Newmarket awaits a favoured son

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

Skylarks have scarcely cleared their throats for spring, the first chubby two year olds have tottered on to the racecourse to begin their racing education and here we are at Newmarket already for the first two British Classics, the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday and Sunday's equivalent for fillies, the 1,000 Guineas.

The 2,000 could well produce a superstar to compensate Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai's ruling Maktoum family for the death in 2001 of his favourite horse, the brilliant Dubai Millennium.

Dubawi, Dubai Millennium's first son to see a racecourse, is even-money favourite for the 2,000 and with good reason. As a two year old he was unbeaten in three races and in the National Stakes at The Curragh, the key Guineas trial, he was seven lengths clear of Democratic Deficit, narrow winner of this month's Bet365 Craven Stakes.

Dubawi's work at Dubai's Nad al Sheba racetrack has had watchers' neck hairs tingling. Having arrived only this week in a still nippy Newmarket with the equine equivalent of a Dubai suntan, he might need a little time to acclimatise. And only one favourite has won the race in 15 years. But the Godolphin team are convinced that he is the special factor that will help them dominate another Flat season.

Can Coolmore climb back from their Irish base to challenge them? Although Aidan O'Brien's team had a poor campaign last year by their exacting standards, he will hope to continue the Celtic domination we saw through the jumping season with Kicking King (King George and Cheltenham Gold Cup), Moscow Flyer (Queen Mother Champion Chase), Hardy Eustace (Champion Hurdle), Hedgehunter (Grand National) and Jack High (Betfred Gold Cup) stuffing the Irish trophy cupboard.

Coolmore have lost a talented young jockey with Jamie Spencer's departure and gained a controversial older star in the shape of former British champion Kieren Fallon. For the 2,000, Fallon, who will be keen to demonstrate the wisdom of deserting Sir Michael Stoute for richer pickings at Coolmore, has chosen to ride Footstepsinthesand over the more experienced but lazy Oratorio.

Others who can test Dubawi are John Gosden's Iceman and Sir Michael Stoute's Rob Roy, who finished close in the Craven. Stoute has won the 2,000 on five occasions. Expect a strong performance too from Diktatorial, who can continue Andrew Balding's relentless advance in the training ranks.

Ante-post backers have lost out badly in the 1,000 with the late withdrawal of David Wachman's former favourite Damson, who scoped dirty after her final gallop. That has left Stoute's Shanghai Lily vying for favouritism with Gosden's Karen's Caper and David Elsworth's Cape Columbine, who looked to have more room for improvement after the latter pair met in the Nell Gwyn.

In the fillies race, Fallon rides Virginia Waters for O'Brien. He will have to swallow hard if Rob Roy and Shanghai Lily prevail.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.