The opening Classic of the season is upon us and Saturday's Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket looks a cracker, with six of the 15 runners having won or finished close seconds in Group One races last term.
Will Wembley score among a formidable three-strong challenge for Aidan O'Brien, the leading all-time trainer in this race with 10 successes? Or can Charlie Appleby - again with three runners - continue to dominate with his three-year-old colts this season and register a first success in this historic race?
Here is our big-race guide to all the contenders, followed by a verdict and some suggested bets.
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Timeform rating: 110 General odds: 200-1
Positives: Hollie Doyle takes the ride.
Negatives: His debut victory at Windsor last year is his only success on turf, while his rating of 95 leaves him with a mountain to find.
Verdict: The odds tell the tale for this rank outsider.
Timeform rating: 129p General odds: 6-1
Positives: He is a proven traveller with strong form, looking a little unfortunate on his final start at the Breeders' Cup. He is a professional and, on pedigree and physical stature, is open to improvement at three.
Negatives: Seemingly not the stable first-choice on jockey bookings and he lacks the domestic Group One form of some of his main rivals. He is drawn near the rail, and this imposing colt might prefer more racing room. He often raced wide as a juvenile.
Verdict: He should enjoy this straight mile and there is more to like about his chance than not. He should be in the shake-up.
"He's got it all I think to be a Guineas horse" - Richard Hannon speaks to Nick Luck after Greenham success for Chindit
Timeform rating: 129 General odds: 14-1
Positives: He has won four of his five starts and tends to do his best work at the end of his races - including on his return in the Greenham, an established trial. On his racing style, he should appreciate stepping up to a mile.
Negatives: His sole career flop was at this track, while his trainer has sounded caution about the Newmarket undulations. His best performances have come when ridden patiently and wide, but he's got an inside draw here.
Verdict: The softer ground and strong early pace looked to unsettle him in the Dewhurst. He could be slightly underestimated on the assumption that the Rowley Mile is not his track, and on the evidence of just one attempt.
Timeform rating: 126 General odds: 80-1
Positives: He should improve from his return in the Craven, while he was only beaten less than three lengths in the Dewhurst.
Negatives: Softer conditions would likely see him to better effect and he's very much up against it on official ratings.
Verdict: He is drawn widest of all, and this pace-setter would likely prefer an inside draw near the rail. His early speed could be a key factor in Master Of The Seas' chance, who is drawn next door.
Timeform rating: 124p General odds: 50-1
Positives: He is lightly-raced with more to offer. He put it up to the experienced and well-regarded Megallan on his return at Newcastle and is entitled to improve now.
Negatives: He is yet to win on turf and untested at this track. Strictly on ratings, he is well adrift here and only Albadri is his inferior in this field.
Verdict: He could potentially out-run his price and it's interesting his top connections are trying him here, but he faces several formidable rivals now up significantly in grade.
"He's in very good form this year and done very well over the winter" - Jessica Harrington is very happy with Lucky Vega ahead of Classic reckoning
Timeform rating: 130 General odds: 22-1
Positives: He is a Group One winner and found for pressure in the closing stages on nearly all of his starts in a distinguished juvenile career. His trainer has issued upbeat bulletins on how this horse has wintered.
Negatives: He is not a certain stayer at a mile on pedigree and racing style.
Verdict: Strictly on his National Stakes - a key formline here - he is a big price given the interference suffered and that he was closing at the line. His current odds look bigger than not, even accounting for stamina doubts.
Timeform rating: 130 General odds: 9-1
Positives: A classy juvenile, he has already had two runs this year and is proven over course and distance. He finds well at the end of his races. Notably, he is the choice of jockey William Buick over One Ruler.
Negatives: He can race very enthusiastically in the early stages, a trait still apparent last time even in the first-time hood. His wide draw could exacerbate this.
Verdict: He looked good in the Craven and is much respected for a stable who have dominated so far this season with their three-year-old colts. The vote of confidence from the stable jockey also seems telling.
"He seems to have come forward" Jim Crowley tells Anthony Dunkley he can't wait to ride Mutasaabeq in the Qipco 2000 Guineas
Timeform rating: 129p General odds: 11-2
Positives: He is unbeaten and bred to win this race given he is a son of 1000 Guineas winner Ghanaati. He has handled the Rowley Mile well on both of his career starts and has been supplemented for this race at cost of £30,000. He should enjoy going up a furlong in trip.
Negatives: He might have been flattered slightly after grabbing the favoured prominent poisition on the rail at the Craven meeting. This is a huge rise in class and he is yet to contest a field of this depth, in terms of quality and quantity of runners.
Verdict: He clocked some very fast sectionals on his return and rates a fascinating runner despite this representing a tall task on paper. He's fancied to go well.
Timeform rating: 120 General odds: 100-1
Positives: Bred to make more of an impact at two, but put up his best effort on his return when third in the Craven.
Negatives: He was ultimately no match for Master Of The Seas at Newmarket and there is no real reason why he will reverse that form. He is well down the pecking order here strictly on official ratings.
Verdict: He is one of the big outsiders in this company and it's hard to quibble with that too much.
Timeform rating: 126 General odds: 50-1
Positives: He likes to race prominently and his draw suits near the rail. He beat Master Of The Seas earlier this year in Dubai, has Newmarket form and will appreciate going back up to a mile.
Negatives: He is very much the third-string choice of his stable here and his overall form lacks substance in comparison to the market principals.
Verdict: A big price and hard to fancy, but potentially an important factor here as the likely pace-setter for a potential stands-side group with most of the leading players.
"He's pretty solid, isn't he?" - James Doyle gives Tom Stanley the latest ahead of Saturday's Classic assignment for One Ruler
Timeform rating: 129 General odds: 8-1
Positives: He looked very good over course and distance last term in the Autumn Stakes. He has strong Group One form and, imposing physically, should make up into a better horse this year. His breeding suggests the same.
Negatives: William Buick prefers Master Of The Seas. The ground should be OK, but whether this faster going will prove optimal in time is open to debate.
Verdict: He rallied well in the Verterm Futurity Trophy to finish a close second and he might not have been at his best there. That race has proven the best trial for the 2000 Guineas in recent years. He should go well.
Timeform rating: 125p General odds: 12-1
Positives: He did well to win the Killavullen Stakes last season just a week after a delayed return in the Dewhurst, where he went quite well for a long way. He has followed a route not dissimilar to sire Dawn Approach, who won this race in 2013. This step-up to a mile should yield further improvement.
Negatives: He is unproven on this quicker ground, while he could have had a kinder draw than his berth in stall four.
Verdict: He lacks the form of some of the big players here, but he is race-fit and has more to offer. In these conditions, he could run a personal best.
"I think he'd stay well" - Declan McDonogh speaks after Group One glory for Thunder Moon last year at the Curragh
Timeform rating: 132p General odds: 5-1
Positives: He looked exceptional in the National Stakes last year and this Group One winner probably has the best turn of foot in this field.
Negatives: His victory over seven furlongs in the National Stakes was not a strong test at the trip and he didn't look to hold too many excuses in the Dewhurst, showing a lot of speed on the outside before flattering out. Wembley delivered his challenge wider and from further back when finishing second on that occasion.
Verdict: He's classy and exciting, but rates a more doubtful stayer than not in the context of his lofty market position.
Timeform rating: 127 General odds: 10-1
Positives: He ran well behind One Ruler over course and distance in the Autumn Stakes and arguably shaped best there, before signing off with an easy Group One victory in France. A strong and imposing colt last year, he could improve significantly this season.
Negatives: He may want more of a stamina test than might seem likely here, given the prevailing quicker conditions.
Verdict: He represents a very strong Ballydoyle challenge and arguably represents the value pick of the stable's three contenders at the prices.
Timeform rating: 133 General odds: 7-2
Positives: He improved for better ground and more patient tactics as a juvenile, shaping very well in a strong National Stakes and Dewhurst. He's bred to be much better this year and this further trip should eke out more improvement. He is the pick of Ryan Moore.
Negatives: He took a while to win with - albeit he bumped into a good one on his second start - and his profile does not quite tally up with previous Ballydoyle Guineas winners.
Verdict: He has leading domestic form with a big chance and is very hard to get out of the frame. The question is whether he's backable at this price in an open race.
The Qipco 2000 Guineas looks a fascinating race this year with several exciting colts still with more to offer.
The one I would generally be against at the prices is Thunder Moon given his more precocious breeding and the explosive speed he showed as a juvenile. The ground should be more to his liking now than when third in the Dewhurst, but he's up against a host of horses who have finished strongly over seven furlongs and a mile. He is exciting and I would not be surprised if he won top races down in trip later in the campaign.
In an open heat, ONE RULER gets the vote and makes each-way appeal at a general 8-1, with William Hill offering those odds while paying out on five places. While William Buick has opted for Master Of The Seas, that can't have been an easy decision and you don't need me to tell you about the qualities of first-time rider James Doyle, who will have plenty of options from a nice and open draw in stall seven. He has gone out a few points in the betting since the news, too, which might be a slight over-reaction. The Vertem Futurity Trophy has proven the best trial to this race in recent years and he will surely improve this year after an excellent juvenile career.
Of those at bigger prices, Lucky Vega makes some appeal at 25-1, with Sky Bet ofering 20-1 and five places. He is probably seen as a more precocious type as an early Group One winner last season who is not proven at this trip. However, those doubts are more than accounted for at his curent price and the trainer has sounded strong bulletins about how he has wintered. Purely on the National Stakes form - where he suffered significant interference for over half a furlong before running on again near the line - he is over-priced and could sneak into the places to reward small each-way support.We've teamed up with the Flat experts at Timeform to bring you a FREE copy of their latest book - 50 Flat Horses to Follow throughout the 2021 season. Click here to claim yours for FREE!
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