history is on the side of Estidhkaar as the colt bids to give Paul Hanagan a first victory in the Qipco 2000 Guineas – the first Classic of the 2015 Flat season.
An impressive winner of Doncaster’s Champagne Stakes last September, the horse heads to Newmarket on the back of an eye-catching reappearance in last month’s Greenham Stakes at Newbury when second to the well-regarded Royal Ascot prospect Muhaarar.
And, like Night Of Thunder who finished second in the Newbury trial before winning the Guineas, Estidhkaar is trained by Richard Hannon junior whose string are just getting into their stride after a steady start of the season.
In a race that will be no walkover for the Aidan O’Brien-trained favourite Gleneagles, both Hanagan and Hannon are intent on matching the personal milestones that they recorded in 2014.
It saw Hanagan, a two-time champion jockey when associated with Malton trainer Richard Fahey, win a first Classic courtesy of Epsom Oaks heroine Taghrooda, while Hannon became champion trainer at the very first attempt after succeeding his father Richard senior at the helm of the family’s all-conquering stables in Wiltshire.
As well as the Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum-owned Estidhkaar, Hannon also runs Ivawood – who was third in the aforementioned Greenham – as well as Kool Kompany and Moheet, who were first and third in the Craven Stakes, Newmarket’s own Guineas trial.
That Hannon is quadruple-handed is indicative of the horse-power at his disposal.
“Estidhkaar will improve for his Newbury run – like all of mine he needed his first run back – and I have been very happy with him since,” he said last night.
“He will also improve a lot for the step up to a mile as he was staying on nicely at the end in the Greenham which was pleasing.
“Ivawood will have come on massively for his Newbury outing, probably more than any of them as he’s a big horse that carries a bit of weight. That trial came a bit soon for him.
“Kool Kompany was overlooked in the Craven Stakes and he continues to be overlooked. He is very dangerous and talented.
“He was a tough two-year-old and if there are any cracks in the armour of the big names, he will find them.
“He’s now 3lb better off with the horses he beat in the Craven and he’s improved an awful lot for that run.
“He doesn’t have to lead. He slightly got away with it in the Craven, but he did it in different ways last year. The undulations at Newmarket caught Moheet out in the Craven, but he has been working brilliantly and he’ll go back there with a good chance.”
With John Quinn’s The Wow Signal a disappointing absentee after suffering a training setback earlier this week, Yorkshire hopes rest with David O’Meara’s rank outsider Hail The Hero. The winter acquisition from Ballydoyle will be ridden by stable jockey Daniel Tudhope, who resumes his weekly column in The Yorkshire Post next Friday.
However, with drying ground at Newmarket likely to rule out the participation of Racing Post Trophy winner Elm Park, Yorkshire form followers will be keeping a keen eye out for the Charlie Hills-trained Dutch Connection, who came to prominence when landing the Acomb Stakes at York’s Ebor festival in a fast and furious finish.
The vibes from the Hills stable have been positive – especially after top jockey William Buick, who was in the saddle at York, confirmed his availability for today.
“I am absolutely delighted with him. It was great to get William back on board, as he has a great relationship with the horse,” said the trainer after a recent racecourse gallop at Newmarket.
“I really think the Guineas will suit him, as they will go hard, while I see him as a mile-and-a-quarter horse in time.”
It could be a momentous weekend for Hills because his legendary father Barry saddles Fadhayyil in tomorrow’s 1000 Guineas for fillies.
Like Estidhkaar, she will be ridden by Hanagan as the Flat season hits top gear following a steady start overshadowed by the Grand National and jump jockey AP McCoy’s retirement.
David O’Meara is planning a three-pronged attack on the feature £25,000 Totepool Thirsk Hunt Cup at this afternoon’s meeting at the North Yorkshire track.
Last year’s first two, Fort Bastion and Ingleby Star, will both be back to challenge again alongside stable companion Two For Two.
Timmy Murphy, victorious in the 2008 Grand National aboard Comply Or Die, is set to resume his career on the Flat. He has been on the injury sidelines since January 2014 with a dislocated shoulder.