The 2019 Classics get underway with this weekend’s Newmarket Guineas meeting and with the biggest prizes set to come from now until the autumn, here are a few points worthy of discussion for the months to come.
1 Will Joseph start to catch up his dad?
As a jockey Joseph O’Brien was precocious and in his short career he rode more than his share of big winners. His training career is already looking even more impressive. Currently a dual purpose trainer, as his dad Aidan was for many years, he has an Irish Derby on the board already with Latrobe and with a string of around 200 horses he will not lack runners over the year, although he cannot yet call upon the strength in depth of his dad. He has struck one blow over his dad of course – winning the Melbourne Cup before Aidan.
2 Are Godolphin set for a big year?
Dubai World Cup day was a great one for the home team, with the famous blue silks having several big wins on the day, including the feature race which was won by Thunder Snow. After their initial years of success seemed set to lead to dominance of the sport, they have rather had a fallow few years, but the Meydan magic has hinted that they may be in for a big 2019 in Europe and beyond.
3 Can the golden oldies make their experience tell?
Imagine if Madhoon and Dandhu were to win their respective Guineas races at Newmarket this weekend. The combined ages of their trainers would be a mere 165. Talk about experience. Kevin Prendergast, at 86, is the older of the pair and there would be no more popular winner of the 2000 Guineas, but victory for youngster David Elsworth (79) would be incredible on Sunday, some 30 years after Desert Orchid’s heyday. By contrast John Oxx is a mere baby at 68 but his Skitter Scatter also has a great chance in the 1000 Guineas. And of course the likes of Michael Stoute, John Gosden and Jessica Harrington are all able to draw their pension and still producing top class horses.
4 Where are the flat jockeys to match jump racing’s top women?
The void created by the quickfire retirements at Punchestown last year of Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh have quickly been filled, by Rachael Blackmore in Ireland and Bryony Frost in Britain, with the likes of Lizzie Kelly and others hot on their heels. Flat racing does not have Group Ones regularly contested by women jockeys and Josephine Gordon’s career seems to have plateaued for now. Hollie Doyle and Nicola Currie are seemingly on the up, but whether either will get big-race bookings this year remains to be seen.
5 Who will be the superstar horse of 2019?
Winx is still going strong in Australia but does not seem to be on course for a trip to Europe this summer, while with the exception of Wesley Ward the best of America seem content to stay on their own shores. Still the likes of Cracksman and Enable lit things up last year and there are plenty more ready to follow in those illustrious hoofprints. Let’s hope at least one rises above the rest with some memorable feats.