The 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday revolves around Charlie Appleby’s Native Trail, last year’s champion juvenile colt, who will be one of the shortest-priced favorites this century when 15 runners go to post for the first classic of the 2022 season.
Like the same stable’s Pinatubo, who was odds-on for the Guineas two years ago, Native Trail arrives at Newmarket unbeaten and with juvenile Group One victories in the National Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes already in the book. Unlike Pinatubo, who finished third, he has already notched a win as a three-year-old, outclassing five rivals when 1-4 favorite for the Craven Stakes this month.
The question for punters, though, must be whether the Native Trail’s price of around 11-10 is a fair reflection of his chance. Appleby himself seems uncertain whether the favorite or Coroebus, his stable companion, will prove to be the better colt this season, while other live contenders include the unbeaten Luxembourg, last season’s Vertem Futurity winner, and Perfect Power, a dual Group One winner as a juvenile.
Thursday’s draw for stall positions could also make life difficult for William Buick. Stall 15, on the wide outside, is tricky enough, but his main rivals are all drawn from one to four, close to the Royal Patronage, the now likely pace-setter, in six.
It is possible that the race will develop on the opposite side of the track to the favorite, and Perfect Power (3.40)at around 14-1, is a big price to make the most of his draw in stall three.
Those odds reflect the facts Richard Fahey’s colt is unraced beyond seven furlongs, can be a handful in the preliminary and is a son of a five-furlong specialist. There is a middle-distance stamina on the other side of his pedigree, though, and more importantly, he shaped as though he is likely to stay a mile in the Greenham this month.
That trial was run in a strong time and Christophe Soumillon did only what was required to secure the win. Normal improvement will make Perfect Power a live contender, so at a double-figure price, he is an excellent each-way bet against the hot favorite.
Newmarket 1.50 Blackrod starts the season on a fair mark and 10-1 is a decent price for Michael Dods’s colt to extend last year’s progressive form.
Thirsk 2.05 Empirestateofmind improved from race to race last season and looked better than ever when winning in a useful time at Ripon earlier this month.
Newmarket 2.25 The bare form of Fast Medicine’s The six-length win at Nottingham this month was backed up by the clock and a 5lb penalty is unlikely to make much difference.
Goodwood 2.40 Primo Bacio’s form tailed off at the end of last year but she was a regular in Group One company and a return to early-season form would make her hard to beat.
Newmarket 3.00 Areciboproven over track and trip, would have gone close in this last year with a clear run and catches the eye at around 10-1.
Honeysuckle powers away at Punchestown to extend the run
Honeysuckle, the Champion Hurdle winner at Cheltenham for the last two seasons, extended her unbeaten career record to 16 races with a straightforward success in the Punchestown Festival’s Champion Hurdle.
Sent off at 1-5, Rachael Blackmore’s mount did not quicken away from her field off the home turn as she had at Cheltenham last month but still had a useful lead at the final flight. After a careful jump there, Honeysuckle stayed on strongly to the line to beat Echoes In Rain by three lengths.
Darasso was third while Robbie Power, taking the final ride of his career at Teahupoo, dropped away to finish last of the six runners.
“It took a few strides to get her going turning in but I was never that worried to be honest,” Blackmore said. “I know the engine she has. She’s incredibly talented, I’m just so lucky to be on her back. We’re all lucky to be part of what she is, she’s a phenomenally talented mare, she always does what she has to do and that’s an incredible season for any horse. She blows good horses out of the water. ”
Honeysuckle is unchanged at around 7-2 to complete a hat-trick in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next March, when Constitution Hill, the brilliant winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle at this year’s Festival, is expected to provide the main opposition. Nicky Henderson’s gelding is a 2-1 favorite, while Vauban, the Triumph Hurdle winner last month, is a 7-1 chance.