I think it's fair to say that when discussions as to a suitable bet for next weekend's 1,000 Guineas arose at Timeform HQ this afternoon, more questions were posed than answers. Unlike the colts' equivalent, in which Kingman looks a worthy favourite and by far the most likely winner of the race, those at the head of the market for the first fillies' classic of the season either have little value left in their price or significant questions to answer.
Possibly not the most encouraging way to start our assessment of the race, but Rizeena heads the market and it is her chance that we will assess first. Trainer Clive Brittain has been notably upbeat during her preparation, reportedly dancing a jig on the gallops after her last piece of work. However, there is a nagging suspicion she lacks the requisite sparkle to send the Newmarket crowd into similar light-footed merriment. For all that she displayed admirable consistency as a two-year-old, for the most part in Pattern company, she had a very busy juvenile campaign. It would not be a huge surprise to see her fail to match the level of progression in her classic season, and given the unexposed profiles of some of her competitors, a current price of around 4.216/5 makes very limited appeal.
Next comes long-time ante-post favourite Miss France, who finished last season with an impressive victory in the Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket. She'll have no problem with the trip and the course experience that win gave her can only be a plus, but there are still some major doubts. The runner-up that day was soundly beaten next time out in the Rockfel, and although she shaped better than the result suggested on her reappearance in the Prix Impudence, it was hardly an ideal preparation.
The other French contender Vorda was similarly impressive on her sole British start last season, but she disappointed over a mile at the Breeders' Cup and failed to see out the seven furlongs at Maison-Lafittes last time with any conviction. That coupled with her pedigree and tendency to travel strongly leaves sufficient doubts over her stamina to look elsewhere.
Similar doubts surround Lucky Kristale¸ and although a bare reading of her two-and-a-quarter length defeat of Rizeena in the Duchess of Cambridge stakes would put her in with a chance, Clive Brittain's filly was definitely below par that day. George Margarson's charge has only raced over six furlongs and although she looked to have the physical scope to fill out as a three-year-old, her pedigree suggests she might struggle to see out the Guineas trip.
Having done little but discount runners so far it's probably time to put up a selection, and rather unoriginally it comes from Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle operation. Whilst Tapestry looks to be right in the thick of it with a weight-adjusted Timeform rating of 124p and she remains an exciting prospect, there is slightly more value in the price of probable second-string Bracelet. It's worth noting that Homecoming Queen triumphed two years ago when the lesser-fancied of the Coolmore contingent, and Bracelet's win in the recent 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown is all the more impressive when compared to the relative form of O'Brien's string.
It's no understatement to say Ballydoyle usually starts the Irish turf season as it means to go on, with a relentless stream of winners and consistently impressive strike-rate. Yet whilst many of O'Brien's early-season runners this year were failing to fire, Bracelet's performance at Leopardstown was extremely impressive. She was the only one of the horses held up to get involved in a moderately run race and was value for more than the winning distance, eventually scoring readily by a length.
As you would expect given her connections she has an abundance of class in her pedigree and may well go on to contend the Oaks, but she's sure to come on a huge amount from that run and at odds of around 14.013/1 she remains capable of significant further improvement and looks a good bet to give Aidan O'Brien his third win in the race.
Another who is worth keeping on side, although it might take a slightly larger leap of faith, is Ed Dunlop's Amazing Maria. The fact she hasn't run since August last year is uncomfortable as well as unavoidable, but her trainer issued a very upbeat bulletin at the start of the month and she's reported to have wintered well. If we return to when she was last seen for a moment, her win in the Prestige Stakes at Glorious Goodwood was amongst the most impressive performances put up by a two-year-old filly all season. Not only did the way she travelled suggest a more galloping track would suit, but the timefigure she posted was particularly striking. The manner in which she saw out the seven-furlong trip suggests a mile will be no problem and if she's improved over the winter then at odds of 15.014/1 she has the natural ability to surprise quite a few.
There are several others who merit consideration, the first of which is Ihtimal. She showed a smart level of form during the 2013 turf season, including when third in the Chesham at Royal Ascot, and she's been impressive on her two starts in Meydan. However, the usual questions will linger about her ability to replicate that form back on turf, and current odds do not have quite enough juice in them to merit taking the chance.
My Titania has been the subject of significant market support in the last few weeks and on the basis of her win in the Weld Park Stakes she looks bound to improve. This race looks much more up her street than the Oaks as she's not short of speed and it's quite possible that she improves sufficiently to win, but we would be remiss to back her at odds of 9.89/1 with no top-flight experience, and she is slightly reluctantly left alone.
Hopefully we've gone some way to clarifying what is a competitive and mature ante-post market and arrived at a reasonably astute assessment of next Sunday's race. In Bracelet and Amazing Maria we have two selections who still have some value left in their price and have displayed sufficient ability and attitude to suggest they won't be found wanting in what is always a fiercely contested race. If the speculative tone has not been to your liking, expect a far more assured assessment of the 2,000 Guineas which will be appearing in the next week or so; it seems in racing as in life, matters involving the fairer sex are inherently more complicated!
Back Bracelet @ 14.013/1 and Amazing Maria @ 15.014/1 in the 1,000 Guineas