winning races this year too.

Finally, Tabarrak Horseform (up 6 lb to 118) produced a career-best effort when winning the Paradise Stakes later on the card and Richard Hannon's lightly-raced four-year-old has earned a further step up in class, with the possibility of more to come after just seven starts.


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