Steve Hughes provides his suggestions for three races on Saturday’s 2000 Guineas card at Newmarket
Fast ground means the number of runners are slightly down on the norm at Newmarket for the handicaps, but there are plenty of betting opportunities nonetheless.
Newmarket 1.50: Al Muffrih
With the top of the handicap having an exposed look to it, this looks best left to the less experienced horses lower down the weights. Despite the lack of a recent outing, Al Muffrih should fit the bill.
William Haggas’ 4yo has only had the three outings to date, but has already shown plenty of promise. The trainer’s debutantes are very rarely primed at their best so it was no surprise to see him beaten on his only outing as a juvenile at this track. However made an odds-on favourite for his seasonal debut at Newbury last spring, he did not disappoint punters, making all to win a shade cosily.
Undoubtedly he was disappointing on his next start at Sandown, fading into fourth late on. However in hindsight the form of that race has taken on an altogether better look with subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in second. In any case he may have not been right that day as we did not see him again in 2018. Gelded since, there is surely better to come from him off what might prove a lenient mark of 91.
Newmarket 2.20: Sergei Prokofiev
I would not normally promote the chances of 3yo’s this early in the season against their elders, but Sergei Prokofiev has so much natural pace that it looks worth following the colt throughout this campaign over this 5f distance.
Whilst he showed good form over 6f last season (second at Royal Ascot), he was well beaten in two Group 1’s in the summer. However his impressive last to first victory here in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes on fast ground in October marked this horses down as a quality sprinter.
He has also had the benefit of a run this season when winning narrowly but fairly cosily at Navan. Even that day his stamina looked to be ebbing away late on, but he will be sharper today and he has already shown he can handle the undulations of Newmarket. The fast going will be to his benefit and with plenty of early pace expected this can set up for a closer like him.
Newmarket 3.35: Madhmoon & Royal Marine
A fascinating renewal of the 2000 Guineas, lacking a clear favourite, but all the more interesting with plenty of trainers fancying their chances of winning the season’s first classic. I have two against the field.
Madhmoon was beaten in his trial at Leopardstown last month, but will benefit from having that pipeopener. He has a lovely attitude and was only mugged late on that day by Now or Never. It was soft going that day and he might prefer today’s sounder surface. He was certainly impressive on fast ground at the same track in a Group 2 last season, proving his stamina for a mile. He has a wonderful pedigree for this race as a son of impressive 5l 2013 winner Dawn Approach and his dam was a daughter of previous winner Haafhd.
Royal Marine was also beaten in a trial (fourth in the Craven) but things went badly awry that day in a messy contest. He still stayed on strongly at the finish and with today’s race expected to be run at a better tempo he will surely be better suited by the faster gallop. He already had Group 1 winning form having won at Longchamp’s Arc meeting over this mile distance. He can prove a keen racer but a first time hood can have a positive effect.
1pt win – Al Muffrih – 1.50 Newmarket – 7/2 general
1pt win – Sergei Prokofiev – 2.20 Newmarket – 9/4 Betfred, Totesport
1pt each-way – Madhmoon – 3.35 Newmarket – 15/2 general (Paddy Power 1/5 odds 1st 5)
1pt win – Royal Marine – 3.35 Newmarket – 12/1 general