Karl Burke and Mark Johnston united in their belief over Guineas hopes

KARL BURKE believes his Qipco 1000 Guineas contender Laurens has not been given sufficient credit for her Group One victory last season.

Laurens and PJ McDonald (far side) win the Group One Fillies Mile at Newmarket.
Laurens and PJ McDonald (far side) win the Group One Fillies Mile at Newmarket.

Winner of Doncaster’s May Hill Stakes at the St Leger meeting, she then won the prestigious Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket after a terrific tussle with the Aidan O’Brien-trained September who is set to reoppose.

Laurens, the mount of PJ McDonald, pleased Burke in a racecourse gallop at Newcastle last week and the Leyburn trainer is looking forward to the Classic at Newmarket on May 6.

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“There are no easy Group Ones, no easy Classics,” said Burke, after watching his filly canter on the High Moor gallops in Middleham. “All you can do is get them there as fit and as well and healthy as you can. At this time of year, I think it’s especially hard for fillies. You can’t push them. You’ve just got to let them come and see if they’ve got the ability or they haven’t. And we know this filly has got the ability. It’s just a matter of getting her there on the day.

Mark Johnston's Elarqam is a leading contender for the 2000 Guineas.

“I think she’s got a big chance. Her two-year-old form was very good and if anything I think she has improved on that. She’s a well-balanced filly for one who is so big and who has such a massive stride.

“I think she’s just gone under the radar a little bit. We analysed the times of that Group One. Everyone said September was unlucky and she was slightly impeded but they said she was quickening at the finish and it wasn’t that – Laurens was slowing down and that was just weakness.

“All winter September has been about 10 points shorter in the betting which we can’t really understand, bar the fact that it is trained by Aidan O’Brien.”

Burke and his wife Elaine trained Libertarian who was second in the 2013 Epsom Derby. “It would be fantastic to have a British Classic on the CV,” he added. “The best day I had in racing was when we sent Libertarian to the Derby. The whole event was fantastic. If we could go one better, it’s going to be an amazing day.”

Mark Johnston's Elarqam is a leading contender for the 2000 Guineas.

Meanwhile, the preceding day will see Middleham trainer Mark Johnston bid to land a third domestic Classic when Elarqam lines up in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

Now a trainer for more than 30 years, Johnston said yesterday that no horse had given him as much pleasure as Attraction, the winner of 10 of her 15 races, including the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, its Irish equivalent and three other Group One prizes.

Elarqam comes into the contest with an unblemished record from two runs, most recently when taking the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket last September.

And, having taken the colt for a racecourse gallop at Newmarket last week, the trainer is pleased with the build-up to the first Classic of 2018.

“It wasn’t exactly a hard piece of work, but he needed the experience of a day out and it’s a concern for me going into the 2000 Guineas with only two runs under his belt,” said Johnston, whose other Classic win came courtesy of Mister Baileys in the 2000 Guineas in 1994.

“Elarqam has to improve but I have a lot of faith in his ability. And in a lot of ways it’s more exciting than it was with Attraction as being by Frankel out of Attraction, he’s the best-bred horse I’ve ever trained, the best-bred horse by a country mile that I have ever taken to a Classic.

“The reality is that the Classics are still the most important races in the calendar and the hardest to win. But, on everything I have seen so far, I do have faith in his ability.”