St Nicholas Abbey, one of three to be saddled by by Aidan O'Brien, heads a field of 19 declared for the first European Classic of the season, the £400,000 StanJames.com Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) at Newmarket on May 1.
O’Brien, with five wins in the Two Thousand Guineas, ranks jointly as the race's most successful current conditioner. He trains the 6/4 favorite with Stan James, the unbeaten St Nicholas Abbey.
The Montjeu colt will be making his seasonal debut, last seen enjoying a comprehensive 3 3/4-length victory over Elusive Pimpernel in the Racing Post Trophy (Eng-I) at Doncaster in October.
Elusive Pimpernel confirmed that form when impressively taking the Racing Post breezeupbonus.com Craven Stakes (Eng-III) at Newmarket on April 15 for trainer John Dunlop.
No French-trained horse has prevailed in the Two Thousand Guineas since Pennekamp in 1995 but there is a live hope from across the Channel this year in Makfi, who is trained by Mikel Delzangles at Gouvieux, just to the north of Paris.
The son of Dubawi is unbeaten in two starts and made a winning seasonal return in the seven-furlong Prix Djebel (Fr-III) at Maisons-Laffitte on April 8. Stan James make him a 40/1 chance. The horse started out in Britain and was originally trained by Marcus Tregoning but was sold for 26,000 guineas at Tattersalls in October 2009.
David Elsworth, best remembered as the trainer of Desert Orchid, bids for his first Classic win with Fair Trade, a promising second in a maiden on the Rowley Mile in the autumn who made a triumphant return to action in a mile maiden at Newbury on April 17. He is a 50/1 hope with Stan James.
Other trainers chasing their first taste of Classic success include John Best, who saddles Inler, an impressive winner on his sole start on the Rowley Mile back in October, and Elspeth’s Boy. Clive Cox runs last season’s Jumeirah Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I) third Xtension. Audacity Of Hope hails from the small Newmarket stable of Charlie McBride and finished fourth to the Barry Hills-trained Red Jazz in the Listed Bluesquare.com European Free Handicap at Newmarket on April 14.
Mister Baileys took the 1994 Two Thousand Guineas for Mark Johnston and this year the Yorkshire-based trainer runs the undefeated Awzaan, who already boasts group I-winning form on the Rowley Mile, having taken the Shadwell Middle Park Stakes over six furlongs in October. Johnston also runs Greyfriarschorista.
A trainer with a great Two Thousand Guineas record is Richard Hannon, who scored with Mon Fils (1973), Don’t Forget Me (1987) and Tirol (1990). He has two representatives in 2010, Canford Cliffs, winner of the Coventry Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot in 2009, and Dick Turpin, who got the better of his stable companion when the duo filled the first two positions in the Greenham Stakes (Eng-III) at Newbury on April 17.
The Maktoum family’s Godolphin operation run the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Al Zir, third to St Nicholas Abbey in the Racing Post Trophy, and Jumeirah Dewhurst Stakes fifth Buzzword, who will be a first British Classic runner for Mahmood Al Zarooni.
Pat Eddery won the 2000 Guineas three times as a jockey and saddles his first Classic runner as a trainer in Hearts Of Fire, who ended last season with a group I victory in the Gran Criterium at San Siro in Italy.
Completing the field is the Andrew Balding-trained Lord Zenith, who took the Listed International Trial Stakes at Lingfield on April 10.
Latest Stan James prices:
St Nicholas Abbey 6/4
Elusive Pimpernel 5/1
Canford Cliffs 7/1
Fencing Master 12/1
Al Zir 14/1
Dick Turpin 20/1
Hearts Of Fire 28/1
Viscount Nelson 40/1
Fair Trade 50/1
Elspeth's Boy 100/1
Lord Zenith 100/1
Red Jazz 100/1
Audacity Of Hope 150/1