Kingman facing Greenham test
Kingman puts his Classic aspirations on the line in the Aon Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.
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The John Gosden-trained colt is third favourite at a top-priced 7-1 for the Qipco 2000 Guineas, as much as for his reputation at home than for his achievements on the track so far.
He has done what has been asked of him with victories in both his starts as a two-year-old - a six-length romp in a Newmarket maiden followed by a cosy success in a four-runner affair for the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown at the end of August.
Injury prevented him from running again last season, but all has gone well in the build-up to his return on the track in what looks a quality renewal of this Group Three over seven furlongs.
"It's nice to get him back. He's wintered very well. He's had a very straight forward preparation and everything has gone according to plan," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah.
"He's pleased in his work and whatever he does tomorrow, I'd hope he'd do a great deal better. I'm sure he'll come on a good deal for it.
"It will definitely give us a pointer as to where we are with him."
Abdullah's retained rider James Doyle has also been happy with the horse's preparation.
"I sat on him last week. I was really pleased with him. He did a nice, routine piece of work. I couldn't be happier with him, he's moving good," the jockey told At The Races.
"I think the prep is needed to get more experience into him. He's lightly-raced. It wasn't a big field at Sandown and I wasn't able to teach him."
Night Of Thunder has been attracting support for the 2000 Guineas, although his bare form in winning both his races in 2013 leaves him with some improvement to find.
He has, however, been pleasing his trainer Richard Hannon, who also has a serious Classic candidate in Toormore, and believes he is a horse not to underestimate.
"Night Of Thunder won well at Goodwood and Doncaster last season and is a horse we have always liked. He has been working well this spring, and we have no doubt that he will stay the longer distance," the Wiltshire handler told www.richardhannonracing.co.uk.
"He has already shown that he handles soft ground, and, while it has dried up, there will still be some ease in it, so underfoot conditions are not a problem."
Astaire took two of the big two-year-old prizes in 2013, the Gimcrack and the Middle Park Stakes.
While accepting this is a tough race, trainer Kevin Ryan feels it is as good a place as any to start the campaign.
"It looks like it will be a hot renewal but we have to start somewhere and we will take our chance," said Ryan.
"He has wintered great and looks the part. He is in good form at home so we will see."
Connections are looking for a guide as to how to campaign Berkshire, who looked a colt full of promise when winning the Chesham Stakes and Royal Lodge Stakes from three starts as a juvenile.
The Paul Cole-trained colt holds entries in the Qipco 2000 Guineas, the Betfred Dante Stakes and Investec Derby.
"Berkshire is fit and has been working well. We think he has improved from last year and we are hoping for a good run. For the first time we have a good draw! Fingers crossed!" the trainer told www.paulcole.co.uk.
Lat Hawill is the least experienced horse in the line-up and is very much an unexposed type after he trotted up by eight lengths on his sole start in a Newcastle maiden in October.
"He's a nice colt. Obviously he was impressive when he won a maiden, but we are talking different class," said trainer Marco Botti.
"It's a very good race, so for a horse with very little experience it's going to be a big ask and we will know where we are.
"These are probably 10 of the best horses at around a mile this year. It's a proper trial.
"For him, I hope the ground is not going to be too tacky because he's a big horse. The last thing we want to do is to start him off on ground that is soft. He would appreciate better ground.
"He's done really well. He's matured and has grown into a nice horse."
Ollie Pears admits No Leaf Clover has plenty on his plate, but has had this race in mind for some time for the colt, whose owner Charles Wentworth won it with Caspar Netscher in 2012.
"We're happy with him and this was always going to be his starting point for the year. This looks a warmer race and a bigger field than it normally is," said the North Yorkshire trainer.
"It will tell us if he's as good at seven as he is at six. It's not necessarily a Guineas trial for us, but it's just a good track to start on and he won't be out of place.
"It should tell us about his trip. There is a six-furlong Listed race I like at Ascot at the end of April (the Pavilion Stakes) - Listed/Group Three might be OK for him."
Golden Town won the Convivial at York, usually one of the best two-year-olds maiden of the season, last August.
The Godolphin-owned colt is reported to have done well over the winter months and connections are keen to give him a chance at this level.
"Golden Town has done well over the winter and looks to have improved as a three-year-old," trainer Saeed bin Suroor told www.godolphin.com.
"He is taking on some tough opposition but we wanted to give him a chance in a Group race to decide where to aim him afterwards."
The Greenham has turned into a much hotter contest than trainer Rod Millman envisaged after he decided to aim Master Carpenter at the race.
"It's a very competitive renewal. He's fit and well so we thought we'd take a chance. When we first thought about it, we didn't think it would be as good a race as this," said the Devon handler.
"Things didn't go right for him after Royal Ascot (when unplaced behind Berkshire in the Chesham), but he does seem to be back to his best at home and we'll find out tomorrow. We'll try our best."
Supplicant landed the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes over six furlongs on this course in September before taking sixth place behind Astaire in the Middle Park at Newmarket.
Like most trainers, Richard Fahey is conscious of the class of opposition in this Classic trial.
"He showed progressive form last year and we're pleased with him, but it's a very warm Greenham," said the Malton handler.
"We have to run as there is nowhere to go and we'll see what happens.
"We're happy with him and on pedigree he has every chance of getting the seven furlongs."