Aidan O'Brien has trained the winner of the 2,000 Guineas five times in the last nine years and he is the overall leading trainer with 10 wins in total. The Irish champion trainer has the three-shortest priced horses in the betting for this year's race who are a combined price of about 6/4 to win the first Classic of the season on Saturday, May 1.
The 2,000 Guineas is run over the straight one mile Rowley Mile course at Newmarket and predominantly the colt's Classic but fillies are eligible. It is a strange element of the Classics that colts cannot run in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, but fillies can run in the 2,000 Guineas and Derby. However, the vast majority of 2,000 Guineas runners are colts but geldings do not qualify.
The highest rated two-year-old colt is usually the favourite for the race, but that is not the case this year. Battleground was fifth on his debut in June and then won impressively at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. The horse is bred to be a Classic winner as he is the first foal of Found, who won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and the sire is War Front.
The two-year-old campaign was delayed by two months last season. Battleground ran his races relatively early in the season and did not contest the major juvenile contests in the autumn. The horses he beat were ultimately not the best of the generation.
Champion Two-Year-OldBattleground's wins were visually impressive but the handicapper did not declare the horse the Champion Two-Year-Old of Europe in 2020. That honour went to St Mark's Basilica who is the second favourite behind Battleground to prevail at Newmarket at the start of May.
It's intriguing to consider how the leading contenders for the first two Classics of the season mature physically and mentally from aged two to three. St Mark's Basilica won the 2020 Dewhurst Stakes which is the most prestigious race for juveniles and he is currently 8/1 to win the 2,000 Guineas.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board handicapper Mark Bird believes St Mark's Basilica can confirm his status as Europe's best juvenile last season in the 2,000 Guineas. When the ratings were confirmed he said:
"At this stage of his career, he rates higher than his half-brother Magna Grecia who won the 2000 Guineas as a three-year-old and he appears to hold every chance of emulating his sibling in winning that event in 2021, with normal progression as a three-year-old."
The Dewhurst StakesWembley finished second behind St Mark's Basilica in the Dewhurst Stakes and is just one point bigger than the winner in the latest betting. The margin at the line was three-quarters of a length, but inside the final furlong the result was not in doubt. There were no hard luck stories further down the field, but Albasheer was slowly away and could be better than the bare result implies.
The Dewhurst is run over seven furlongs so another factor in the 2,000 Guineas is how the race develops over the extra furlong. St Mark's Basilica and Wembley ran off a straight line which suggests they were reaching the limits of their stamina. It could be that they are not suited to one mile and could embark on a sprinting career.
High Definition is fifth in the betting which means the O'Brien's totally dominate the top of the 2,000 Guineas market. The horse is trained by O'Brien Senior but the winner of two starts in two races as a juvenile is the favourite for the Derby so the Guineas trip could be too short.
One Ruler was second in the Group 1 juvenile race at Doncaster in October. That form is probably more significant than Battleground's wins in the summer. It's also worth noting that the race distance is one mile so One Ruler should get the trip in the 2,000 Guineas. Battleground's two wins were in races over seven furlongs.
2,000 Guineas TipThunder Moon finished two-and-a-half lengths behind St Mark's Basilica in the Dewhurst. The horse was held up and had too much to do in the final furlong. A more prominent run in the 2,000 Guineas could be fruitful. The horse is trained by Joseph O'Brien who could prevent his dad, Aidan, adding to his tally of winners in the 2,000 Guineas.
Indigo Girl Has Form To Upset O'Brien 1,000 Guineas FavouriteThe betting looks quite open but the picture for the fillies' first Classic of the season, the 1,000 Guineas, is clearer. Santa Barbara is the 5/2 favourite and that's a relatively short price for a race that brings together inexperienced horses who are still immature.
Santa Barbara is yet another Aidan O'Brien juvenile who has had just one career start. The filly won a maiden at Leopardstown in September over one mile on good ground. The margin of victory over Kailash in second place was two-and-a-half lengths, but Santa Barbara achieved the win with ease.
Inexperienced Santa BarbaraThe handicapper was not able to assess Santa Barbara because one run is not enough to form an opinion and represent the impression in the form of an Official Rating. Love won the 1,000 Guineas last season, trained by O'Brien of course, and ran seven times in her two-year-old season. Santa Barbara still has much to prove at Group level having only run in a maiden.
Pretty Gorgeous is second in the betting for the 1,000 Guineas, but the equally-rated Shale is more than twice the ante post price. It's another race dominated by the O'Briens because Pretty Gorgeous is trained by Joseph and Shale is under the care of his brother, Donnacha.