Trainer Andrew Balding confident Kameko can shine in the 2,000 Guineas

Kameko is a leading contender for the Qipco 2000 Guineas after winning the Verterm Futurity Trophy at Newcaslte under Oisin Murphy.Kameko is a leading contender for the Qipco 2000 Guineas after winning the Verterm Futurity Trophy at Newcaslte under Oisin Murphy.
Kameko is a leading contender for the Qipco 2000 Guineas after winning the Verterm Futurity Trophy at Newcaslte under Oisin Murphy. | User (UGC)
ANDREW Balding “couldn’t be happier” with Kameko as he prepares his Group One winner for the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

ANDREW Balding “couldn’t be happier” with Kameko as he prepares his Group One winner for the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

The Newmarket Classic is due to take centre stage in the planned resumption of racing next week.

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And Balding hopes Kameko – winner of the rearranged Group One Vertem Futurity Trophy at Newcastle last November – can be one of those posing a danger to Charlie Appleby’s red-hot favourite Pinatubo.

Trainer Andrew Balding is bullish about the Guineas prospects of Kameko.Trainer Andrew Balding is bullish about the Guineas prospects of Kameko.
Trainer Andrew Balding is bullish about the Guineas prospects of Kameko. | PA Wire

Kameko also made history because the Futurity was the first Group One in Britain to be staged on the all-weather after Doncaster – its traditional venue – had to abandon a succession of meetings due to flooding.

“I’m really pleased with him. Obviously he had a quiet period through the winter months and we got him back into faster work around Cheltenham time when lockdown happened,” said Balding last night.

“At the time we were still hoping the Guineas might be on the original date, so we had a period where we were cranking up the intensity of the work and then obviously when we realised that wasn’t the case, he was let down a little bit.”

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With no prep races before the Guineas, the trainer took Kameko, owned by Qatar Racing, last week for a racecourse gallop under champion jockey Oisin Murphy, who began his career with the Balding yard.

Trainer William Haggas.Trainer William Haggas.
Trainer William Haggas. | PA Wire

“Oisin couldn’t have been happier with the way he went. He looks magnificent,” said Balding, ahead of a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

“He was always a big-framed horse, he’s not the flashiest of horses in his routine exercise, but he’s always been the type that when you ask him a little bit more, he has improved for it. Kitten’s Joy seemed to thrive on racing – every time he had a run he got better and better and I think this horse is very similar.

“With the racecourse gallop he had the other day, I think we have got him about as ready as we can for this first start of the season. But only time will tell – when the adrenaline is pumping on raceday horses behave differently.

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“It’s the same for everyone, if you were the only person who couldn’t have raced in this period then obviously you would be at a disadvantage, but everyone is in the same boat.”

Jockey Tom Marquand has struck up a new alliance with trainer William Haggas.Jockey Tom Marquand has struck up a new alliance with trainer William Haggas.
Jockey Tom Marquand has struck up a new alliance with trainer William Haggas. | PA Wire

Of Pinatubo, the highest-rated two-year-old since Celtic Swing in 1994 and higher even than Frankel, Balding said: “Obviously he is an outstanding horse and we have huge respect for him. He will be very tough to beat, I’m sure, but we will certainly give it our best shot.”

And now the waiting is nearly over for racing to restart, Balding has every confidence in measures being put in place to protect all those involved in the resumption.

He said: “I’m sure it will be as safe an environment as they could possibly have. The staff are chomping at the bit to get going again.”

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Meanwhile, William Haggas is looking to start his Epsom Oaks prospect Born With Pride at Kempton next week.

The daughter of Born To Sea came to prominence after a 20-1 success in the Listed Montrose Fillies’ Stakes at Newmarket. Should racing restart next Monday as planned, Haggas has pencilled in his filly – who runs in the colours made famous by John Oxx’s 2009 champion Sea The Stars – for the 10-furlong Classic Trial on June 3.

Haggas saddled Dancing Rain to win the Oaks in 2011. More recently he enjoyed big race success with the brilliant filly Sea Of Class before her career was tragically cut short by colic.

The Yorkshire-born trainer said of Born With Pride: “She’s always shown a bit at home and is a very well-bred filly and a strong galloper.

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“There’s lots of stamina on the dam’s side and she looked good that day.

“There were two divisions of a seven-furlong maiden that day and I would have run her in one of those, but we had three in each division and we thought she was possibly the one that would enjoy a mile more than the others, so she ran in the Montrose.

“She did nothing wrong that day.”

Born With Pride won at Newmarket under former champion apprentice Tom Marquand who represented the Haggas yard with such distinction in Australia during the lockdown.

They teamed up to great effect with Addeybb, picking up two Group One victories in Australia at the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival in March and April, while the rest of the sport was in abeyance around the world because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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A trip to Royal Ascot could be on the cards for the six-year-old –but his trainer is fearful of a lack of rain.

Haggas said: “He’s in good form and if we have a few thunderstorms at Ascot he might go for the Prince of Wales’s.

“The problem is, I’ve spoken to one of my owners who is a grown-up farmer and spends a lot of time studying the weather, or getting someone to study the weather, and he said the next appreciable rain will be in September.

“He said wheat prices are going up daily and that’s the sign it’s going to be a drought.”

*******

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A TOTAL of 369 entries have been made for Monday’s planned resumption of racing at Newcastle.

There has been no action on British tracks since the Wetherby and Taunton fixtures on March 17. But the BHA is aiming to start the sport next week subject to Government approval. The six-furlong Callerton Novice Stakes and the 10-furlong Annitsford Maiden Stakes, both for three-year-olds and up, have proved particularly popular on the eight-race card, drawing 64 and 68 contenders respectively.

The Hazelrigg Handicap over 12 furlongs has drawn the smallest entry with 29.

The opening Brenkley Handicap has 57 possibles at this stage while all other races range between 41 and 32 entries. There will be a maximum of 12 runners per race on safety ground with Malton’s Richard Fahey responsible for 33 entries.

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