The cycle of Guineas warm-ups begins this afternoon at Kempton, where the Easter Stakes usually produces a decent animal, albeit one which rarely disturbs the top order in the Guineas.
Subsequent Group One winners to have contested this race in the last three years are Elmaamul, Environment Friend and Selkirk, the first two showing that if this mile event is an indicator, it is, rather strangely, to the Eclipse Stakes.
The Easter Stakes winner 12 months ago was Richard Hannon's Lucky Lindy, who had the subsequent Guineas fourth and Derby third, Silver Wisp, behind him, and there will be many expecting the Marlborough trainer to retain the prize this year with Right Win.
The colt won two races as a juvenile, but arguably put up his best performances in defeat, when runner-up to Henry Cecil's classy pairing of Tenby and Wharf, and when filling the same position behind Pelder in the Group One Gran Criterium at San Siro on his final start as a two-year-old. On that showing he should cope better than most with today's softened ground.
Hannon, who has won the 2,000 Guineas with Don't Forget Me (1987) and Tirol (1990) in recent years, believes Right Win (4.45) may join their rank. 'I think he's a very good horse and he could be a Guineas type,' Hannon says. 'He's in great form and it will take a good one to lower him.'
The equivalent fillies' race, the Masaka Stakes, has not provided such a deep well of quality horses in recent times, and today's renewal looks to be between two horses who are below the top strata in Helvellyn and Ajfan.
The former has been spotted working well on the Newmarket gallops recently, but slight preference is for Harry Thomson Jones's Ajfan (3.45), a good second to Ivanka in the Fillies' Mile at Ascot last September and a horse which comes from a yard noted for its record with first-time-out runners.
Urs Schwarzenbach, whose Romany King was one of the finishers in last Saturday's Grand National debacle, is represented on the Flat here by Crystal Cross. The four-year-old may have to give second best to SECRET SOCIETY (nap 4.15), however.
Giving second best appeared to be the regular modus operandi of Garnock Valley last season, despite the colt's high standing at Jack Berry's yard. 'He was definitely the fastest two-year-old we had last year, but he managed to get beaten in some bad maidens,' Berry said yesterday. 'He had the engine, but he was a little immature and weak and probably didn't have the bottle to go through with things.'
Garnock Valley (3.15) appeared to have grown up when he won at Doncaster on Lincoln day, and should now follow up despite an 11lb hike in the weights.
Berry will also have a substantial influence in Haydock's main race, the Field Marshal Stakes, which went to the Cockerham stable's Paris House 12 months ago. The trainer's main hope this time is Sabre Rattler, who won a match on his reappearance at Folkestone. This horse is proof that impudence in Berry's company can be met with a stinging response. 'He got a bit cheeky last year so I had him gelded,' the trainer says. 'He's a lot stronger now and I think he's got a future.'
This, however, may be a day for the Berry No 2 string, Lucky Parkes (next best 2.10), who will prove hard to catch from her high draw. The other possibilities on this card are Jack Button (1.10), Dominuet (2.40) and a horse who may have been used to describe the starter and the flag man at Aintree a week ago, Peter Walwyn's Wali (1.40).Reuse content