Racing: Baileys fits the Classic maxim: The 2,000 Guineas field may be longer in quantity than quality but one outsider will not be running just to make up the numbers

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The Independent Online
EVEN the desolate expanses of Newmarket's Rowley Mile will struggle to accommodate the runners for the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. Twenty-seven colts stood their ground at yesterday's entry stage, and the final field should be one of the largest for many years.

The names break down into three groups: the proven contenders, the no-hopers, and those in between. All the well- backed runners remain, including Turtle Island, the ante- post favourite since his win in Newbury's Greenham Stakes. Though Peter Chapple-Hyam, his trainer, has stated that the colt will not run at Newmarket if the going is too fast, it now appears that only firm ground would rule him out. Market confidence is draining away, however, and he is no longer favourite with Coral, who offer him at 5-1, behind King's Theatre, Henry Cecil's Craven Stakes winner, at 9-2.

Crazy Paving is just one of a number of apparently hopeless causes, but backers aware that the value has gone at the top of the market will focus on the numerous 25-1 and 33-1 chances who remain. Some have little or no form this season, but by no means have no form at all. Mister Baileys, winner of the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot last year, is a perfect example.

By choice rather than necessity, Mark Johnston's colt will be making his seasonal debut in the Classic. 'We saw the Guineas trip as being the absolute minimum possible for the horse,' Johnston said yesterday. 'The only other possibility over a mile was the Craven Stakes, but we felt that was a hot race and would have meant winding the horse up very early. We think he's a mile- and-a-quarter horse and possibly a mile-and-a-half horse, and this is a one-off attempt back at a mile. There's always a chance that a horse will be sharper mentally for a race, but I have no doubt that he's fit.'

The trainer may believe that Mister Baileys will be better suited by the Derby trip, but in an open year there is little point in bypassing the first colts' Classic. 'I'm not suggesting Turtle Island and King's Theatre should be anything other than favourites,' Johnston said, 'but it's ludicrous that Mister Baileys is 25-1. What if Henry Cecil trained him and he'd won the Royal Lodge on his last outing?'

The anticipated large field is of concern to many trainers and jockeys, since traffic problems seem inevitable. Johnston, though, is delighted. 'We want a strong pace, and otherwise they might play cat-and- mouse for the first two furlongs,' he said. 'He's got a very good chance, but we don't need to win to be celebrating. We could finish third or fourth and be very confident of a good run in the Derby, particularly if it's shorter-distance horses which finish in front of us.'

Racing has many silly maxims, but the one which runs 'fourth in the Guineas, first in the Derby' has at least one recent precedent in Generous. Shrewd backers may stake their money elsewhere on Saturday, but they will still keep one eye on Mister Baileys.

2,000 GUINEAS (Newmarket, Saturday):

Canaska Dancer (trained by P Chapple- Hyam); Colonel Collins (P Chapple-Hyam); Cool Jazz (C Brittain); Cotteir Chief (M Pipe); Crazy Paving (C Cyzer); Distant View (H Cecil); Dumaani (J Dunlop); Golden Nashwan (P Chapple-Hyam); Grand Lodge (W Jarvis); Green Green Desert (M Stoute); Indhar (J Banks); Just Happy (M Stoute); King's Theatre (H Cecil); Luhuk (J Dunlop); Mister Baileys (M Johnston); Nicolotte (G Wragg); Piccolo (M Channon); Rafferty's Rules (Mrs J Ramsden); Redoubtable (R Hannon); River Deep (P Cole); Signe Divin (A Fabre, France); Star Selection (P Cole); State Performer (H Ibrahim, UAE); Suplizi (L Cumani); Torch Rouge (B Hills); Turtle Island (P Chapple-Hyam); Unblest (J Fanshawe).

(Photograph omitted)