04/29/2009 11:00PM

Delegator may be vulnerable in 2000 Guineas

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An upset may be brewing in the 201st running of the 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday when 17 3-year-olds line up for the $557,000 classic mile. Holes can be shot in many of the favorites, while the antepost choice himself, Delegator, must overcome a jinx that has seen 14 of the last 15 Guineas favorites fail to succeed.

What Delegator has going for him is a course-and-distance victory over Newmarket's Rowley Mile in the Group 3 Craven Stakes on April 16. A son of Dansili trained by Brian Meehan, Delegator looked like the most improved 3-year-old colt in the world when he came from last to first to win that key Guineas prep by 2 3/4 lengths. He will be reunited with Jamie Spencer.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien has won 3 of the last 4 Guineas and five altogether. On Saturday he will saddle the second and third favorites, Rip Van Winkle and Mastercraftsman, but both may be vulnerable. Interest in Rip Van Winkle, a Galileo colt, peaked when O'Brien's first-string rider, Johnny Murtagh, opted for him over his stablemate. But Rip Van Winkle's seventh-place finish in the Dewhurst Stakes last time on Oct. 25 raises doubts, as does his twice-interrupted preparation this spring. Mastercraftsman won a pair of Group 1 races last summer in Ireland but was only fourth last time in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, so his best days may already be behind him.

Evasive, from the family of Miesque and East of the Moon, is an Elusive Quality colt trained by Michael Stoute. He won the six-furlong Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes in October but suffered a foot abscess last week and may not be quite ready for a test like the Guineas.

If Delegator fails to fire, the winner could be Sea the Stars. Trained in Ireland by John Oxx, he is a son of Cape Cross out of Arc winner Urban Sea and so a half-brother to Epsom and Irish Derby winner Galileo. Urban Sea herself is a half-sister to 2000 Guineas winner Kings Best, an indication that a mile will suit Sea the Stars, who will be making his seasonal debut off a victory in the one-mile Group 2 Beresford Stakes on Sept. 28 and be ridden by Michael Kinane.

Frankie Dettori has passed up a Kentucky Derby ride on Desert Party to partner Ashram in the Guineas. Trained last year by John Hills, Ashram was only sixth in the Dewhurst, after which he was purchased by Godolphin, but he has won Nemarket's seven-furlong, Group 3 Somerville Tattersalls Stakes and has been working sharply.

Two others who must be considered are Lord Shanakill and Finjaan. They finished second and third in the Dewhurst, beaten a nose and a nose by Intense Focus, who goes instead to Longchamp next Sunday for the French 2000 Guineas.