Pinatubo with winning connections after the Dewhurst Stakes
© Photo Healy Racing
Charlie Appleby has full faith in Pinatubo’s ability to stay a mile as the hot favourite faces his date with Classic destiny in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket this afternoon.
Unbeaten in six starts as a two-year-old, including the National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, Pinatubo was awarded the highest juvenile rating since Celtic Swing in 1994, with his mark of 128 putting him 2lb ahead of the mighty Frankel at that stage of his career.
While Pinatubo has proven his capabilities up to seven furlongs, he tackles a mile for the first time at Headquarters — but Appleby is drawing plenty of encouragement from the Shamardal colt’s pedigree.
He said: “We’re looking forward to it, he had a routine canter on Friday morning and looks great.
“His draw (seven of 12) suits us, it gives William (Buick, jockey) options and we know he’s a straightforward horse. William can put him where he likes, he can see where the pace is and will hopefully be able to ride the race that suits him and the horse.
“I don’t see the mile as a problem at all. On the dam’s side, he’s very stoutly bred there. As an individual he’s very laid back, nothing fazes him.
“I felt the most impressive part of his race (in the Dewhurst) was when he hit the rising ground and the way he galloped out.
“We saw the first signs of his acceleration (when winning the Woodcote Stakes) at Epsom, so that gave us the confidence to go to Ascot (for the Chesham Stakes) and we were always hoping that a step up in trip would also see a fair bit of improvement.
“We’ve been delighted with his preparation going into Guineas weekend. We took him to Chelmsford the other day and William went round on him with a couple of lead horses. He sat on him the week before and it was all very pleasing.
“He’s not a horse that will light you up too much in the mornings, but this year he’s shown his professionalism. He goes about his business and he does what’s asked of him. In doing so, he has met every challenge we have set him so far in his preparation.”
The Guineas is being run a month later than originally scheduled due to the coronavirus shutdown, but Appleby is unperturbed by the delay or the lack of a prep run.
He said: “I think we all pretty much knew where the picture was going into March, as it was becoming a bit more challenging around the world in what we were seeing, so I think we realised we were potentially going to be slowing off as we saw there in Dubai — they were behind closed doors on Super Saturday and then the World Cup was unfortunately cancelled.
“I was never pushing as early as sometimes you would need to for a Guineas.
“It’s not worried me in respect to his preparation — it was always in our mind to go straight to the Guineas, so I’m confident he’s fit and ready.
“Because the season is delayed, what we are going to see is thick and fast for the first two or three weeks of racing. We’ll have to see what comes to the table, there’s some three-year-olds there that could have progressed.”
While Frankel obviously went on to excel as a three-year-old and beyond, Celtic Swing was beaten in the Guineas before winning the French Derby.
Appleby added: “The big question mark is always have you gone on from two to three, as an individual we are delighted with the way he has strengthened.
“I would rather have a neat-sized horse like he is and a balanced horse going into the early Classics.”
Buick is also content with his big-race mount and believes there could yet be more to come from Pinatubo.
He said: “I think there’s definitely progression left in the horse.
“From a jockey’s perspective, he’s a very good horse — he’s a joy to ride and he’s got the temperament to go with it. As he showed last year, he’s very adaptable to different situations.
“The sport needs him at this time and what a time for a potential superstar to turn up.”
Appleby has a second string to his bow in Al Suhail, who won one of his four starts last term and was last seen when finishing second in the Autumn Stakes over the Guineas course and distance.
The Moulton Paddocks trainer said: “He’s an exciting horse, he’s a horse that should get a trip on the page (pedigree), stepping up to a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half.
“He’s very much going to be a player in there, but I think we’ll see more improvement when he starts stepping up in trip.
“Al Suhail is always there in the mornings, everyone that sits on him is always very pleased and said he’s a nice horse. He moves well and he’s done everything.
“Two different characters, but two lovely horses to have in the yard.”