05/01/2011 2:51PM

English 1000 Guineas: Blue Bunting establishes herself as favorite for Oaks


Blue Bunting’s strong late rally carried her to a three-quarters length victory over Together in the Group 1 Quipco 1000 Guineas on Sunday at Newmarket, England. The performance made the Godolphin-owned Blue Bunting  into one of the favorites for the English Oaks, and gave second-year trainer Mahmood al Zarooni his first victory in an English classic race.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Blue Bunting raced toward the rear of an 18-horse field as Hooray set the pace down the straight-course 1,600 meters. Blue Bunting got a clean run along the stand’s side rail as Together and Maqaasid took over from Hooray in the final quarter-mile. Together turned back Maqaasid’s challenge but could not match late stride with Blue Bunting, who won going away in her first start of 2011. Together finished 1 ¼  lengths in front of Maqaasid. Nova Hawk was another 3 ¼ lengths back in fourth. Well-regarded Memory basically refused to participate, finishing 18th. 

Blue Bunting , a gray daughter of Dynaformer bred in the U.S. by Brad Kelley and purchased for $200,000 at Fasig Tipton’s Saratoga yearling sale, won a listed stakes in her two-start 2010 campaign. With her performance Sunday, Blue Bunting had her odds for the English Oaks cut dramatically, and was listed as low as a 3-1 favorite for the race by William Hill. That strong support owes greatly to the fact that many believe the Guineas distance of about one mile was shorter than Blue Bunting’s best trip, and that she will improve over the 2,400 meters of the Oaks.

“I still think she’s a mile-and-a-half filly,” Zarooni said.

Frankel may bypass Epsom Derby

Frankel, the undefeated English colt whose Saturday romp is being hailed as one of the best English 2000 Guineas wins ever, is not certain to contest the June 4 Epsom Derby, and could race instead on June 14 in the St. James Palace Stakes at Ascot. Frankel’s trainer, Henry Cecil, said on Sunday that Frankel would not race in the Dante Stakes, a prep for the Derby.

While Frankel’s brilliance is not in doubt, his suitability to the testing one and one-half miles of the Derby has come into question, and the St. James Palace is contested over the same 1,600-meter trip as the Guine