Andrew Balding wary of Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear in 2000 Guineas
Andrew Balding believes this year's Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket looks "above average" as he prepares Dewhurst winner Chaldean for the first Classic of the season. With the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear heading the market, Balding admits he is in the dark as to how his colt will fair against the Ballydoyle pair, having not come up against either last term. Auguste Rodin won the Futurity Trophy over mile and has been described as a potential Triple Crown horse by O'Brien, while Little Big Bear has never run over further than six furlongs but was stunning in winning the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last summer. Balding has full respect for both horses ahead of Saturday's showpiece event, saying: "I think the two of Aidan's at the top of the market looked exceptional last year. We've not really got any form with them as we never raced Chaldean against either of them. "I think there are some strong English entries, like Royal Scotsman who ran us close in the Dewhurst, so he has to be respected. It looks an above average Guineas to me." Balding sent Chaldean to Newbury a fortnight ago for the Greenham Stakes, but having received a bump on coming out of the stalls, Frankie Dettori was dislodged and Chaldean ran the course riderless. Balding added: "We will only know on Saturday what we missed out on at Newbury and the benefits of having a run as obviously it would have been far more of a benefit for him to have had a jockey on board and have a proper race. "At the same time, it wasn't totally lost as he had to go through the preliminary tests of saddling, walking around the paddock and cantering down to the start, which are the extras that go with a run and not just a gallop at home. "Thankfully he didn't go and do another circuit loose. He was fairly sensible. "I couldn't be happier with him at the moment and Frankie rode him on Saturday and he worked extremely well. It was a very solid piece and his fitness levels are as good as we could hope for in the circumstances."
With this being Dettori's farewell season, Saturday will obviously be his final shot at 2000 Guineas glory. The popular Italian has already won the race three times, aboard Mark Of Esteem (1996), Island Sands (1999) and Galileo Gold (2016), and Balding is pleased to have him on his side. "Frankie has been, throughout my career in racing, the standout jockey. It would be wonderful if we can contribute in giving him the send-off he deserves," said the Kingsclere handler. "I think if you were giving him a ride in the St Leger that would be a bit more pressure as it would be his last Classic ride. We just hope we have found him something worthy enough for this occasion. "I'm delighted we have got him, even at his age he is still an extraordinary jockey and I'm sure we won't be lacking in assistance in the saddle. "
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