Ground concerns for Camelot
Ground conditions at Newmarket could be a question mark for the hugely talented Camelot in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained three-year-old aims to become the first son of Montjeu to win the Rowley Mile Classic, and it would be particularly poignant if he could strike in the year the top-class racehorse and sire passed away.
While Montjeu's progeny generally act well with cut in the ground, Camelot showed a brilliant turn of foot on a sound surface to run away with last season's Racing Post Trophy.
Big-race rider Joseph O'Brien admits they will be going into the unknown if the ground does not dry out ahead of the weekend, with the ground officially soft on Thursday morning after 25 millimetres of rain.
"He has a high cruising speed and ticks the right boxes. I'd be hoping he'd run a nice race," O'Brien junior told At The Races.
"I have to have a question mark over the ground. He's a very good moving horse and won both starts last year on good ground.
"The ground at the weekend is an unknown, but we won't know until he goes and does it.
"He seems to have wintered well and we're looking forward to it. He's come to hand fairly quickly and he's ready for his first run of the year."
While Joseph O'Brien is bidding for his first British Classic winner, his trainer-father has saddled five previous winners of this race.
Camelot is very much this year's most talked-about Ballydoyle hope, but the Tipperary powerbase also saddle a fascinating second string in Group One winner Power, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore.
Another major challenger for Ireland is the John Oxx-trained Born To Sea.
The son of Invincible Spirit has plenty to live up to as a half-brother to Sea The Stars, whose victory in the 2009 Guineas kicked off an unbeaten three-year-old year.
Oxx has been happy with how his colt has gone at home in recent weeks and he does not expect the ground conditions to cause too many problems.
"The weather hasn't hindered us at all. The horse has had a good preparation and he hasn't missed any work," said Oxx.
"He's made the normal physical progress that you expect from two to three and we'd have to be happy with the way things have gone.
"We've only run him twice, but he hasn't been too inconvenienced by soft ground before.
"I don't think ground is much of an issue. I think he would prefer fast ground, but I wouldn't pull him out because it was soft.
"He still has to prove he stays a mile and I'm not sure he'd want a slog, but the ground as such, I don't think is a big worry."
A total of 18 colts are set to face the starter, with Jim Bolger's Parish Hall the one notable absentee following the declaration stage.
There is a strong contingent from France, with Abtaal, French Fifteen and Hermival all making the cross-Channel journey.
Jean-Claude Rouget's Abtaal was narrowly beaten on his seasonal return in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte but the top trainer is expecting significant improvement.
"He was not fit enough to win the Djebel and the trip was a bit short for him, but he has improved a lot from the race and that is why we decided to confirm Newmarket for him," Rouget told At The Races.
"It is never easy to win the Guineas, but I think he has improved enough to be competitive and finish in the first four."
British champion trainer Richard Hannon has saddled three 2000 Guineas winners.
Craven Stakes winner Trumpet Major is this year's leading hope and he is joined by Bronterre, Coupe De Ville and Redact.
One of the buzz horses in the field is Roger Charlton's Top Offer.
He has not been seen since winning a Newbury maiden last August, but has a massive reputation.
Greenham Stakes winner Caspar Netscher, Boomerang Bob, Fencing, Ptolemaic, Red Duke, Saigon and the supplemented Talwar complete the final field.
John Hills said of Boomerang Bob, runner-up to Caspar Netscher at Newbury: "We were very happy with his run at Newbury - it was his first run for a long time - so he should come on considerably.
"He is a lovely horse, and although we are going there as an outsider, we are in great shape, we like the ground and we are going to have a crack at it."