The 2000 Guineas was more open than most renewals, with leading two-year-olds either failing to show up (U S Navy Flag) or with plenty to prove following disappointing trials (Expert Eye, Roaring Lion), alongside impressive winners of those trials (Masar, James Garfield, Gustav Klimt) and promising sorts (Elarqam).
Masar was sent off favourite following his nine-length romp in the Craven but could only finish third, just over one and a half lengths behind winner Saxon Warrior, with Tip Two Win splitting the pair.
Cardsharp was away quickly from his low draw and led a group of three on the far side, but Murillo soon led the main field down the centre, which included stablemate Saxon Warrior who travelled strongly in midfield.
Masar, from stall 14, raced stand side and led a group that included Roaring Lion, before he joined the main field two furlongs out, while Roaring Lion stuck to the rail, eventually finishing fifth.
The timefigure for the 2000 Guineas was 112, the lowest since Dawn Approach (109 timefigure) in 2013, but time is a function of conditions and circumstance. Murillo set a relatively steady pace, a pattern over the two days, which contributed to the modest timefigure, but the race finishing speed (from the three-furlong pole) of 102% was faster than optimum.
A steady early pace can often lead to hard luck stories, but there is no doubt the best horse won the 2000 Guineas. Saxon Warrior’s final three-furlong sectional is worth a 5 lb sectional upgrade in the process, with Tip Two Win, who came from slightly further back, warranting a 6 lb upgrade.
The Guineas overall looks an average renewal, but the winner could be well above average, one who may have benefitted from a stronger gallop which could have turned a smooth victory into a more emphatic one. He should excel over middle distances so it’s no surprise that he is a short-priced favourite for the Derby.
Just as there were no hard luck stories in the Guineas, so it played on for much of the day. A little over an hour later, the Key Victory won the Newmarket Stakes, taking the step up in class in his stride. The early pace was slow, resulting in a timefigure of 81, but the winner’s three-furlong finishing speed of 107.6% - despite not wholly handling the dip - was much faster than par, earning a 26 lb upgrade. He looks a horse to be interested in wherever he goes, with the Prix du Jockey Club mentioned by connections afterwards.
A couple of horses behind Key Victory’s maiden win, Masaarr and Crack On Crack On, also impressed with fast closing sectionals and significant upgrades in their recent runs at Doncaster and Lingfield respectively, though neither are likely to be under the radar.
Mabs Cross won the Palace House stakes, doing well from off the pace to get past Judicial and Alpha Delphini considering the race wasn’t run at a breakneck gallop. Mabs Cross gets a 4 lb upgrade on a 111 timefigure, suggesting she could have a bit more to come, though she’ll need if she takes her chance in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot.
Defoe won the Jockey Club Stakes in impressive fashion, but in a slow time (66 timefigure). Count Octave made the running before James Doyle, aboard the held up Red Verdon, attempted to seize the race by kicking for home early on the stands rail away from the others.
The Charlie Appleby yard won the three handicaps on the card, including the opener with Oasis Charm (103 timefigure) who pulled clear with Sharja Bridge, though both were perhaps advantaged by where they raced. Tribal Quest won the sprint handicap which followed the 2000 Guineas (a race which usually harbours a group horse or two), while Symbolization won the closing handicap, his 113 timefigure comparing well with the Guineas earlier on the card.
The 1000 Guineas was won by 66/1 outsider Billesdon Brook. She was held up early, while eventual runner-up Laurens made the running, with favourite Happily finishing third for Aidan O’Brien.
Laurens ran a great race returning from seven months off given she should be suited by further. She set a stronger pace than Murillo did 24 hours earlier, but the race finishing speed of 101.2% (slightly faster than par) shows she received a great ride by PJ McDonald. As such, Billesdon Brook did well to reel the leader in, getting a 4 lb upgrade on a 114 winning timefigure, and her winning performance is worth plenty of respect.
Given the way the race was run, there were no other noticeable upgrades elsewhere in the field. Happily was well backed, and while she couldn’t quite replicate the form she showed in the Jean-Luc Lagardere or the Moyglare, she should be suited by a step up in trip.
Later on, Lah Ti Dar put forward her Oaks case when winning the Pretty Polly Stakes by 3.25 lengths. She only made her debut a couple of weeks ago in winning a Newbury maiden by six length, but now heads the Oaks market. Her win here produced a 96 timefigure, but the slow early pace ensured a fast finish and a 17 lb upgrade for John Gosden’s filly, who will look to follow Talent and Taghrooda en route to Oaks glory.
Wuheida won the Dahlia Stakes in a timefigure of 97, with a faster than par finishing speed of 104.8%. Despite a sectional upgrade of 12lb, her time is some way below the performance rating of 122.
Though it’s early days, Gifted Master produced a joint season-leading timefigure of 117 in the six-furlong handicap. Gifted Master has just one way of running, having led in 19 of his last 20 starts, but despite travelling strongly and being a couple of lengths clear three furlongs from home, he finished very close to optimum (101.6%). He did well to defy a mark of 109 and should prove competitive back in minor pattern races. Victory Angel, returning from seven months off, finished fast, doing well under the circumstances and coming out marginally the best once taking into account sectional upgrades (5 lb), and looks one to be interested in next time.
The other leading Flat timefigure of the season thus far, incidentally, is by John Gosden’s Without Parole, who unfortunately missed the 2000 Guineas with a bruised foot. His 117 timefigure came at Yarmouth on just his second start.