Before proceedings at Epsom for the Derby Festival, the Classic focus lies in wait at Newmarket this weekend with the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas taking place, respectively.
The Suffolk showpiece takes place on its usual date on the opening weekend of May following its rescheduled shift last season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Remaining behind-closed-doors this weekend, prize money for the feature contests this weekend are back up to north of £400,000 compared to the quarter-of-a-million prize pool up for grabs eleven months ago.
Aidan O’Brien’s Wembley currently tops the betting for Saturday’s main event, having finished second in the National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes as a two-year-old.
He reversed the form somewhat with Joseph O’Brien’s Thunder Moon on the Rowley Mile, but stable-mate St Mark’s Basilica took the spoils back in October under Frankie Dettori and is also a prominent figure in the market.
Battleground was a super winner of the Chesham at Royal Ascot before landing the Vintage at Glorious Goodwood, and he hardly disgraced himself in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf when finishing second under Ryan Moore, but he’s been very weak in the market ahead of this weekend’s clash.
Of the British contenders, the big news this week was that Godolphin’s retained pilot William Buick has opted for recent Craven successor Master Of The Seas over the fellow Charlie Appleby colt One Ruler.
Clive Hill’s unbeaten Mutasaabeq is also an intriguing contender having won both of his races at this course, while Richard Hannon’s Chindit bounced back to form at Newbury in the Greenham Stakes last time out.
Winning trainer in 2020, Andrew Balding’s hopes of retaining the Guineas crown lie on current 100-1 shot Mystery Smiles.
In the fillies’ Group 1 equivalent on Sunday, the one-raced Santa Barbara has been the source of favouritism for a while despite her relative inexperience, but her handler has won four of the last 5 renewals of the contest.
Fillies’ Mile winner Pretty Gorgeous bids to give Joseph O’Brien a first victory in this race as a trainer, with Andrew Balding’s Alcohol Free the most prominent British figure in the market so far.
Recent Nell Gwyn heroine Sacred shed her bridesmaid tag at the course earlier this month for William Haggas, finishing ahead of Jane Chapple-Hyame’s Saffron Beach whose unbeaten record came to an end in the process.
Statement, who was beaten by the aforementioned Alcohol Free by a short-head last time out, is set to represent Martyn Meade while Ralph Beckett could saddle Group 3-winning outsider Lullaby Moon.
There are a total of 16 races across the Guineas Festival card, with eight races taking place on each day.
Saturday sees the 2,000 Guineas take place with the Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes, before the 1,000 Guineas and Betfair Dahlia Stakes follow on Sunday afternoon.
The fourth and fifth Classics, exclusive to three-year-old’s, then occurs on the 4th and 5th June, respectively, when Epsom Downs hosts the Derby Festival later this year.