Ballydoyle go into the first classics of the season with strong hands and Tony Keenan is reluctant to oppose Air Force Blue and Minding...
"Yet all racecourse evidence points to Minding being the better filly. Ballydoyle may have beaten her in the Debutante but that was when Minding needed the run and she reversed the form in style in the Moyglare, winning under a hand ride."
I would like nothing more than to put up a big-priced tip for one of this weekend's Guineas but taking on the Ballydoyle-trained favourites in either of the Newmarket classics would be opposing them for the sake of it.
The case for Air Force Blue winning the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday has been made everywhere by now but just to reiterate his claims: Timeform rate him the best juvenile Aidan O'Brien has trained and he is upwards of seven pounds clear of his opponents on official figures, his trainer has the best record of any modern handler in the race and he is already proven at the track having won last season's Dewhurst.
But the kicker is the early form of his yard. Whereas previous Ballydoyle fancies for this race have come to Newmarket under the shadow of some dodgy early season stable form, this year they could not be in better order with O'Brien three-year-olds winning 17 of 52 starts during the Irish turf flat season thus far for a strikerate of 32.7%.
His opposition appear underwhelming too. Buratino is unlikely to reverse the Phoenix Stakes form and comes from a stable with a poor recent record in the race, Blue De Vega may not even run, Massaat is held on his Dewhurst second while Stormy Antarctic won an unsatisfactory trial and seems to prefer an ease.
Backing Air Force Blue at 1.748/11 won't be everyone's thing but I can't put anyone off though I have to admit Minding makes more appeal for the 1,000 Guineas, not least because I expect her to drift on the day. Every time she has raced against Ballydoyle, money has come for that one and the Morning Line cameras keyed in on Ballydoyle last weekend rather than Minding, meaning she is the one with the buzz behind her.
Yet all racecourse evidence points to Minding being the better filly. Ballydoyle may have beaten her in the Debutante but that was when Minding needed the run and she reversed the form in style in the Moyglare, winning under a hand ride. Minding built on that next time in the Fillies Mile, form that Timeform rated the best from a European juvenile filly in 2015, and while Ballydoyle also won a Group 1 in France, she didn't need to improve to do so.
Lumiere is the leading UK-based contender but her Cheveley Park win has not worked out and the proximity of Alice Springs in fourth suggests Minding has her measure in any case. Furthermore, she is a free-going sort that may not last home though her presence should help ensure a strong gallop that will bring out the best in the favourite.
Back Minding @ 2.77/4 for the 1,000 Guineas