It’s not often that a 14/1 shot offers a genuine hope of winning, but that’s exactly what Hydrangea brings to the party for the 1000 Guineas on Sunday.
The second of the flat racing’s ‘classics’ following the 2000 Guineas on Saturday, the 1000 version brings together the best three-year-old fillies from across the UK and Ireland. The prize is a whopping £250,000 and the opportunity to secure a legacy alongside such legends as Minding and Kazzia.
We have a 14-horse field to pick through, although in truth there is only a handful of likely winners here. With good going and warm weather, this could be one of the fastest editions of this race in years; and that will play into the hands of some horses more than others.
The favourite, Rhododendron, is vulnerable. Okay, so he has been trained by Aiden O’Brien and owned by the Smith, Magnier & Tabor yard, so there is plenty of Guineas pedigree to work with, but the key is that she is yet to make her seasonal bow – meaning that Rhododendron has not run a competitive race in more than six months.
How will that manifest itself? Only time will tell, but certainly the best price available of 15/8 holds little appeal.
At 6/1, you can certainly make a stronger case for Daban, who won the prestigious Nell Gwyn Stakes as recently as April.
Two starts, two wins – you can’t say fairer than that about this John Gosden trained filly wo has triumphed at meaty odds of 12/1 and 9/2 so far; suggesting she has no fears of upsetting more established horses.
That Nell Gwyn triumph came against some fancied sorts like Roly Poly and Unforgettable Filly, but the overall feeling is that there are still more questions than answers as far as this fledgling’s career goes. On the big occasion, it is better to opt for a more experienced campaigner.
Irish Eyes Are Smiling
Aiden O’Brien must be feeling pretty good about himself right now. Ahead of this lucrative race he can look upon bookies favourite Rhododendron as a live contender, with an outstanding back-up option in Hydrangea to call upon.
There’s still bits and bobs of 14/1 floating around on this classy operator, and that appears to be an outstanding investment on a horse that has finished within two lengths of Rhododendron in the past year.
That first outing came in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile on the 1000 Guineas host course, the Rowley Mile at Newmarket, where Hydrangea just missed out by two lengths, and then at the subsequent Debutante Stakes just a head separated the pair.
Given that Hydrangea has already enjoyed a runout this season – a steady victory in the 1000 Guineas Trial ahead of another fancied filly, Winter – you could argue that she is better prepared heading into this race than the favourite.
Both horses are from the Aiden O’Brien school, and so – like in Formula 1 – you might expect the Irish trainer to favour Rhododendron over our 14/1 fancy.
But even if that is the case, there is previous of a ‘number two’ getting over on their more favoured stablemate; Minding’s victory in the 2015 Moyglare Stud Stakes over Ballydoyle is one such example, and so for this myriad of reasons we’re more than happy to promote the cause of Hydrangea as the 1000 Guineas for 2017.