Well, one minute we are dealing with the wettest winter/spring for a long time and now the sun has made an appearance and the first classics of the new season are upon us and we can start to talk about next year's Cheltenham festival rather than the one that has just gone!
The 2000 Guineas is first on Saturday and the big question is, is Dawn Approach a banker to win on his reappearance or is there a realistic challenger to inflict his first ever defeat? A win for the Jim Bolger-trained unbeaten colt would be just the fillip that Sheikh Mohammed needs after a torrid few weeks (his Godolphin team bought a half share in the colt in the middle of last season from Bolger's wife Jackie).
It's really hard to get away from his chance as he hasn't put a foot wrong and I doubt the lack of a run will be an inconvenience. He rounded off last season with victory in the Dewhurst. The only unknown is the ground which is currently good to firm as he is yet to run on a surface as fast as that.
Jim Bolger also runs Leitir Mor (Dewhurst second) and that should aid his cause.
I fancy Toronado to win the race, but really like Garswood to make the frame and if each way punting is your thing he could be one to finish in the three.
Quotes of the week
It would be marvellous to see Toronado win for Richard Hannon. He looked like an aeroplane when winning the Craven Stakes and the Hannon camp are excited about his prospects. He is reported to be in the form of his life and I'm seriously tempted to take the favourite on with this horse. He also comes into the race unbeaten having won all three starts at two after his reappearance last month.
Joseph O'Brien will ride Cristoforo Colombo for father Aidan. The horse will wear cheek-pieces for the first time and he will suit the step up to a mile. Seamie Heffernan takes the ride on stablemate Mars and Colm O'Donoghue is on George Vancouver. It had initially been thought that Mars would be the pick of young O'Brien so it's a concern that he doesn't ride him.
Garswood is still an attractive price for each way punters and he has come in for sustained support in the week. Richard Fahey trains and his team are in great form. The horse was impressive in the Free Handicap and although that race hasn't been a significant trial in recent years it was a taking performance. Visually he looked strong and there doesn't seem to be any reason to think he can't be as effective over a mile. He is also a good moving horse and this better ground shouldn't hold any fears. Fahey has said this is the best horse he has trained and it would be great to see him train the biggest winner of his career.
I fancy Toronado to win the race, but really like Garswood to make the frame and if each way punting is your thing he could be one to finish in the three. Incidentally, Toronado has also been well supported for the Derby and is currently 6/1; connections feel he should stay the 1m 4f at Epsom. Battle of Marengo has also been well supported for the Blue Riband and the vibes coming out of Ballydoyle are strong for the colt to provide Aidan O'Brien with another Derby winner.
Moving on to Sunday and the 1000 Guineas looks pretty open.
Sir Henry Cecil's Hot Snap is favourite following her impressive win in the Nell Gwyn at the Craven meeting. Her pedigree is impeccable being a Pivotal half-sister to Cecil's top-class mare Midday. She powered away from Sky Lantern over the seven furlongs of the Rowley Mile last time out and she looked like the extra furlong would bring about further improvement. She also looked like she would come on for that outing both physically and mentally. She looks like further than a mile will be well within her compass too.
Sky Lantern was also staying on in the Nell Gwyn and the Hannon team said she too would improve for the run. She carried a 3lb Group 1 penalty there thanks to her win in the Moyglare last season but I don't think she would have beaten the winner without it. Whilst I would love to see Hot Snap win for Sir Henry, I like the Charlie Hills-trained Just the Judge who was unbeaten in three starts last season. She won the Rockfel on her final outing and that race hasn't been a bad guide to the Guineas in the recent past. She handles faster ground and is a versatile filly. Although this is her first start this season she travelled from Hills' Lambourn base to gallop at the Craven meeting and she goes there with as good a chance as any. It would be a huge boost to Charlie Hills if he were to saddle his first classic winner.
What a Name is an interesting runner for French trainer Mikel Delzangles. He is no stranger to classic success on the Rowley Mile having sent Makfi over to win the 2000 Guineas three years ago. This filly ran a cracker to be second to Olympic Glory at Longchamp last October when the only female in the field. She is unproven on faster ground, but her pedigree would suggest that better ground is what she wants. She made a winning reappearance when described as only 80 per cent fit. She is a big player.
Joseph O'Brien rides Moth for Aidan O'Brien. She took three attempts to get off the mark, winning in maiden company on her reappearance and this is a big step up. She is bred for the job as you would expect, being a daughter of Galileo related to smart winners. Olivier Peslier takes the ride on the Hannon horse Richard Hughes rejected, Maureen. So, I think this race has a much more open look to it than the colts' race and I'm going with Just the Judge to give Charlie Hills his first win at this level.
Palace House Stakes
Away from the two classics there are some smart races and the Palace House Stakes looks an interesting sprint. The Group 3 five-furlong contest has attracted 18 runners.
Former Nunthorpe winner Sole Power is one of the protagonists for Eddie Lynam and Johnny Murtagh. Robert Cowell has booked Joseph O'Brien for last year's Nunthorpe second Spirit Quartz.
Pearl Secret is an interesting runner for David Barron and Jamie Spencer. I think it's significant Spencer rides this horse as he has ridden the Robert Cowell trained Spirit Quartz in the past. Pearl Secret is a lightly-raced four-year-old with wins in his first four racecourse appearances and his only defeat coming in the Nunthorpe on his last start having suffered some trouble in running.
He was held in very high regard by his trainer last season and I hope he can get off to a winning start for 2013. This is the fastest ground he has ever run on, but I expect it to suit as he is a good moving horse.
Good luck with your selections this weekend and let's hope the sun is here to stay.
Toronado in the 2000 Guineas @ 9/4 with Sky Bet
Garswood in the 2000 Guineas @ 11/1 with Sky Bet (each way)
Just the Judge in the 1000 Guineas @ 9/2 with Sky Bet
Pearl Secret in the Palace House Stakes