Qipco 2,000 Guineas (Group 1) | 3yo colts & fillies | 1m | ITV/RTV
It is almost time for the talking to stop as far as Pinatubo is concerned, and for trainer Charlie Appleby comes the acid test of whether a champion two-year-old for the ages can progress into a Classic winner.
Appleby has spent the winter monitoring his star pupil at close quarters as he shuttled between Dubai and Newmarket and, on the basis of Pinatubo's casual morning work and one racecourse gallop at Chelmsford, must judge his fitness and wellbeing.
After an even longer than usual wait between the Dewhurst and the Guineas, plenty of horses could be excused for being a little too fresh by now, but that at least is one element of the equation not keeping Appleby awake at night.
The trainer said: "He's not a highly-strung horse who is keen in the mornings, and so during this extended period he wouldn’t have been over-training. That’s the least of his problems, he's a laid-back character.
"We've been lucky in that we always thought the Guineas would be around this sort of time so we've never had to take him back in his training, we’ve always been going forward. We delayed the start of the process and thankfully it's played into our hands.
"I was never getting ready for a trial, the plan was always to work straight back from the Guineas and that has certainly helped with his training programme.
"He's accepted it very well, as you would expect with his character, and thankfully he’s hit all the targets so we’re confident he’s fit enough.
"He looks great and he's got the course experience, which as we know is a plus at Newmarket.
"I don’t want to sound like I'm sitting on the fence but if he turns up the way he was last year they’ve all got him to beat again.
"The hardest part from our perspective is that, because he's not a work horse, you're going on physical signs that he looks well and he's done well, rather than he's done an electric piece of work in the morning to say, 'That's where we are.'
"That would mean you could go in there with that confidence that he's flying. But he just never has. It's a nice position once you've got your first run of the season out of the way and you know that his characteristics are playing out again as a three-year-old, and you know he's conserving his energy and hopefully bringing his A game in the afternoons.
"But until you get that first run as a three-year-old out of the way, you are just sitting there thinking 'I hope he's as good as he was'."
Stablemate Al Suhail on trial for the Derby
Appleby also runs Al Suhail in the Classic, and he said of the Autumn Stakes runner-up: "I'm hoping James Doyle can get him into a nice galloping rhythm in the first half of the race, and I expect him to be running on, doing his best work at the finish.
"He has an Epsom pedigree top and bottom. Both his sire and dam were placed in Classics there, so if he runs well in the Guineas, it's logical to be thinking of the Derby."
What the other connections say
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Arizona. New World Tapestry, Royal Dornoch and Wichita
I know Arizona did very well at two but we always thought he would make up into a better three-year-old. The ground should be ideal, as the better the ground the better he'll be. We're very happy with him at the moment. He's quite a fast horse, certainly not short of pace. Whether he'll stay further than a mile we're not sure, although we might try him over a bit further at some stage.
Wichita is a powerful, straightforward colt with a really good attitude. He's very versatile with regard to ground and I do think he'll stay even further than a mile. He seems very well. Royal Dornoch was a good juvenile and we were thrilled with him in the Royal Lodge. We're not sure whether he'll get much further than a mile. He's in good form. New World Tapestry would look to have a bit to find with some of the main contenders but seems in good form.
Brian Meehan, trainer of Cepheus
I think he's very talented and the showers that Newmarket are having will suit him. He's been working all spring with some very nice horses that have plenty of experience. We had originally pencilled him in for the French Derby, which for obvious reasons didn't work out. It seems like a good alternative to go for the Guineas. I think ultimately he'll be better over a mile and a quarter but I think this is a great place to go with him.
Kevin Ryan, trainer of Juan Elcano
He's done great, he's filled out and has been working nicely. He's well entitled to take his chance and we’re very happy with him.
Oisin Murphy, jockey of Kameko
His work has been good and he's ready to go. I'm not concerned about stall 15 for him – there are some good ones near me, Arizona is in 13, and it shouldn't be an issue. We've been working him at home without making life too hard for him, not pressing loads of buttons, as hopefully he'll be in action all season long now. I believe in him. He's a genuine Group 1 horse and a mile at Newmarket is where he starts but who knows where he’ll end up?
Roger Teal, trainer of Kenzai Warrior
I wouldn't have given him a prep run even without the lockdown. I feel the prep runs can take the edge off them if the trial is only two or three weeks ahead of the big one. Sometimes you pay the price. We're all starting from a clean slate. He has a great attitude. He's a bit of a playboy but once he goes about his work, he's very easy. There will be a few fresh horses here around the paddock on Saturday. But if he can behave himself in the prelims he can run a nice race for us.
Julian Richmond-Watson, owner of Kinross
He’s done very well over the winter and everyone’s pleased with him. He obviously has less experience than a lot of the others so we’ll have to see but hopefully he can run a good race and then we can plan the rest of the season. I’ll be delighted if he finishes in the first four
Saeed Bin Suroor, trainer of Military March
He did very well as a two-year-old, winning both his starts including a Group 3. We gave him a break over the winter and have been very pleased with him since he came back in. I was very happy with his final piece of work earlier this week and he looks ready to go. It looks as though he's a horse who will need further, but he shows plenty of speed and this is a nice starting point for his season. He looks much stronger compared to last year and I’m hoping for a big run.
Richard Hannon, trainer of Mums Tipple
He’s been in great form. I took him to work at Kempton and he was the only one who made ground on the surface, so I'm particularly pleased with him. If he reproduces the form of his staggering York win, he’ll run well and have a good chance.
Charlie Hills, trainer of Persuasion
I've been pleased with him this year as he's wintered great, looks fantastic and has worked well. I think he has decent enough form, finishing second to Wichita last year, and he hated that tacky soft ground so I think he'll be a much-improved horse on quicker ground. He's a very strong traveller in his races and he should get a mile.
Hughie Morrison, trainer of Starcat
He's in good form and he's been working well, although he hasn't been for an away day like some. Oisin Murphy thinks he's a nice horse and he got a good rating for his win at Kempton so we felt it was a maiden of significance. He does enough in the mornings but no more and I hope to see more in the afternoon. His co-owner Martin Hughes loves to have a crack and Michael Kerr-Dineen has been a huge supporter of racing and of us.
Of the last nine 2,000 Guineas winners, only Camelot (2012) and Night Of Thunder (2014) were not in front at the furlong pole.