Commentator Simon Holt is keen on the chances of Al Wukair for Saturday's QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
In what looks a high class line-up for Saturday's QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday, AL WUKAIR can make it first blood for France in this year's classics.
Unbeaten in three starts and trained by the brilliant Andre Fabre, this neat, handsome colt made a highly impressive reappearance in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte early last month over seven furlongs when coming from last to first to beat last season's Jean Luc Lagardere winner National Defense by a length.
In that race, the early pace was strong courtesy of a pacemaker for third-placed African Ride, and Al Wukair looked momentarily outpaced around half-way when fully 10 lengths behind the leaders, but he produced a tremendous run to lead inside the final furlong and win going away. He has already won at a mile.
With Fabre's horses in imperious form in France so far this season, this highly regarded colt could just be a bit special and, back home, his form is working out well but he does need to prove himself on the peculiar undulations of the Rowley Mile.
That is not an issue for long-time ante-post favourite Churchill who boasts a different profile having been an exceptional two-year-old last season when completing a five-timer in the Dewhurst Stakes here (7f) in October.
By Galileo, Aidan O'Brien's colt should have no trouble getting a mile (middle distances could be questionable due to his speedy dam's side) and the Dewhurst form looks fairly solid with third-placed Blue Point (probably better at 6f) a good winner at Ascot this week, fourth-placed Thunder Snow set to run in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday having done little wrong since and fifth-placed Rivet winning the Racing Post Trophy on his next start.
Lancaster Bomber, Churchill's 66/1 stablemate who set the pace in the Dewhurst, was surprisingly able to cling on for second, but has since run well at the Breeders Cup and when slowly away at Meydan.
Lines of form through Rivet (via Salouen) suggests Churchill has very little in hand over Al Wukair, but the big issue may be physical development as the Ballydoyle colt was exceptionally well grown as a two-year-old while one or two of his rivals are probably only just coming to themselves.
O'Brien seems happy with the favourite's fitness for this crucial test, though his runners so far this season have been a bit hit and miss.
Eminent will also have no problem on the Rowley Mile being twice a course and distance winner. The son of Frankel will be pushed to emulate his sire's stunning six-length victory in this race in 2011, but he put up a most taking performance in the Craven Stakes last month when beating Rivet by a length-and-three-quarters having looked the paddock pick beforehand.
Jim Crowley's mount was going on so strongly at the finish that the champion jockey had difficulty pulling him up, and the overriding impression was that a mile will prove to be a minimum for him in what promises to be an exciting three-year-old campaign.
Many classics become stiff tests at the trip and Eminent looks sure to see it out well but, watching the Craven again several times since, his victory was secured by sustained galloping and he may not have the pace of Al Wukair and Churchill.
Barney Roy is the other leading contender after a highly fluent defeat of the re-opposing Dream Castle in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury where the pair pulled well clear of their rivals.
While the runner-up looked very speedy and could struggle to get home here, the winner took a few strides to find his big stride and then really picked up well suggesting that this extra furlong can only be in his favour.
A big, good-looking son of Excelebration, there are no formlines which link him to the aforementioned contenders and he could be anything though, like Al Wukair, he is unproven on the course. It looks a really exciting renewal.
Earlier, local trainer Robert Cowell could hold the key to the Group Three Longholes Palace House Stakes with ORNATE and GOLDREAM, and I suggest a small bet on both.
Cowell is renowned for his handling of sprinters and Ornate appeared to take a step forward on his first run for the yard at the Craven meeting when showing great speed before being worn down by the smart Brando over six furlongs.
Back to the minimum distance, the four-year-old could certainly take some catching while stable-companion Goldream, the winner of this race in 2015, is a particularly fast-finisher who loves Newmarket's Rowley Mile course.
Sent to Dubai after winning the Prix de l'Abbaye in the autumn of that year, Martin Harley's mount struggled to find his best form here last term though did go close to winning when third to Take Cover in Goodwood's King George Stakes on a belated reappearance in July.
There has been no Dubai for Goldream this time and, with an excellent record fresh and a preference for the likely fast ground, he could prove a value bet to win for the third time at this meeting having landed a sprint handicap in 2014.
Top of the ratings is last year's winner and subsequent Kings Stand Stakes hero Profitable, but he wasn't quite so effective after Royal Ascot (though not disgraced when fourth to Limato in the July Cup) and his first three victories in 2016 all came with some cut in the ground which seems unlikely here.
Posted at 1100 BST on 05/05/17.