A superb entry of 69 colts, including a whole battalion from Irish maestro Aidan O’Brien and National Defense from France, has been received for the Group 1 QIPCO 2000 Guineas which takes place at the Rowley Mile Racecourse in Newmarket on Saturday, 6th May.
This £500,000 event, which heralds the start of a new QIPCO British Champions Series campaign, was yet again in 2016 rated as the world’s best three-year-old mile race.
O’Brien has already won Britain’s first Classic on a record seven occasions. His 11 representatives are headed by the Champion Two-Year-Old, Churchill, hero of a strong renewal of the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes on the Rowley Mile last October.
Two other leading candidates from O’Brien’s Ballydoyle yard are the unbeaten Caravaggio, who has not been seen since landing the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes back in August, and War Decree, absent since lifting the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in July.
The Group 1 Criterium International and UAE 2000 Guineas winner, Thunder Snow, tops a six-strong contingent from trainer Saeed bin Suroor while the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy winner, Rivet, is another notable entry alongside the Criterium International runner-up, South Seas, who is set to fly the Qatar Racing banner of the sponsors, QIPCO.
National Defense heads a squadron of four French entries. Runaway winner of the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last October, his trainer, Criquette Head-Maarek, has an outstanding Guineas record of four wins from just 12 runners, albeit all of her victories have come in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.
Criquette Head-Maarek, trainer of National Defense, said:
“National Defense has done extremely well over the winter and worked on the grass for the first time [this year] yesterday (Tuesday). The going was terribly soft but that didn’t seem to be an issue for him and he went nicely.
“He looks really good at the moment – he has put on a lot of weight and has a shiny coat – but he does need some sun.
“I plan to run him in the Prix Djebel over the straight seven furlongs at Maisons-Laffitte on 10th April by which time I hope to have him at about 90 per cent, leaving a little to work on. After that we will decide between the QIPCO 2000 Guineas and the Poule d’Essai des Poulains.
“Because of sickness, last year was a disaster for a lot of trainers and my string was hit really hard, so National Defense made my season by winning a Group 1. But he was affected [by the virus] earlier in the year, just like all the others.
“He is a galloper who does not like to be restrained, otherwise he won’t breathe properly, though I would love to see him settle better in behind. I hope Pierre-Charles Boudot will be available to ride him as he knows him very well and has learned that he is not a horse that you can fight.”