THE month of May might signal the beginning of summer for most folk, but in the world of horseracing it only means one thing — it’s the Classic time of year!
Irish-trained horses snared both Guineas at Newmarket at the beginning of the month and now with the Classic bandwagon rolling into Paris this weekend, the Irish are back for more.
Jim Bolger created history by becoming the oldest trainer in history to win the English Guineas and now he has his sights set on more records as his horse Poetic Flare bids to become the first colt in 80 years to complete the English–French Guineas double.
Not since Djebel in 1940 has a colt managed to complete the double, but Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning are familiar with setting standards and breaking boundaries.
Lest we forget the achievements of Finceal Beo in 2007, when she won the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas — cruelly denied the middle leg of an awesome treble by Darjina who just prevailed by a head in Paris from the Michael Ryan-owned mare.
Poetic Flare has much running to do before he can be considered in the same league as Finsceal Beo, but he got his season off to the best possible start at Newmarket and while the record books suggest that the double is unlikely, his team have every right to be confident.
So, who is likely to be his main opponent at Longchamp?
Bolger’s main danger in Paris is probably from Tipperary as Aidan O’Brien and Piere-Charles Boudot team up with Dewhurst Stakes winner St Mark’s Basilica.
O’Brien is seeking his fifth win in this race after Landseer (2002), Aussie Rules (2006), Astronomer Royal (2007) and The Gurkha (2016).
Unlike the aforementioned quartet, St Mark’s Basilica managed to win a Group 1 race as a juvenile and one must wonder if he could develop into something different.
As a half-brother to Magna Grecia, Guineas success is in the blood of St Mark’s Basilica and his profile last year suggested that he could be the dominant horse of his generation.
However, the form of his Dewhurst win took a major blow when Wembley (second), Thunder Moon (third) and Devilwala (fourth) were all comprehensively hammered by Poetic Flare at Newmarket.
We can forgive one horse an 'off-day' but can we forgive all three? Will the 2020 Dewhurst form be exposed again this weekend?
The weight of that reputation lay with the winner.
Can St Mark’s Basilica redeem the race and prove that he is a force to be reckoned with this year? This writer certainly thinks he can.
Then we turn our attention to the fillies where Aidan O’Brien bids to etch out his own piece of history.
Not since Special Duty in 2010 has a filly managed to complete the English-French 1,000 Guineas double and even she benefitted from stewards intervention at Newmarket!
It’s 20 years since Rose Gypsy provided Aidan O’Brien with his first and only win in this race, but he’ll be hoping to double that tally with Mother Earth, who will be ridden for the first time by Christophe Soumillion.
Mother Earth was one of many favoured by a draw bias at Newmarket, but the manner of her victory was undeniably professional.
Many eyes were on her favoured stablemate Santa Barbara, but Mother Earth put her experience to good use by quickening away up the hill.
Her credentials are obvious, but what about another Irish-trained filly who has vast juvenile experience?
Ken Condon enjoyed a productive season with Miss Amulet last year, winning the Group 2 Lowther Stakes at York (from subsequent Nell Gwyn Stakes winner Sacred) before placing in the Cheveley Park Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland.
On the latter outing in Kentucky, she was just a neck behind Mother Earth which put her very much in the frame this weekend and considering this has been a long-term plan by her connections, it wouldn’t surprise anyone were she good enough to win.
These Classic races are regarded as 'breed-shaping' tests and the same can be said for the Kentucky Derby in America. Thus, it was particularly devastating for the industry in the US when Bob Baffert’s winner Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of betamethasone.
For the purpose of clarity, this isn’t a performance-enhancing drug, rather it’s a cream to treat dermatitis, but the significance of the test results could be massive.
This is a big case and one the world of horseracing will be monitoring closely over the coming weeks.