Ten Sovereigns (right) winning the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket© Photo Healy Racing
Aidan O’Brien admits he is as much in the dark as anyone as to whether the unbeaten Ten Sovereigns has the requisite stamina for the Qipco 2000 Guineas.
It seems an annual event that the Ballydoyle trainer is responsible for the favourite in the first Classic of the season at Newmarket — and this year he provides the first two in the betting, with Magna Grecia strongly fancied too.
However, that dominant position has come about partly by default, as one by one other leading ante-post fancies dropped out.
The headline horse was John Gosden’s Champion juvenile Too Darn Hot, who met with a late setback. His stablemate Calyx, Charlie Appleby’s Group One winner Quorto, Andre Fabre’s Persian King and Marcus Tregoning’s Greenham scorer Mohaather also all miss the race through one reason or another.
That will not matter to O’Brien, though, who is in the business of making stallions — and in the shape of Ten Sovereigns, so impressive over six furlongs in the Middle Park Stakes, he will have a ready-made one if he can land a Classic.
“He’s done very well (over the winter). We were delighted with him last year — and he’s a fine, big colt now,” said O’Brien.
“You can’t be sure about the mile until he goes and does it, but we’ve been happy with him so far.”
Magna Grecia already has a win over a mile to his name at Doncaster in the Futurity Trophy — but Ryan Moore has chosen the speed of his stablemate over the guaranteed stamina, meaning Donnacha O’Brien rides instead.
“We couldn’t have dreamed of him doing any more (as a juvenile),” added O’Brien, who is seeking a record 10th win in the race.
“The Guineas was always a possibility for him — that’s why we went to Newmarket for his second run. He’s very straightforward and seems to get the mile well.”
Saeed Bin Suroor has not won the race since 1999, with Island Sands.
In Royal Marine, another Group One winner, he has a lively candidate — despite defeat on his return in the Craven Stakes.
“Royal Marine is better than what he showed in the Craven Stakes,” said Bin Suroor.
“He was too keen that day, then was stuck in behind horses and couldn’t find any room.
“He has come back from the run very well, did his last piece of work on Monday, and will run equipped with a hood for the first time — which should help him relax.
“I am sure that there will be a strong pace, which will suit him, and any rain that we happen to get over the next couple of days should also be in his favour.”
Fellow Godolphin trainer Appleby advised Sheikh Mohammed to supplement the unbeaten Al Hilalee earlier in the week.
“Al Hilalee took part in a racecourse gallop at Meydan nine days ago, and we were very pleased with him,” said the Newmarket trainer.
“I spoke with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, and we decided that he would not be out of place in the 2000 Guineas.
“He flew into England on Sunday and travelled well. Having benefited from the winter sun, he looks very forward — in fact, he looks in rude health.
“We have always thought of him as a Derby prospect, and the plan has long been to run him at the Guineas Festival. So the decision to supplement was not a difficult one, now that we no longer have Quorto in the race, because the Guineas is one of the best Derby trials.”
Richard Hannon is well represented with two runners, and Urban Icon is possibly the pick.
“Urban Icon came out of the Greenham absolutely fine — and if he gets the fast ground that he needs I can see him running a really big race in the Guineas,” said Hannon.
“King Of Change really impressed us at Nottingham and has always been held in high regard, although running in the Guineas will be a big step up for him.”
Simon Crisford’s Sporting Chance booked his place after a gallop on Wednesday, having won in Dubai when last seen.
“He was very impressive when he won the Meydan Classic, which (Derby winner) Masar got beat in last year — but I don’t think we can compare him to Masar yet,” said Crisford.
“He is a very tough, willing and tenacious type of colt. He is going to have to run better than before to be a contender, but he is in a good spot.”
Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood before running no race on his next outing after being bought by Godolphin — but he showed up well on his comeback at Chelmsford.
Assistant Charlie Johnston said: “We are very pleased with him. A lot went wrong at Chelmsford, because the horses either side of him both gunned forward and took his ground.
“He met trouble up the straight but he only just got beat. It was good to get him back on the front foot after a really disappointing run at Doncaster. We were pretty certain that was not a true reflection of his form and ability, and I think that showed at Chelmsford.
“We would be hopeful of finishing in the first six.”