Even with the Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby preps, it is only after the 2,000 Guineas when I feel the year of racing is in full swing. The historic Newmarket Racecourse hosts a gathering of the finest of Europe’s three-year-old colts, who compete for the first of the season’s Classics. The 2,000 Guineas probably ranks as the simplest race – a one mile straight down the Rowley course – but could be considered the most prominent three-year-old contest of the year. Over centuries, racing icons had first confirmed their abilities at Newmarket, most recently winners such Frankel (2011) and Camelot (2012). Now, a new star will follow the path paved by their brilliant predecessors.
With the start of the three-year-old classics, I would like to take a look at a pair of auspicious colts I have followed over the winter.
With Kingsbarns out of 2,000 Guineas contention, last year’s Racing Post Trophy victor Battle of Marengo has taken over as Ballydoyle’s top hope in the Newmarket classic. Mars, however, may most likely provide Coolmore with their second consecutive 2,000 Guineas win.
Mars - Photo courtesy Jason Doyle
Mars has been ranked among the one mile contest’s top contenders since his lone start on July 16 over Dundalk Stadium’s synthetic track. He challenged ten others in the seven furlong maiden and started second farthest from the rail. Upon breaking from the gates, Mars and jockey Joseph O’Brien established a swift pace and a two length lead around the turn. My Rules challenged at the top of the stretch, provoking Mars to retort with a sensational finishing kick. Mars romped onward to score with a 4 ¾ length advantage at a time of 1:25.13. “He has a really good attitude and is very uncomplicated.” Joseph O’Brien said after Mars’ win. “He’s a lovely horse. He was green as it’s his first run and he made the running – you very rarely see them win on the bridle doing that.”
Mars in the paddock at the Curragh prior to a gallop in March 2013 - Photo courtesy Jason Doyle
The Galileo son has seemingly progressed well despite his considerable inexperience. Mars did not further develop his résumé, as his connections deemed Europe’s soggy course conditions last season too undesirable. As for the colt’s three-year-old debut, Aidan O’Brien said, “Mars is still very much in the picture for the Guineas although we haven’t made a definite decision yet as to whether he will go to Newmarket or for one of the Derby trials instead.”
Aidan O’Brien sent Mars along with many other of his stablemates to the Curragh on flat racing’s opening day near the end of March. The large string worked in several groups over the turf course which had been labeled as soft for the racing. Mars went out in the first group of seventeen horses and started near the back of the pack. He traveled comfortably in tight quarters for most of the gallop, but worked his way nearer the front as they crossed the finishing point. Though Mars probably would have been more comfortable over faster footing, it was apparent he has the ability to get over heavier ground well if he has to compete on it.
Mars (fourth from the left with rider in black and white cap) galloping at the Curragh
Photo courtesy Jason Doyle
Click here to read - The Red Planet: Mars
Zand could play a role in the promising 2013 campaign for the stable of His Highness the Aga Khan which had a competitive showing on the Dubai World Cup card. The three-year-old home-bred son of Zamindar is entered in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, as well as both the English and Irish Derbies.
Zand at Leopardstown - Photo credit Peter Mooney
Trainer John Oxx originally had Zand slated for the Ballysax Stakes on April 14, but had to put off his seasonal debut until Leopardstown’s Group II Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on May 12. The Ireland-based conditioner explained, “We are trying to get him ready for the Derrinstown. He had a foot lameness recently and it was a bit more troublesome than we expected so we weren’t able to train him for the Ballysax.” Oxx also stated, “…it might be touch and go, so we will just have to see how he progresses over the next two weeks.”
The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial would be a step up in class for Zand, who has only started twice and broke his maiden at second asking. In off-the-pace fashion he showed astounding potential in both races at Leopardstown.
Click here to read - ZAND: Heir to a Legacy