CHARLIE APPLEBY believes Pinatubo can confirm his superstar reputation by landing today’s Qicpo 2000 Guineas at Newmarket – the first Classic of a belated 2020 season.
Unbeaten from six starts last season, the colt even earned a higher rating as a juvenile than the peerless Frankel achieved as a two-year-old in 2010 for the late Sir Henry Cecil.
And while it would be foolhardy to expect Pinatubo to be as good as Cecil’s horse for the ages, an electrifying performance under jockey William Buick would set up a classic year for the whole of racing as competitive action returns – albeit behind closed doors – following the Covid-19 lockdown.
Flat action has been gathering pace since its resumption at Newcastle on Monday, culminating with Appleby and Buick teaming up to win yesterday’s Group One Coronation Cup at Newmarket when the classy Ghaiyyath broke the course record.
He confirmed the wellbeing of the yard, making all to deny last year’s Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck, and champion stayer Stradivarius, ahead of Pinatubo’s date with destiny on the Rowley Mile.
By all accounts, Pinatubo has matured still further over winter – he finished off 2019 by winning the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket – and Appleby is content with the draw.
“Pinatubo’s draw (stall seven) is absolutely ideal,” he said. “He is right in the middle in a 15-runner field, which means William Buick will have options when it comes to deciding where to position the colt in the first couple of furlongs.
“On ratings, he is the best horse, and he is the type you can put where you like in a race, and that is knowledge that helps build confidence. We will study the opposition, as you would before any Classic, but William knows he can ride his own race.
“Pinatubo has been his usual self at home. He continues to do well and I am confident he is ready to win a Classic. He has a wonderful unbeaten record to retain, and I believe he has both the mind and physical attributes to pull it off.”
Pinatubo’s rivals include the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair Arizona and Wichita, who chased him home in the Dewhurst, as well as Kameko who rounded off last year by landing the Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy on the Newcastle all-weather.
Trained by the in-form Andrew Balding, he’s the mount of champion jockey Oisin Murphy. “I’m excited, obviously, and he seems in great shape.
“His work has been good and he’s ready to go,” said the rider who is also an ambassador for the Qipco British Champions Series.
“We’ve been working him at home without making life too hard for him, not pressing loads of buttons, as hopefully he’ll be in action all season long now.
“I believe in him. He’s a genuine Group One horse and a mile at Newmarket is where he starts but who knows where he’ll end up? I’m looking forward to the whole year with him.”
Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan’s Juan Elcano will bid to become the first Yorkshire winner of the opening Classic since Mister Baileys won for Mark Johnston in 2004. Johnston, who has saddled more winners than any other trainer, is represented by the well-fancied Raffle Prize, and the outsider Rose of Kildare, in tomorrow’s 1,000 Guineas for fillies.
The race sees Leyburn trainer Karl Burke run Yes Always in the very capable hands of jockey Ben Curtis who is already emerging as a potential champion jockey contender after a dominant winter on the all weather circuit.
The one to beat is Roger Charlton’s Quadrilateral who will be bidding to provide her jockey Jason Watson, a former champion apprentice, with a first Classic.
Meanwhile, English King shot into the Epsom picture after showing an impressive turn of foot under Tom Marquand to secure a taking victory in the Betsafe Derby Trial Stakes at Lingfield.
Ed Walker’s charge is now as a low as 6-1 joint favourite for the blue riband race which will now take place on July 4.
Berkshire Rocco looked to have made a winning move as he kicked for home with a couple of furlongs to run under the aforementioned Murphy.
However English King was just starting to motor and he swept down the outside with only the minimum of encouragement, stretching away to win by an eased-down two and three-quarter lengths to put down a marker for Epsom.
Marquand said: “He still clearly has signs of immaturity, so to have won that impressively and gone away in the style he did, we are all pretty excited about him.
“He is one to look forward to for the future, not just for Epsom.”
And Cieren Fallon celebrated the first Group-race winner of his career as Oxted continued his progression through the sprinting ranks in the Abernant Stakes at Newmarket.
Having signed off last season with victory in the Portland Handicap at Doncaster under the son of six-times champion jockey Kieren Fallon, the Roger Teal-trained four-year-old made no mistake on his first venture into Pattern company.
The Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot could be next after Fallon made all – and showed the benefits of a winter in the United States.
“Mr (William) Haggas sent me away to America to get my fractions right and I showed the benefit there,” said Fallon junior who will have his first Classic ride tomorrow on King’s Best in the 1,000 Guineas.
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