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Dewhurst Preview: Godolphin-Coolmore clash is one to savour

Ben Fearnley looks ahead to the 2015 Dewhurst Stakes, which sees two of the season's best two-year-olds meet in a battle for 2000 Guineas favouritism.

The precedent for the Dewhurst was set very early on. In fact, the first four winners of the race – first run in 1875 – went on to win a classic. 140 years and several tweaks of Newmarket’s racing calendar later, the Dewhurst still remains one of the defining races for two-year-old colts, and is one of the final chances to lay down a marker for the following year’s 2000 Guineas, not to mention one of the most suitable dry-runs.

It has been three years since a subsequent classic winner so much as ran in the Dewhurst, though that was Dawn Approach, five-length winner of the following spring’s Guineas, who completed a simple task in the Dewhurst (returned at an SP of 1/3). Although Dawn Approach was a high-quality winner, the Dewhurst itself has not seen a clash between two potential champion two-year-olds since the unbeaten pair of Frankel and Dream Ahead met in the 2010 renewal, as the graphic below shows.

When we look at pre-race Timeform Ratings, this year’s Dewhurst appeals as one of the strongest of recent years, behind only that meeting of Dream Ahead and Frankel in 2010 and when New Approach took on Raven’s Pass in 2007. Little separates Emotionless (123p) and Air Force Blue (122p) on Timeform Ratings, and at its crudest it boils down to a style-versus-substance clash, not dissimilar to the 2010 renewal, when Frankel, then a mere Group 2 winner (albeit by 10 lengths) came up against dual Group 1 winner Dream Ahead.

Air Force Blue has form which could be termed more substantial- although it would be unfair to say he lacks style. Like Dream Ahead in 2010, he arrives at Newmarket as a two-time Group 1 winner, taking the Phoenix Stakes and latterly the National Stakes at the Curragh last time, where he beat Futurity Stakes winner Herald The Dawn impressively by three lengths. Though the race didn’t have the feel of a vintage renewal overall (Herald The Dawn didn’t beat the rest as might have been expected), Air Force Blue’s performance can’t be seen as anything other than true Group 1-winning standard.

Air Force Blue’s rating of 122p would have won champion two-year-old honours in many years, but he’s only third in 2015, behind Shalaa and Emotionless. The second-named got his 123p rating just the day before Air Force Won the National Stakes, in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster. That was just Emotionless’ second start, but impressions up to then had been wholly positive (impeccably-bred and made an impressive winning debut in August), as were reports ahead of Doncaster. He certainly didn’t disappoint, putting himself firmly into the classic picture with a spectacular display, beating Vintage Stakes runner-up Ibn Malik as he liked by three-and-a-half lengths, barely coming off the bridle.

As with Frankel in 2010, Emotionless comes into the Dewhurst as a Group 2-winning two-year-old on a steep upward curve. The comparison is one to bear in mind, as it reminds us that style can often trump substance with two-year-olds, who are works-in-progress only just starting to take shape by the autumn. Per the ratings, we think Emotionless may just have the edge over the more established Air Force Blue, though the market thinks similarly and that means that there is little in the way of value to be found in the race, at least if we assume there isn’t another top-notch two-year-old lurking in the field. Instead, this year’s Dewhurst is one to look forward to, and savour, for as our graphic shows, it is not every year that we get a couple of two-year-olds of this calibre squaring up in the natural dress rehearsal for the 2000 Guineas.

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1st Eiri Na Casca (Ire) 25/1
2nd Tomcoole Lad (Ire) 14/1
3rd One Fine Morning 14/1
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1st Majestic Myles (Ire) 9/1
2nd Edgar Balthazar 5/1
3rd Mass Rally (Ire) 10/1
13 Ran
NR's: 13