We profile QIPCO 2000 Guineas contender Arizona and get the view of commentator and columnist Simon Holt on his Classic prospects.
- Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
- Owner: Mrs John Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith
- Jockey: Ryan Moore
- Sky Bet 2000 Guineas odds: 6/1
Latest news: O'Brien five in Guineas frame
The progeny of No Nay Never have made quite the impression already but in Arizona, the son of Scat Daddy has his strongest chance yet of becoming a Classic-winning sire.
Last year's July Cup hero Ten Sovereigns is the biggest success story of No Nay Never's stud career to date but despite just proving sharp enough to win the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer, Arizona has always looked every inch a miler.
No Nay Never was all speed himself, winning the five-furlong Norfolk Stakes as a juvenile, but Arizona's dam, Lady Ederle, is out of brilliant US middle-distance horse English Channel who was at her best over a mile and a half.
It's that same blend of speed and stamina that Coolmore have used to such good effect with Galileo over the years and it's a method that looks set to see Arizona come into his own over a mile as a three-year-old.
Arizona certainly got the trip well when fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last autumn when looking far from the finished article. He should be much closer to that now as all roads lead to Newmarket.
To label Arizona's two-year-old campaign a mixed bag would probably be unfair, but there is no doubting there was a disparity between his best and worst last season.
At his best, he was good enough to push the unbeaten and current 2000 Guineas favourite Pinatubo further than he had been pushed before when finishing a fine, two-length second in the Dewhurst Stakes in October with stablemate and Group Three winner Wichita back in third.
At his best, he was also classy and gutsy enough to overcome some more streetwise rivals when winning the six-furlong Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot in June under a brilliant ride from Ryan Moore.
Arizona looked a work in progress that day, and clearly not a sprinter, but he was still too strong for subsequent Gimcrack and Champagne Stakes hero Threat, while July Stakes victor Royal Lytham and Richmond Stakes scorer Golden Horde were further back in the field.
At his worst, Arizona was readily put in his place by Earthlight and Raffle Prize in the Prix Morny whilst also sandwiching his Royal Ascot victory and Dewhurst runner-up finish was a sobering defeat in the National Stakes where home advantage counted for nothing as Pinatubo beat him nearly 10 lengths. In the end, Arizona had to settle for third as his Classic credentials appeared all but over.
Then came his resurgence in the Dewhurst before yet another setback when a well-beaten favourite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf as a wide draw and his lack of track-craft and cruising speed found him out on the tight turns and rattling quick ground of Santa Anita.
The second and fourth home at Santa Anita have won races since to suggest the form is at least up to scratch, but that level is still a long way from what will be required in a renewal of the 2000 Guineas that is already bubbling up to be a particularly good one.
The Ballydoyle dogs have certainly been barking this spring and, as such, Arizona is now only 6/1 to hand Aidan O'Brien an 11th victory in the Newmarket Classic, one where he is sure to meet old foe Pinatubo once again.
Only his very best - and more - will suffice.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien following Dewhurst Stakes - October 12, 2019: "They all ran well, I thought. Arizona and Wichita are both big horses, but they wouldn't have liked that ground - they are real good ground horses. We will see about the Guineas as it is a long way away. We were very happy with their runs, but the ground was a worry."
Trainer Aidan O'Brien after Breeders' Cup run - November 1, 2019: "He was a little bit slow [from the stalls] and Ryan had to accept it, but he came home very well in the straight. A good draw is a big help here, none of mine today got lucky with that. Arizona is definitely a Guineas horse for next year and he finished his race well. Half the trouble is that we teach our horses to settle and relax, but we are playing away here and they do just the opposite. But we'll take it as it comes."
Trainer Aidan O'Brien assessing Royal Ascot success - June 18, 2019: "He made great progress from his first to his second run, and progressed again. He was very green today and laboured through the race, but Ryan gave him a great ride and he's a lovely horse going forward. We always thought this horse would have no problem getting seven [furlongs] and when they do that, normally they'll have no problem getting a mile next year."
Simon Holt - View from the commentary box
Aidan O’Brien was probably missing a star two-year-old colt last season and Arizona, who won the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and chased home Pinatubo in the Dewhurst, proved the best of them for all the talk surrounding the likes of Mogul and Armory.
Having been beaten over nine lengths by Pinatubo in the National Stakes at The Curragh in September, a change of tactics on softer ground resulted in him closing the gap on the Guineas favourite at Newmarket where he made the running and gave his odds-on rival a scare before being out-stayed in the final half furlong.
It is hard to believe that Pinatubo was quite the same horse that day as in Ireland, but Arizona was beaten only two lengths and, on the strength of his brave run, is second favourite for the Classic at around 7/1.
Overall, the son of the speedy No Nay Never (whose full sister Nay Lady Nay won twice over a mile in the States), boasted a high level of form albeit that he failed to win again after Ascot where he beat Threat, subsequently successful in the Gimcrack and Champagne Stakes, with the Richmond Stakes winner and Middle Park runner-up Golden Horde a close fifth.
Arizona couldn’t confirm the placings with Golden Horde when the pair were third and fourth behind the Middle Park winner Earthlight in the Prix Morny on heavy ground at Deauville in August but then appeared to bounce back to his Coventry level in the Dewhurst.
The colt made one final appearance last season in an average-looking renewal of the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf round a turning mile at Santa Anita and, while starting 2/1 favourite, he made the best of a slow start and a poor passage.
In the final throes, Arizona was bearing down on the leaders in fifth place having been forced wide off the home turn, and would possibly have won in a few more strides.
I would tend to ignore that defeat but, equally, it is hard to say why he should turn the tables on Pinatubo.
The success or failure of any high quality three-year-old this season may well hang on how well last year’s champion juvenile has trained on, and nobody will know for sure until he runs in the Guineas.
Arizona has been the subject of some positive reports recently from Ballydoyle, though O’Brien is never one to under-sell a Classic (and a stallion) prospect. He is a really likeable, good-looking colt who appeared to be a size bigger than Pinatubo in their battle at Newmarket. He is also a good mover which suggests that, like the winner that day, the soft ground might not have been ideal, and maybe the front-running tactics set things up for his gutsy rival.
More patient tactics could be more beneficial especially as, on pedigree, a mile may be his limit.
A big positive, of course, is O’Brien’s record in the 2000 Guineas which he has won ten times including four of the last five runnings with Gleneagles, Churchill, Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia.
And, while Arizona appears someway short of Ballydoyle’s best representatives, he does look open to the sort of improvement typical of the yard’s three-year-olds.
If Pinatubo blows out, then his chance is obvious but I do wonder if he will see out the Rowley Mile as well as some of the other contenders, notably the Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Kameko.
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