Godolphin's undefeated European champion Dawn Approach will make his highly anticipated 2013 debut in the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), the first classic of the European season May 4 at Newmarket.
The New Approach colt is set to meet 12 opponents, including Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al Thani's undefeated Toronado and Coolmore and partners' Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) winner George Vancouver. The Two Thousand Guineas is contested over a straight mile on the Rowley Course.
Dawn Approach, the 5-4 favorite, won all six starts of 2012. He secured the Cartier Award as Europe's top juvenile male with back-to-back wins in the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes (Ire-I) Sept. 15 at the Curragh and Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I) Oct. 13 at Newmarket, stamping himself as the leading contender for the Guineas.
Irish trainer Jim Bolger told Agence France Presse that Dawn Approach has been training well and that he is a stronger horse than last year. He had high praise for the chestnut colt heading into the Guineas.
"He is the best I have had over a mile," said Bolger, who trained Dawn Approach's sire, New Approach, runner-up in the 2008 Two Thousand Guineas and Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I). New Approach went on to win the Epsom Derby (Eng-I) and Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I).
Bolger also sends out his Irish group III winner Leitir Mor, a Holy Roman Emperor colt who finished second in a trio of group I races last year, including the National and Dewhurst as well as the Keeneland Phoenix Stakes Aug. 12 at the Curragh.
Toronado, trained by Richard Hannon, is perfect in four career starts and comes in off a dominant four-length romp over Havana Gold and Dundonnell in the Novae Bloodstock Insurance Craven Stakes (Eng-III), April 18 at Newmarket.
The High Chaparral colt capped a flawless three-race season last year when defeating highly regarded Dundonnell in the One Call Insurance Champagne Stakes (Eng-II) Sept. 15 at Doncaster.
"He's in fantastic order and is probably in the form of his life," said Richard Hannon Jr., assistant to his father. "He'll run a very good race and I think it's between him and Dawn Approach."
Hannon also will saddle Saeed Manana's Van Der Neer, a stakes-winning Dutch Art colt who finished second in the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) Oct. 27 at Doncaster.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien has won the Two Thousand Guineas six times, including last year with Camelot with son Joseph aboard. The irish conditioner has a three-pronged attack for the English classic while his United Arab Emirates Derby (UAE-II) winner Lines of Battle bypassed the race to start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) the same day at Churchill Downs. He will saddle George Vancouver, multiple group-placed Cristoforo Colombo, who will be ridden by his son, and maiden winner Mars.
George Vancouver was third in the Dewhurst and runner-up in the Prix Morny (Fr-I) before invading America for the Breeders' Cup. Driving between a narrow gap at the top of the stretch at Santa Anita Park Nov. 3, he unleashed a devastating burst of acceleration on firm ground to win the one-mile Juvenile Turf by 1 1/4 lengths. The Henrythenavigator colt makes his first start since then.
Cristoforo Colombo, also by Henrythenavigator, placed twice in group races in England and Ireland last year before closing the season finishing sixth and fourth, respectively, in the Phoenix Stakes and Vision.ae Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I) Oct. 13 at Newmarket.
"He was unlucky not to win a group I in Ireland, and when he ran in the Vision.ae Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I) it was soft ground," O'Brien said. "We feel he wants fast ground as well.
"Henrythenavigator improved a lot when he went onto fast ground which he didn't have as a two-year-old and we think both these colts are a little like that as well."
Mars, a Galileo colt, made all the running to win his career debut going seven furlongs July 16 on the all-weather surface at Dundalk Racecourse, but has not started since.
The field is completed by Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes (Eng-II) winner Moohaajim (Cape Cross), who was runner-up in the Middle Park; two-time stakes winner Garswood (Dutch Art), stakes-placed Dont Bother Me (Dark Angel) and Glory Awaits (Choisir), and Correspondent (Exceed And Excel) and Kyllachy Rise (Kyllachy).