Shocks at HQ as Favourites Sunk in The Guineas

Newmarket Racecourse Rowley Mile

The first weekend in May saw the opening Classics of the British flat season produce two surprising results, with neither the 2000 Guineas nor 1000 Guineas going as the market suggested they might. In truth, the fillies event over the mile appeared wide open, so although the favourite was downed, it wasn’t a huge surprise.

In contrast, the 2000 Guineas saw an almighty disappointment for team Balllydoyle, with the horse expected to be their flagbearer in the Classic division running way below expectations. Not a great weekend for the punters though, that’s for sure.

2000 Guineas: City of Troy Comes Crashing to Earth

Racing Post 2000 Guineas Results
2000 Guineas Result Results via Racing Post

Saturday’s 2000 Guineas was supposed to represent the next step for City Of Troy en route to racing excellence. Pulverising all who dared to cross his path during a flawless juvenile campaign, some had begun to mention the son of US Triple Crown-winner Justify in the same breath as the mighty Frankel. This impeccably bred sort had some way to go to justify such hyperbole but was fully expected to continue his juvenile dominance at three – resulting in a starting price of just 4/6 in an 11-runner field crammed with promising sorts.

Rather than lifting yet another Guineas title aloft, Aidan O’Brien and co were left scratching their heads at the end of the event, with City Of Troy putting in a woeful performance to beat only two home. Becoming upset in the stalls didn’t help his cause, but surely wasn’t enough to account for such a dramatic downturn in fortunes. Pouring cold water on theories that the horse is an underwhelming specimen – developing quickly into his frame at two but failing to blossom as three – O’Brien diverted the blame to himself when stating, “I think maybe I might have left him too fresh.”

Third O’Brien Flop of the 21st Century

Whilst surprising at first glance, the 21st century has provided a precedent for a performance such as this from a red-hot O’Brien-trained favourite; Air Force Blue started at 4/6 in 2016, only to finish 15th of 16th, whilst in 2023, 13/8 favourite Auguste Rodin trailed home a massive 22-lengths adrift of the winner, Chaldean.

For Air Force Blue, that result was the start of a permanent decline in form, with the horse failing to win another race. Auguste Rodin, in contrast, rebounded to claim the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, Irish Champion Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Turf. Time will tell which of those trajectories is followed by City Of Troy.

Notable Success for Godolphin

With the favourite out of the picture some way from home, the race looked set up for Richard Hannon’s Rosallion to deliver upon his immense juvenile potential as he hit the front inside the final furlong. Rosallion ran a gallant race to finish second but was no match for the Charlie Appleby-trained, 16/1 shot Notable Speech, who surged home down the outside to score in style for the boys in blue of Godolphin.

Having only made his debut in January of this year, Notable Speech was given an unconventional Guineas prep – which may have contributed to his starting price. Other than that late appearance at the track, there was a lot to like about his chances. A perfect three from three and beautifully bred – by Dubawi and out of an Invincible Spirit mare – he is unlikely to start at so big a price in the remainder of the season, with the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot expected to be his next port of call.

1000 Guineas: Overlooked Elmalka Lands a Thriller

Racing Post 1000 Guineas Results
1000 Guineas Results via Racing Post

Moving to the fillies event, the market for the 1000 Guineas wasn’t anything like so top-heavy. Not that there wasn’t strong form on offer among the contenders; Aidan O’Brien’s Ylang Ylang was a solid winner of the Fillies Mile, which regularly proves a strong Guineas guide, Karl Burke’s market leader Fallen Angel had landed a Group 1 event in France as a two-year-old, and Group 2 winning French raider Ramatuelle received strong support in the market.

Of the above trio, Ramatuelle and Ylang Ylang ran well to finish third and fifth respectively, but Karl Burke will likely have been disappointed with the tame finishing effort of Fallen Angel, who faded out of contention inside the final furlong. In the end, the prize fell to the unheralded 28/1 chance Elmalka from the yard of Roger Varian.

From Group 3 Defeat to Guineas Glory

Siding with a runner beaten in Group 3 company on their previous outing wouldn’t appear the most obvious route to selecting a Guineas bet. Nevertheless, anyone who noted how well this Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum runner stayed on at the end of that 7f Duby Duty Free Stakes contest was richly rewarded on the day.

Not that the win looked particularly likely anywhere other than inside the final furlong, with Elmalka requiring every ounce of Silvestre De Sousa’s renowned strength in the saddle to come with a relentless withering run and hold off Porta Fortuna by a nose. David Menusier’s Tamfana was the unlucky filly in the race, having been repeatedly denied a run before flying home for fourth.

Much like Notable Speech, Elmalka made plenty of appeal on pedigree, being by Kingman, who lost out by just half a length in the 2014 2000 Guineas, and out of the Varian-trained dam Nahrain, who won twice in Group 1 company.

Momentous Result for Trainer and Jockey

The result represented a career highlight for Newmarket-based Roger Varian, who took his overall Classic count to three following two previous victories in the St. Leger. For Silvestre De Sousa, this represented a first Classic success and a dream start to the season upon his return following a 10-month ban.