Progressive Battleground showing promise for 2,000 Guineas

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Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien has trained the winner of the 2,000 Guineas five times in the last nine years and has 10 wins in total. Battleground has the profile to win the race for the Irish trainer next May and looks the standout bet in the ante-post betting at +900 with BetOnline.

The picture for the first English Classic of the season at Newmarket will be clearer following the major races for juveniles before the end of the current Flat season. The Future Champions Festival in October will highlight horses with the potential to contest the colts’ Classic.  

The Dewhurst Stakes is the most important race for two-year-old colts in Britain. An impressive winner of the race often becomes the winter favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. The race distance is seven furlongs over the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket. The Guineas is over one mile. 

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O’Brien often runs his best colt in the Dewhurst, winning it four times from 2013 to 2017. Even so, only Churchill won that race and the 2,000 Guineas, in 2016 and the following spring. The trainer has so many potential champions that another horse can emerge between October and May. 

However, if Battleground is sent to Newmarket next month, it’s safe to assume the trainer believes he has the ability to run in the Classic. Young horses develop physically and mentally from autumn to spring, and Battleground must be high in the pecking order at O’Brien’s stable. 

The colt missed the National Stakes at the Curragh due to a cough, but he justified an entry because of his form and rating. The juvenile won the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Vintage Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. 

Battleground was well beaten by Lucky Vega on his first start at Naas.       That horse, trained by Jessica Harrington, is +1600 for the 2,000 Guineas, which seems a big price. However, since the Naas race Battleground has progressed and Lucky Vega has won just once in three starts. He was fifth in the National Stakes, which is a key form guide for the Guineas. 

Thunder Moon was an impressive winner of that race and was made favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. He is the only horse in the betting shorter than Battleground, and the trainer is Jospeh O’Brien, Aidan’s son. The race was Thunder Moon’s second start, so he has not earned an Official Rating.  The Racing Post mark is 117, while Battleground’s figure is 111. 

Battleground has improved in each of his two subsequent starts after his debut. While it’s clear that Thunder Moon has produced the better from, the end-of-season Group races for juveniles could change the dynamic. 

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Galileo is Battleground’s maternal grandfather. His parents are War Front and Found, so the breeding is impeccable. Galileo’s offspring and their children often show improvement from two to three, which means Battleground could eventually be faster over one mile than Thunder Moon.  There are plenty of bridges to across over the next seven months.  

Alkumait shortened in the betting for the 2,000 Guineas to +3300 after winning the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday. The expensive yearling would have to be supplemented for the Dewhurst, but a clash with the O’Brien horses would tell us a lot.      

Marcus Tregoning’s colt looks an interesting each-way bet for the Guineas at the current odds, but Battleground has the profile to provide O’Brien senior with his 11th win.   

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