With the first Classic races of the year just over a month away, honesty was the policy on the Newmarket gallops yesterday as two of the town's trainers issued warnings over the participation of high-profile Qipco Guineas candidates. For David Simcock, dry underfoot conditions are a concern for the colt Dream Ahead; for Sir Mark Prescott, the very well-being of the filly Hooray is proving vexatious.
The last-named ended her juvenile campaign as wide-margin winner of the Cheveley Park Stakes but Prescott is pessimistic about her chances of making the 1,000 Guineas line-up. "She hasn't grown over the winter," he said, "and she's from a family that don't often train on from two to three. Neither is she particularly thriving; she's very athletic with a willing attitude, but there's not enough of her. The manger is the problem; at the moment she's not eating as well as I'd like."
Hooray is a 12-1 shot for the Guineas (White Moonstone and Misty For Me share favouritism at around 6-1) but it was not until yesterday that she had her first work session of the spring. "We had to start," said Prescott, "or she certainly wouldn't make the Guineas. And if we miss a day with her from here on we'll be scuppered. Last year she didn't start to come to herself until the summer and I suspect in her case that may be the nature of the beast, like daffodils always coming up at the same time of year. We'll try to get her there but she's proving a bit of a trainer's testing exam question."
If Hooray is University Challenge standard, then Dream Ahead, 14-1 for the 2,000 Guineas, is first-round Who Wants To be A Millionaire? "Physically, he's done fantastically over the winter," said Simcock. "He's really filled his big frame, he has the most wonderful laid-back temperament in his work and what he has done so far this year has been excellent. But it's been a dry March here and if it comes up on the fast side of good next month, the Guineas will be a no-no and we'll be looking at the French and Irish versions."
Chris McGrath's Nap
Kiama Bay (3.20 Catterick) Has progressed during the winter on the all-weather and looks one to have on side on his return to turf.
Quartz de Thaix (3.10 Hereford) Should be more comfortable with the step back up in distance and down in class after finding everything happening a bit quickly at Cheltenham.
One to watch
Jinksy Minx (Suzy Smith) Should be given another chance after blundering badly and unseating on her hurdles handicap debut last week.
Where the money's going
Sir Michael Stoute's Havant, who beat Saturday's UAE Derby heroine Khawlah last October, was cut by all firms yesterday for the 1,000 Guineas, from as much at 12-1 to a general 8-1.