Timeform's Ben Fearnley takes a look ahead to Saturday's 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and recommends two bets...
"Territories improved as expected by the step up to a mile when a very ready winner of the Prix De Fontainbleau (the traditional French 2000 Guineas trial) in his preparation for this."
After being spoilt last year with Kingman and Australia in the 2000 Guineas, both excellent prospects that developed into true champions, many people have been quick to declare this year's race a substandard renewal of the first classic of the season. Kingman went off 6/4 favourite last year and was the most recent in a long line of warm favourites for the Guineas, which includes the likes of Dawn Approach (11/8), Camelot (15/8), Frankel (1/2) and St Nicholas Abbey (Evens).
This year, however, no individual horse has been able to stamp an authoritative mark on the Guineas market, and 9/4 favourite Gleneagles seemingly heads the pile by default, with the trials for the race presumed not to have provided a world-beater.
Gleneagles doesn't necessarily possess the same profile as a typical Aidan O'Brien Guineas contender in that he was relatively frequently raced at two, having six starts in total. This should not count against him though, as he was the winner of four of those six starts and was only denied a second Group 1 success in the stewards' room. The step up to a mile will be no issue for Gleneagles and there is no indication that he won't train on, but his current price is simply too short considering what we've already discussed: default favourites rarely offer value.
Behind him in the market sits the supplemented Andre Fabre-trained Territories, who is closely matched with Gleneagles having been promoted to second over him in the aftermath of the Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp. Territories improved as expected by the step up to a mile when a very ready winner of the Prix De Fontainbleau (the traditional French 2000 Guineas trial) in his preparation for this. Trainer André Fabre has won both Guineas before and his charge represents a very interesting alternative to Gleneagles at 7/1.
Newbury's Greenham Stakes has recently been the strongest 2000 Guineas trial and, as we've already stated, we think it's one of the strongest again this year. Muhaarar (earmarked for the French equivalent two weeks later) and Estidhkaar drew a long way clear of top two-year-old Ivawood and with the form looking just as strong as in recent years the runner-up holds an excellent chance in the Guineas, although by now he has probably found his place in the market.
Intilaaq represents the same owner as Estidhkaar and was last seen storming clear of a competitive looking handicap field in some style on Greenham day. That performance was all the more taking given that it was just his second start and it was no surprise to see him supplemented, as he looks a Group horse already. We're all guessing as to just how good Intilaaq could be, though the layers have been conservative in their estimates.
If you're looking for one at a bigger price, may we draw your attention to the fact that the resurgent Frankie Dettori has chosen to ride the twice-raced Moheet over Coventry and Morny winner The Wow Signal. Moheet was a wide-margin winner of a Salisbury maiden on his only start at two and went off a well-backed favourite for the Craven Stakes on his first start this season, where he shaped like the best horse, making late headway after being caught further back than ideal as Kool Kompany made all. His price of 25/1 could well underestimate him.
The absence of the likes of a Frankel or Dawn Approach going in to this year's Guineas may temper excitement slightly, but don't forget that the 2009 renewal - the last year without a short-priced (under 2/1) favourite - was won by Sea The Stars. The 2015 renewal could just surprise, though you get the feeling that a win for either Territories or Moheet wouldn't surprise respective connections one bit. It's recommended that you get both onside.
Back Territories at 7/1 1pt Win
Back Moheet at 25/1 0.5pt Win