The Insider: Kingston can claim Classic
The Insider takes a look at Saturday's QIPCO 2000 Guineas and thinks that the chances of Kingston Hill may have been overlooked.
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From a betting perspective, this weekend's QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket revolves around Kingman, currently the 11/10 favourite with Sky Bet and a hugely impressive winner of the Greenham Stakes at Newbury.
If his trainer, John Gosden, wasn't a believer before the race, it's hard to think that he isn't now, such was the imperious nature of the victory. However, Gosden has always been keen to play down the hype surrounding his colt from day one following his six length victory in a Newmarket maiden.
Kingman was made favourite for the Guineas following that victory, a move which the trainer described as 'faintly absurd'. There was nothing absurd about his performance in the Solario Stakes next time out, nor in the Greenham last time and it is understandable that Gosden was keen to avoid inevitable comparisions between his three-year-old and Frankel.
Kingman's juvenile career was truncated after the colt needed surgery to remove a chip from his ankle but he showed no signs of that operation hindering his progress at Newbury and the time he posted there suggests he will be very hard to beat at Newmarket if turning up in the same form. If you want to be blown away by his Greenham success again, simply click here to relieve the magic.
However, the big question punters have to ask themselves is whether they want to take such a short price given there could be another genuine top-class colt in the field in the shape of Australia.
The son of Galileo and Ouija Board has suffered from the usual hyperbole that tends to be thrown at Coolmore's best and trainer Aidan O'Brien went into overdrive after his colt had destroyed impressive maiden winner Free Eagle in a Group Three at Leopardstown in September. You can check out a replay of his Leopardstown demolition by clicking here.
However, we never got to see if Free Eagle could frank the form due to his injury and, whereas Kingman has backed up the hype with a performance to match on the track, Australia is still very much priced-up on reputation alone.
One horse who has been overlooked in the midst of all this is Kingston Hill. His campaign last year suggested that the Derby would be his main target this season but his trainer, Roger Varian, has been bullish all winter about the chances of his colt this season and the Guineas has emerged as a real possibility for the three-year-old over the past couple of months.
His prep work has gone without a hitch and Kingston Hill 'hasn't missed a beat' all winter according to his trainer. His victory in the Group Three Autumn Stakes over the Rowley Mile at Newmarket suggested he could be one to follow this season while his success in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster laid bare his ability for all to see. Click here to watch the Racing Post Trophy again.
As is the case for the majority of winners of the Doncaster race, they are labelled as potential Derby horses immediately after but three of the last five 2000 Guineas winners have been campaigned over a mile as a juvenile and Camelot, winner of this race in 2012, also won the Racing Post Trophy as a two-year-old.
It's not as if his pedigree screams middle distances either. It certainly gives plenty of encouragement that a mile and a half will prove no problem but his sire, Mastercraftsman, won the Irish 2000 Guineas and St James' Palace Stakes and his dam, Audacieuse, was a ten furlong performer in France for Elie Lellouche.
Compare this to Australia's pedigree for example. He is by a Derby winner and out of an Oaks winner so there's every chance for thinking he'd appreciate the step up in trip more than Kingston Hill.
Toormore deserves plenty of respect for what he achieved in his juvenile career but, unless Richard Hannon has left plenty to work on, the form of his victory in the Craven Stakes doesn't look good enough.
I can see why many would think that War Command is the forgotten horse of the race, given he is a Dewhurst and Coventry winner, but the form of those two races doesn't look the strongest and the stable clearly think that Australia is their better hope.
Another that may outrun his odds is Charm Spirit who landed the Group Three Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte recently. This race has become a decent pointer to the Newmarket classic in the past few years with Makfi winning it en route to victory in 2011 while French Fifteen also landed the race before finishing runner-up behind Camelot in 2012.
Freddie Head is no stranger to big-race glory in Britain and if he makes the journey across the Channel to line up on Saturday, then he could prove to be a decent each-way shout.
The bare form of his Maisons-Laffitte success isn't good enough but the French trainers use their trials as just that and it would be inconceivable to believe that there is not more to come from this likeable son of Invincible Spirit (who also sired the current favourite Kingman).
To surmise, Kingman is the most likely winner but he's never really been a backable price and there are just too many unexposed colts in this race to start steaming in at 11/10. Australia is priced up on reputation alone and may just need further to be seen at his best. Toormore may just have found his peers catching up with him and his two length victory over The Grey Gatsby in the Craven didn't exactly set the world alight.
Kingston Hill looks far too big given what he's achieved on the track so far and, with the promise of much more to come, he is given the nod. Charm Spirit could easily spring a surprise as well and don't be surprised if he runs a big race at a big price if he turns up.