Despite aiming Breeders’ Cup winner Line Of Duty elsewhere and losing Quorto for the first half of the season, Godolphin have managed to strengthen their hand in this Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket after the Charlie Appleby trained Al Hilalee was supplemented into the race at a cost of £30,000.
Already represented by Vintage Stakes winner Dark Vision (Mark Johnston) as well as Craven third and Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Royal Marine (Saeed bin Suroor), the Boys in Blue added the Listed winning son of Dubawi to their battalion at Monday’s forfeit stage and it has added a new dimension to the race.
As well as Quorto, the race had already lost star attraction Too Darn Hot because of injury as well as France’s Persian King who remains in Paris before John Gosden confirmed at the weekend that classy Coventry Stakes winner Calyx will also defect and head for the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot on Wednesday instead.
As though all of this wasn’t bad enough, live chance Mohaather was also ruled out until the autumn and it had left the first classic of the season admittedly wide open, but sadly bereft of quality.
Al Hilalee hasn’t yet proved his worth on the track, just about lasting home in a Listed race in France last summer before being put away by Appleby, but his debut was fantastic at Newmarket last July and he has obviously been held in very high regard.
Having spent the whole winter in Dubai, Al Hilalee didn’t come home with the rest of Appleby’s string and instead stayed out there where he worked in very fine fashion late last week – a piece of work that appeared good enough for connections to stump up the cash to enter him here.
With Quorto out this horse is potentially Charlie Appleby’s top contender for the Derby and given that the trainer sees the 2000 Guineas as the perfect trial for the Blue Riband at Epsom, his spin up the Rowley Mile this weekend is now crucial to short and medium term plans.
While it’s true that he doesn’t have to win the Guineas to be considered good enough to enter the Derby, especially given that he will be having only the third run of his career to date, he is clearly expected to go well and adds a little bit of je ne sais qoi to the line-up as it will be very difficult for punters and opposition connections to guess what level he can reach.
He may of course need further than this mile, even first time up for the season up the Rowley Mile, but it’s highly doubtful he will not make his presence felt at the business end of the race and he has been put straight in at around 12/1 seventh favourite in the market four days in advance of the race.