The city brokers may think that the stock market is a little volatile at present, but they should try being a bookmaker or punter in this most significant of weeks for the newborn Flat season. Prices will soar and plummet as a bewildering series of Classic trials passes before us at Newmarket's Craven meeting, and anyone who doubts how maddeningly unpredictable a three-year-old thoroughbred can be need only ask Aidan O'Brien.
The man whose two-year-olds won most of the prizes worth having last season sent three runners to Leopardstown yesterday for the Guineas Trials meeting. Two of them, Bach and Amethyst, were winners and are on the way to better things, but the third, Shakespeare, finished last of the four runners in the Ballysax Stakes. Given that he was as short as 14-1 joint-favourite for the Derby in one bookmakers' ante-post list, and set off the 6-4 favourite yesterday, this was disappointing, to say the least.
And that is before you consider Shakespeare's price tag as a yearling, the chunky sum of 2.2 million guineas. He had not seen a track since his racecourse debut on 11 July last year, but even so, more was surely expected of him yesterday. Though he tracked Sinndar, the winner of the National Stakes last season, until half a mile from home, he was never going well enough to threaten either the leader or Grand Finale, who galloped past Sinndar to win by a head. Shakespeare, who was later reported to have finished ''distressed'', is out to 33-1 for the Derby with William Hill, who have not unnaturally marked him down as a very doubtful runner at Epsom.
The same firm make Amethyst, O'Brien's winner of the 1,000 Guineas Trial, 16-1 from 40-1 for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket two weeks on Sunday. The full sister to King Of Kings, the 1998 2,000 Guineas winner, quickened away at the furlong pole to win by five lengths.
''She shows the brilliance of her brother and Michael [Kinane] said 'We're going to Newmarket','' O'Brien said later.
Bach, though, is being pointed towards a Derby, rather than the 2,000 Guineas, after making all the running to beat Legal Jousting by a head in the 2,000 Guineas Trial.
''It was a good display by Bach because he would not have liked the ground and he was giving weight to the other three runners,'' the Ballydoyle trainer said. ''He comes back here next month for the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial.''
The attention now turns to Newmarket, which this year has the added attraction of the Greenham Stakes, rescheduled for tomorrow after Newbury's fixture was abandoned on Saturday. Unfortunate though this was for the Berkshire track, it was a stroke of luck for Barry Hills, who will now run Distant Music in tomorrow's race, rather than the Craven Stakes on Thursday.
Distant Music was taken out of the Greenham last week, because of soft ground. The rescheduled race, though, is open to all 22 original entries, and, unlike the Craven, does not require Distant Music to carry a 3lb penalty.
Distant Music has now been the clear favourite for the 2,000 Guineas for almost six months, since his win in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. By Tuesday evening, he could be odds-on, or he might have taken the Shakespeare route, and joined the 33-1 rags. For three days from tomorrow, these will be the only markets worth worrying about, no matter what happens to the Dow and the FTSE.
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