The Road to the Classics: A positive week for the Aidan O'Brien team

The Epsom Oaks and Derby are just over six weeks away
The Epsom Oaks and Derby are just over six weeks away

The Follow The Money team review last week's important races and highlight the movers and shakers in the Guineas markets while also looking further ahead to the Epsom Derby and Oaks...

"However her victory only served to shore up the ante-post market position of Minding, another O'Brien leading light, who dominated when the two met at Newmarket last year."

The National Hunt trainers' title may still yet to be decided but with the Guineas meeting now only a fortnight away attentions are inevitably turning towards the Flat season, and punters were eagerly on the lookout for Classic clues this week.

Newmarket's Craven meeting was the first real look at what kind of ammunition some of the top yards have at their disposal for the summer ahead, and in the Group 3 feature event there was a big upset as John Gosden's well-regarded Foundation was no match for Stormy Antarctic from the Ed Walker stable.

The odds-on favourite had been trading at 14/1 for the 2000 Guineas but is now unlikely to even line up after the winner settled matters with a devastating burst of pace to go 3½ lengths clear by the line despite atrocious weather conditions during the race.

The taking performance left the impression of plenty more to come and this colt shapes as a lively alternative to Aiden O'Brien's Guineas hotpot Air Force Blue after proving himself so emphatically over course and distance.


John Gosden had reason to be more cheerful earlier in the week when his Nathra ran out a convincing winner of the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes for fillies on Tuesday. Visually she was a little workmanlike under Frankie Dettori but may not have enjoyed the wet conditions and never really looked in trouble at any stage.

However her victory only served to shore up the ante-post market position of Minding, another O'Brien leading light, who dominated when the two met at Newmarket last year. Indeed, Gosden hinted that the French 1000 Guineas might even be the preferred target for Nathra, now suggesting she would have it all to do if taking on Minding for a second time.


Away from Newmarket it was difficult to know what to make of this year's Group 3 Greenham Stakes, usually an informative 2000 Guineas trial, as heavy rain saw Newbury's Saturday card switched to Chelmsford's Polytrack. Tasleet did it the hard way for William Haggas, in front most of the way he had to dig deep under Paul Hanagan to hold off the fast-finishing Knife Edge but neither look up to Guineas class and afterwards connections spoke about dropping the winner down in trip.

On a similar theme neither of the first two home in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes are likely to go for the fillies version in two weeks time, trainer Richard Hannon would need to supplement either Marenko or Light Up Our World and was fairly non-committal about his future plans for the pair. Besharah finished a close third and remains a possible for the 1000 Guineas but does not capture the imagination as an ante-post wager at this stage.


Finally in Ireland Pretty Perfect was sent off the least fancied of Aiden O'Brien's three runners in the Listed Salsabil Stakes but now looks a credible Oaks contender after a resounding success against more highly-touted rivals. There may be some substance to the form too as Ryan Moore rode Best In The World making that one the stable's clear first-string while Queen Blossom won a recent Group 3 at The Curragh yet neither got near Colm O'Donoghue's impressive mount.

Later on the same card Dermot Weld's Aasheq went off favourite for an intriguing 1 mile Maiden on the back off a useful second behind Derby favourite US Army Ranger last time at The Curragh but was soundly beaten by The Gurkha, yet another hot prospect currently residing at the O'Brien yard.

The latter bolted up in the end by nine lengths, the Gailileo colt stepped up markedly on his previous Leopardstown effort and is open to any amount of further improvement thus further strengthening his trainer's already formidable options in the Derby.

Market Moves

2000 Guineas

Stormy Antarctic 140.0139/1 in to 13.012/1
Foundation 15.014/1 out to 140.0139/1

1000 Guineas

Minding 4.03/1 in to 2.77/4
Nathra 46.045/1 in to 18.017/1

The Derby

The Gurkha 150.0149/1 in to 11.010/1

The Oaks

Pretty Perfect 34.033/1 in to 16.015/1

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