Kevin Blake

Kevin Blake's 2,000 Guineas Verdict: City of Troy can get campaign off to a winning start

Horse racing expert Kevin Blake
Kevin thinks Betfair ambassador Ryan Moore can ride City of Troy to 2,000 Guineas glory

Kevin Blake previews Saturday's 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and explains why he believes Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old will get off to a winning start in what could be a wonderful campaign...

  • Mouthwatering 2,000 Gs gets Flat proper underway

  • Kevin Blake delivers his expert verdict for Betfair

  • Strong field will struggle to stop City of Troy


Ryan Moore Superboost (City Of Troy)

He's been labelled a potential super star, and today City Of Troy is 4/61.67 favourite to win the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket under the hands of Betfair Ambassador Ryan Moore at 3:35pm.

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Back City Of Troy to Win 15:35 Newmarket at the super-boosted price of 1/12.00

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The Flat season takes time to build to full roar after a soft launch in March every year, but the running of the first Classics at Newmarket just after the National Hunt season has finished represents the true passing of the baton from one code to the other in the minds of many.

That baton change comes this weekend at Newmarket and this year's renewal of the Qipco 2000 Guineas is a seriously mouth-watering contest on which to mark the true start of the Flat season.

Saturday's race looks like a true Classic

Really, this year's 2000 Guineas represents everything we hope the race to be every year. In City Of Troy we have an outstanding two-year-old that could potentially be a proper superstar this year. In opposition to him we have another Group 1-winnning two-year-old from another form line in Rosaillon and a bunch of highly-promising less exposed colts that could potentially be the real deal such as Notable Speech, Night Raider, Ghostwriter, Inisherin and Task Force.

With the race having attracted a relatively small field of 11, the chances of an unsatisfactory race with a split in the field or a notable draw bias impacting on it are much reduced. In all, we look set for a mighty renewal of the race.

Compiling pace maps for these races that involve unexposed and evolving horses isn't always the most straightforward task. Mind, in City Of Troy we have a favourite that has shown that he can make his own running as he did in the Dewhurst Stakes or sit prominently as he did in the Superlative Stakes.

The fact that Ballydoyle have opted not to run a pace maker would seem to be an endorsement in their belief in City Of Troy's tactical versatility as well as their belief in his ability. They could have removed one variable by running a horse to make the running for him but have chosen not to.

Moore will watch Haatem and Rosaillon

One assumes Betfair ambassador Ryan Moore will jump positive on City Of Troy and ride the race on feel, letting him flow forward to make it or sit prominently in reaction to what his rivals do.

The next question is whether any of his rivals will want to be the one to take on City Of Troy or look to secure the lead for themselves. Being a high-profile front runner is a vulnerable position to be in, as every other jockey in the race knows they are the one to beat and will usually be aware that they either don't want to give them a freebie or want to be close to them if they are getting it easy in front. They are also more likely to attack such a front runner early when the race starts to heat up.

In terms of the candidates to get forward, the Ed Walker-trained Ten Bob Tony has made much of the running when gaining his two wins thus far. Though, this represents a huge step up in class for him and whether his connections will be game to be as positive with him at this level remains to be seen.

The unexposed pairing of Night Raider and Inisherin both made all to win their latest starts, but again those wins came in novice company and it must be doubtful that they'll be as forward in this much higher class of race.

Without question the most interesting potential pace pusher is the Richard Hannon-trained Haatem. He is by far the most experienced horse in the field and twice came up well short behind City Of Troy last year, but he made an impressive winning return when racing prominently and pressing on early on his way to winning the Craven Stakes at Newmarket last month.

With Richard Hannon also training the second favourite Rosaillon, who likes to be ridden with some patience, it doesn't require much imagination to envisage a situation whereby Haatem is sent forward from stall five to at least keep City Of Troy honest on the front end while Rosaillon finds a slot in behind the leading bunch in that section of the track from stall four.

Moore will very much be aware of this possibility and watching the interactions between the two in the early stages will be fascinating.

City of Troy sets a high bar for rivals

Really, the race revolves around City Of Troy. If he has improved the expected 10lb in line with the weight-for-age scale from last October to this Saturday, his official rating of 125 sets the bar good and high for his rivals.

If he has improved more than that, which is entirely possible given he is by Justify out of a Galileo mare, then his rivals face an extremely difficult task. The ground and track will pose no problems to him and it will be a huge shock if the step up a mile doesn't suit him.

Really, those who wish to throw stones at him only have the possibility of him not training on as well as expected from two to three to aim at. Given Justify's profile of not having raced as a two-year-old and winning the Belmont Stakes over a mile-and-a-half, coupled with all we know about Galileo as a damsire, it is difficult to see such a situation transpiring.

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In the specific case of City Of Troy, we have the evidence of his full-brother Bertinelli who won a maiden as two-year-old and improved over 20lb in his three starts as a three-year-old before being sold to continue his career in Hong Kong.

Physically, City Of Troy isn't as big as Bertinelli was, but he is still medium-sized and well proportioned. Without the fine-tooth comb levels of analysis that come with being a short-priced favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, it is hard to imagine there being any sort of focus on City Of Troy's likelihood to improve from two to three. It would be taken as given.

So, while there are some wonderfully promising colts in this field, it would be a surprise to me if any of them are capable of reaching the level City Of Troy established last year and seems very likely to at least reproduce if not better this year. It promises to be a fantastic race and here's hoping City Of Troy can deliver to set himself up for what could be a most wonderful three-year-old campaign.

City of Troy @ 8/131.61

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Now read Ryan Moore: City of Troy has big 2,000 Guineas chance but I take nothing for granted


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