England's 2000 Guineas an intriguing 2015 Kentucky Derby appetizer

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

May 1st, 2015

The Kentucky Derby is not the only Thoroughbred classic that will be contested on Saturday. Approximately eight hours before the Run for the Roses, a large field will assemble at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile for the first leg of the English Triple Crown, the 2000 Guineas (G1).

Technological advances and enlightened betting policies have enabled American racing fans to watch and wager on the Guineas for much of this century. It’s a perfect appetizer for our own classic later in the day, and often determines the leading three-year-old miler in Europe or Epsom Derby hopeful. In the last decade alone, the race has been won by the likes of George Washington, Henrythenavigator, Sea the Stars, Frankel, and Camelot.

As a wagering proposition, the 2000 Guineas can be very rewarding. Heavy favorites like Frankel and Camelot have won in recent years, but superstars like Sea the Stars have scored at overlaid odds. Even the brilliant Kingman suffered his only career defeat in the Guineas just last year, to longshot Night of Thunder.

Unsurprisingly, trainer Aidan O’Brien has the horses to beat in Saturday’s renewal. Gleneagles was arguably the best two-year-old in Europe last season, winning the Vincent O’Brien National S. (G1) at The Curragh and later was unlucky to be disqualified from first in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (G1) at Longchamp on Arc day. O’Brien also saddles Ol’ Man River, who won both of his starts over a mile at The Curragh last season, including the Beresford S. (G2). He was produced by Finsceal Beo, herself a winner of the 1000 Guineas (G1) and Irish 1000 Guineas (G1).

Not being one to embrace chalk, I will attempt to beat both Coolmore representatives, and there are several quality candidates to choose from. The Richard Hannon-trained Ivawood could not have been more impressive winning his first three starts last summer, including the July S. (G2) at Newmarket and the Richmond S. (G2) at Goodwood. However, he disappointed at a short price in his comeback, the April 18 Greenham S. (G3) at Newbury, and while jockey Richard Hughes now says the colt might not have been completely fit, it’s hard to take too short a price on a horse who has dropped two in a row.

Hannon also trains Estidhkaar, another who blossomed last summer with back-to-back wins in the Superlative S. (G2) and Champagne S. (G2). He, too, has dropped two straight, finishing fourth in the Dewhurst (G1) and second by a neck in the Greenham in his season debut.

Intilaaq has been aggressively spotted here two weeks after breaking his maiden by eight lengths over a mile at Newbury on the Greenham undercard. The son of Dynaformer could literally be any kind, and he is out of a mare that captured the 2004 edition of the French 1000 Guineas (G1).

French training legend Andre Fabre doesn’t always tackle the 2000 Guineas, although he did win twice in the early 1990s. He’ll be represented here by Territories, a Godolphin-owned colt who was elevated to second in the Lagardere after Gleneagles’ disqualification and opened his account this term with a facile victory in the Prix de Fontainebleau (G3) at Longchamp.

The most intriguing longshot to me is the Freddie Head-trained Ride Like the Wind, who is trading at about 30-1 in overseas markets. Seemingly exposed at two despite a debut win against Territories, his recent outing in the Prix Djebel (G3) at Maisons-Laffitte was an opportunity for him to showcase his come-from-behind abilities.

Often on or close to the pace last season, Head’s decision to have the rider take back on him in the Djebel paid dividends as the colt showed a quick burst of speed that propelled him from the rear of the pack to the lead in a few strides. He had to dig deep to hold on for the win by a head, but it was a vastly improved effort.

I’ve fancied Prix Djebel winners in the Guineas before (i.e. Makfi in 2010), and I’d be remiss if I didn’t use him in my wagering plans on Saturday. If he somehow scores the upset, I’ll be humming an old Christopher Cross tune the rest of the day rather than “My Old Kentucky Home.”

(Newmarket photo courtesy of