THE sport’s return steps up a gear in spectacular fashion this weekend, with three Group One races including the first two Classics of the season.
Racing has been back since Monday but with free-to-air television on board over the next three days — and little live sport taking place elsewhere — this will in many ways feel like the real return of a sport that was suspended for 11 weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Tomorrow’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, live on ITV, will see Pinatubo go off as the hot favourite. Charlie Appleby’s colt was unbeaten in six starts last year and ended the campaign with a rating of 128, the highest mark awarded to a juvenile since Celtic Swing in 1994.
Pinatubo’s unbeaten run included victory in the Dewhurst Stakes on his final start in 2019. Arizona finished two lengths behind Pinatubo that day and he reopposes here for Aidan O’Brien.
Meanwhile, Quadrilateral is the headline name among 15 final declarations for Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The Roger Charlton-trained filly was mighty impressive last year, winning her first two races at Newbury before claiming a superb win in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket. Leading the opposition is the Jessica Harrington-trained Millisle, also a Group One winner already at Headquarters, with her victory coming in the Cheveley Park Stakes last September.
Before all that, today’s Group One Coronation Stakes at Newmarket will see the brilliant Stradivarius, ridden by Frankie Dettori, aim for another big win.
Tip of the day
Oxted, 2.25, Newmarket
■ PRIZE money for Royal Ascot has been cut by over half. Organisers had hoped to offer more than £8million but instead the prize fund will total £3.7m. Chief executive Guy Henderson said: ‘It was set to be a landmark year for prize money. But these unprecedented times have intervened.’
■ A POTENTIALLY nasty incident at Newmarket was avoided when a pane of glass fell from the main grandstand yesterday. The seats below were empty, with the meeting behind closed doors.
■ RACING will finally return in Ireland on Monday, with the card at Naas including two Listed races.
■ 25/1 — Berlin Tango, trained by Andrew Balding, for next month’s Derby at Epsom, following the colt’s victory in the Classic Trial at Kempton