2000 GUINEAS: Another Vigorous to get first run
STRICTLY at the handicaps, Sunday's 2000 Guineas comes down to two horses - Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes winner, MARQUESAS, and ANOTHER VIGOROUS, who was beaten a half-length by EL PROFESOR in the Prince Consort Stakes a month ago.
Using the established yardstick of two pounds slowing a horse by a length, from seven to nine furlongs, the seven-furlong Prince Consort Stakes throws up some interesting numbers in favour of MARQUESAS and ANOTHER VIGOROUS, going a furlong longer in the Guineas.
ANOTHER VIGOROUS allowed EL PROFESOR nine pounds for a half-length loss. Though ANOTHER VIGOROUS has gone up six pounds for the Guineas, EL PROFESOR has risen 15lb in the scale to sit level at 126lb - a weight swing valued at four and a half lengths.
Considering both horses ran almost the exact race throughout, EL PROFESOR would have to show immense improvement to repeat his Prince Consort Stakes upset victory.
MARQUESAS, however, is a whole different kettle of fish. In fact, his run in the Prince Consort Stakes, carrying topweight 57.0 kilos, penalised for winning the Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes, was perhaps the best in the 12-horse line-up for three reasons.
First, that was his first outing in almost three months, having not raced since the Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes on Boxing Day.
Second, MARQUESAS was slowly into stride, drawn horribly at postposition one, and had to be pushed to make up ground down the entire backstretch and into the lane. Third, he had to do so with topweight, the horse closest in the handicaps to him being WITHOUT EXCEPTION at 123lb.
Eventually finishing fifth, beaten three and a half lengths, MARQUESAS (126lb) was in a bang-up which included DRONE STRIKE (116lb), WESTERN LEGEND (115lb), ROYAL AVIATOR (110lb)and WITHOUT EXCEPTION (123lb) - five horses separated by a length and a half.
Considering the layup, the start MARQUESAS got and him allowing the second group past the post tons of weight, it's hard not to use a handicapper's rule of thumb to put him several lengths ahead of them, especially now drawn more favourably in mid-pack and working extremely well in the mornings.
It could have been that trainer Michael Marlowe was overly confident heading into the Prince Consort Stakes, giving MARQUESAS a half-mile gallop, an easy 50.1, as his last speed work, before the event.
This time, he has tightened the screws with a mile in 1:41.0, the last seven furlongs in 1:27.0, signalling a horse that's coming to set the record straight.
However, MARQUESAS has three lengths to make up on ANOTHER VIGOROUS, who he allowed six pounds in the Prince Consort. ANOTHER VIGOROUS has also been flying in the mornings, no surprises there, and certainly proved that he is better than the horses among whom MARQUESAS finished last time out.
ANOTHER VIGOROUS had missed the Jamaica Two-Year-Old Stakes and was also treated like a baby by trainer Rowan Mathie heading into the Prince Consort, the first time he was venturing beyond six furlongs in three starts.
Now armed with two solid seven-furlong gallops under his girth, the last being 1:26.4, ANOTHER VIGOROUS has a dangerous weapon in his arsenal, which could expose the chink in MARQUESAS armour - a deadly backstretch pace.
Expect a fast race with COMMANDER TWO, another speed merchant of note, drawn widest and coming to make every yard of the running. There is also the trio of ADONIS, WESTERN LEGEND and OUTRAGEOUS TAJ as speedballs.
The handicaps put ANOTHER VIGOROUS and MARQUESAS in a virtual dead heat but pace counts at a mile, giving Mathie's runner the edge to steal the race by getting first run on COMMANDER TWO.