Minding, winner of five of her seven outings in Group 1 races last season, made an impressive start to her four-year-old career in the Mooresbridge Stakes at Naas on Monday, as she made most of the running under Ryan Moore and coasted home three and a half lengths in front of Moonlight Magic.
In a sense Minding did no more than her starting price of 1-3 would imply but, having won Group 1 events in her first two seasons on the track, Monday’s race offered evidence that, while she has continued to develop physically, her abundant racing talent remains intact. Minding responded immediately when Moore asked her to lengthen in the straight and she established a decisive lead in a few strides, in a style carrying echoes of her win in last season’s Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot.
Minding now seems certain to return to Group 1 company, probably for the remainder of the season, and while the competition will be stronger for her next start, Aidan O’Brien’s filly will be the likely favourite wherever she runs. Minding is entered in the Lockinge Stakes over a mile at Newbury on 20 May but O’Brien’s initial feeling seemed to be to run in the 10-furlong Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh eight days later before moving on to Royal Ascot, where Minding could contest either the Queen Anne Stakes on the opening day or the Prince of Wales’s Stakes the following afternoon.
“She’s done well physically and has changed into a four-year-old,” O’Brien said. “When she was a two-year-old she looked like a two-year-old and then she looked like a three-year-old, but sometimes horses going from three to four don’t look like four-year-olds. She has changed.
“We’ll probably be looking at the Tattersalls, I’d imagine that’s where we’ll go. We’ll take it one at a time but we’d be thinking of the Prince Of Wales at Royal Ascot then. She’s a great filly and what she did last year was incredible. To go back to a mile at the end, it’s very rare a horse can do that over a mile, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half.”
Minding is the 5-2 favourite for the Prince of Wales’s Stakes with William Hill ahead of Almanzor, last season’s Champion Stakes winner, at 9-2. Other possible runners in the race include André Fabre’s Cloth Of Stars, who is a 10-1 chance after winning the Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud on Monday, the first Group 1 event of the European season.
Fabre said on Monday that he is “quite confident” that his colt Al Wukair will make the frame in Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, and his confidence was probably bolstered after only 12 horses were declared for the first Classic of the new campaign at the five-day stage.
O’Brien’s colt Churchill, the winner of last season’s Dewhurst Stakes, remains the clear favourite for the Guineas at a top price of 15-8, ahead of Barney Roy, the Greenham Stakes winner, and Al Wukair, both on 9-2. Eminent, who took the Craven Stakes at Newmarket last month over the Guineas course and distance, is a 5-1 chance and it is 16-1 bar the four.
“Al Wukair did his final piece of work this morning and I was happy with everything,” Fabre said. “I am quite confident he will be in the first three on Saturday but I am a bit concerned that he was not a Group 1 winner as a two-year-old, something that most Guineas winners have already achieved, including both of mine [Zafonic and Pennekamp].
“The ground is not a worry for him as he has won on soft and it was on the fast side for [his win in the Prix] Djebel [last month]. He seems well balanced so neither is [the undulating] course a major concern.”
Tuesday’s tips, by Greg Wood
2.00 Floss The Hoss 2.30 Otomo 3.00 Bahamian Sunrise (nb) 3.35 Lorelina 4.10 Ettie Hart 4.40 Black Caesar 5.10 Hold Firm
6.10 Dorcas 6.40 Paddy A 7.10 Mabrook 7.40 Ickymasho 8.10 Zac Brown 8.40 Frank The Barber 9.10 Pete So High
2.10 Silver Bullet 2.40 Meteor Light 3.10 Scribner Creek 3.45 La Casa Tarifa (nap) 4.20 Midnight Vixen 4.50 On Fire 5.25 Batten The Hatches
6.00 Senor George 6.30 Brimham Rocks 7.00 Al Nafoorah 7.30 Oratorio’s Joy 8.00 Russian Ranger 8.30 Our Kid 9.00 Prince Of Time
2.20 To Wafij 2.50 Ocelot 3.25 Hope Is High 4.00 Fantasy Gladiator 4.30 Gothic Empire 5.00 Across Dubai 5.30 The Yellow Bus