A top class and highly international entry of 69 colts, including 15 from Ireland and five from France, has been received for the Group 1 QIPCO 2000 Guineas which takes place at the Rowley Mile Racecourse in Newmarket on Saturday, 5th May.
The £500,000 event, which heralds the start of the 2018 QIPCO British Champions Series, was again in 2017 rated as the world’s best three-year-old mile race.
Irish training maestro Aidan O’Brien has already won Britain’s first Classic on a record eight occasions and he has numerous strong contenders among his 11 representatives, headed by the Champion Two-Year-Old, US Navy Flag, winner of both the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes and the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes on the Rowley Mile last autumn.
Two other leading candidates from O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard are Gustav Klimt, who has not been seen since landing the Group 2 bet365 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket’s Adnams July Course back in July, and the unbeaten Saxon Warrior, winner of the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.
The home contingent is led by another unbeaten colt, Elarqam, an easy two and a quarter length victor of the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes on the Rowley Mile in September. He is trained by Mark Johnston, who trained his dam, Attraction, to lift the 1000 Guineas back in 2004 and has a second string to his bow in the shape of Cardsharp, conqueror of US Navy Flag when landing the Group 2 Arqana July Stakes.
Other top British-trained entries are the runaway Group 2 Vintage Stakes winner, Expert Eye, and the hero of the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, Roaring Lion. The French team is led by Alex Pantall’s Wootton, untested in Pattern Race company but successful in two Deauville outings, each time by at least five lengths.
Mark Johnston, trainer of Cardsharp and Elarqam, said:
“Elarqam appears to have done very, very well over the winter and will have his first piece of fast work over the next couple of days.”
“He is being aimed at the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and everything is on target at the moment for him to go there without another race.”
“The plan is for him to have a racecourse gallop at Redcar or Pontefract on either the 2nd or 3rd of April and if everything goes well we might take him down to Newmarket during the Craven Meeting (17th-19th April) for another racecourse gallop, when Sheikh Hamdan [Al Maktoum, his owner] should be able to watch.”
“As a son of Attraction he holds a special place in my heart and from my point of view he couldn’t have a better pedigree, being by Frankel out of Attraction. He is the spitting image of his mother – he looks like a male version of her.”
“I was over the moon to be sent him as a yearling and thus far things couldn’t have worked out any better.”
“When he won the Tattersalls Stakes, Sheikh Hamdan said straight afterwards that he had done enough for the season, it was his decision. I think that a mile will turn out to be his minimum trip.”
“We have been very marginally held up by the weather, as he was ready for a piece of work at the end of last week, but there is still plenty of time for him.”
“Cardsharp is a bit of a forgotten horse, as he was always thereabouts at right up to Group 1 level and never let us down. We are not 100 percent sure he will stay a mile so we will run him in a trial to find out.”
Rod Street, Chief Executive of British Champions Series, said:
“The QIPCO Guineas Festival will kick start the eighth QIPCO British Champions Series and we’re looking forward to seeing which stars will emerge and shine this year.”
“Each year it has brought us something very special, from Frankel and Black Caviar, to Enable and Cracksman to name a few.”
“We’ve been blessed with world class stories since the start and we’re set for another captivating Series.”