04/01/2011 1:47PM

Frankel leads Guineas parade


The Guineas season goes into high gear this week with a pair of French preps at Maisons-Laffitte, but it is the anticipated return of European juvenile champion Frankel in the Greenham Stakes on April 16 that will attract the most attention.

Trainer Henry Cecil is aiming Frankel, an undefeated son of Galileo at Newbury for the seven-furlong test instead of a 2000 Guineas course-and-distance prep at Newmarket two days earlier in the Craven Stakes. In the Greenham, Frankel will not have to carry a penalty for his victory in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes. In the Craven, Frankel would have to carry three pounds extra.

While Frankel maintains his 4-5 favoritism with William Hill for the Guineas, there is more to the run-up to the six Guineas run in England, Ireland, and France than himself. Pathfork is one of the colts on the Guineas trail with American connections. Owned by Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton of Silverton Hill Partnership, the Distorted Humor colt made it 3 for 3 by winning the seven-furlong, Group 1 Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at the Curragh on Sept. 11 with the runner-up that day, Casamento, proceeding to win the seven-furlong, Group 2 Beresford Stakes and the one-mile, Group 1 Racing Post Trophy. Trainer Jessica Harrington will send Pathfork directly to Newmarket for the 2000 Guineas without benefit of a prep race.

Trained in Ireland at two by Michael Halford for Sheikh Mohammed, Casamento was switched to Godolphin and Mahmoud Al Zarooni and spent the winter in Dubai. Godolphin is still mulling whether to send their Shamardal colt straight to the 2000 Guineas or await the Dante Stakes, the key Epsom Derby trial at York on May 12.

Aidan O’Brien’s main Guineas hope, Roderic O’Connor, bypassed the Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial on March 27 and could go straight to Newmarket instead or use the Craven as a prep. The Guineas Trial winner, Dunboyne Express, meanwhile, will await the Irish 2000 on May 21.

Wootton Bassett impressed making it 5 for 5 in leading throughout to take the seven-furlong, Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere on Oct. 3. A son of Iffraaj traine by Richard Fahey, he missed three weeks of training but is back on track now and will go straight to the 2000 Guineas.

One that won’t go in the Newmarket Guineas is the Jeremy Noseda-trained Peter Martins. An unbeaten Johannesburg colt, he will miss the first half of the season with a leg injury.

Team Valor and Graham Motion’s plans to send their Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner, Pluck, to the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, or French 2000 Guineas, remained firm even after he botched his return when only fourth in a Tampa Bay allowance on March 12. Pluck, a More Than Ready colt, will get his French Guineas acid test at Keeneland on Friday when he goes in the Transylvania Stakes. Team Valor’s Barry Irwin says that Pluck “would have to win the Transylvania and win it impressively” to earn a trip to Longchamp.

Havant, a Michael Stoute-trained Halling filly, is the antepost favorite for both the 1000 Guineas and the English Oaks. She broke her maiden at first asking by five lengths going seven furlongs at Newmarket in August, then took the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths on Oct. 1. That form was boosted when the Oh So Sharp’s third-place finisher, Khawlah, trained by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin, won both the UAE Oaks and the UAE Derby. Khawlah is the third favorite for the English Oaks. The second favorite for both the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks is the Godolphin-owned White Moonstone. A Dynaformer filly, she was perfect in four juvenile tries that culminated in a win in Ascot’s Group 1 Fillies Mile.

Hooray was the highest-rated 2-year-old filly on the World Thoroughbred Rankings by virtue of her 4 1/2-length romp in the six-furlong, Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes. But her trainer, Mark Prescott, warns that this daughter of Invincible Spirit has not come around during the winter and looks like one that has failed to train on.

Aidan O’Brien is playing it close to the vest with his two-time Group 1 winner Misty For Me. A Galileo filly, she is co-second favorite for the 1000 Guineas and third favorite for the English Oaks, but O’Brien has yet to announce her schedule.