05/08/2009 12:00AM

Much star potential in Guineas cast

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Edward Whitaker/Racing Post
2000 Guineas winner Sea the Stars (second from left) and runner-up Delegator (far left) have the talent to make an impact in Group 1 stakes throughout Europe.

NEW YORK - The victory by Sea the Stars in the 2000 Guineas last Saturday enhances the reputation of a race that hardly needs a public relations agent. With winners since 1970 such as Nijinsky, Brigadier Gerard, Lomond, El Gran Senor, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Zafonic, Rock of Gibraltar, and Haafhd, the Newmarket mile rates as one of the most important of all classic races on the international calendar.

That impression was reinforced last year when the Guineas was won by Henrythenavigator, who would proceed to win three more Group 1 miles in a row before finishing second in both the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic to Guineas fourth-place finisher Raven's Pass. That last year's runner-up, New Approach, would be named European Horse of the Year after victories in the Epsom Derby, Irish Champion Stakes, and Champion Stakes makes a strong argument that last year's Guineas was the best race in the world.

This year's running could eventually wind up in the same league as the 2008 edition. In Sea the Stars, owner Christopher Tsui and trainer John Oxx have themselves what might be called a dual qualifier for greatness. Not only is his form top class, his Guineas triumph coming seven months after his victory in the one-mile, Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh, but his bloodlines are impeccable. Out of Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Urban Sea, Sea the Stars is a half-brother to Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Galileo, to 1 1/2-mile Group 1 winner Black Sam Bellamy, and to My Typhoon, a six-time graded race winner between a mile and 1 1/8 miles. He is also a half-brother to a pair of English Oaks-placed fillies, Melikah and All Too Beautiful.

Sea the Stars is Ladbrokes's 5-2 favorite for the Epsom Derby, but some observers are raising doubts about his ability to stay 1 1/2 miles. His sire, Cape Cross, however, is more versatile than conventional wisdom holds. While he is well known for milers such as Seachange, a seven-time Group 1 winner in New Zealand, and Sabana Perdida, a Group 2 winner at Royal Ascot, he is also the sire of 1 1/2-mile, Group 2 Prix de Malleret winner Treat Gently; 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 Pride Stakes winner Crystal Capella; and 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 winner Russian Cross; as well as English Oaks runner-up Rising Cross.

Most importantly for the sake of this argument, Cape Cross is the sire of Ouija Board, a three-time Group 1 winner at 1 1/2 miles, including the English Oaks and the Irish Oaks, as well as two Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turfs, both of which were run at 1 3/8 miles.

On top of all this, the way Sea the Stars won his Guineas, going away at the end for a 1 1/2-length victory, suggests he will relish additional ground. But some of the horses that were finishing behind him at Newmarket last Saturday also have bright futures.

Runner-up Delegator might have been closer than 1 1/2 lengths if Jamie Spencer had been able to hold him to a straight line through the last quarter-mile. By Dansili, Delegator had improved in his seasonal debut to win the Group 3, one-mile Craven Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths. Delegator should be a major player in the many Group 1 miles on the European calendar.

Guineas third-place finisher Gan Amhras, a Galileo-Darshaan cross trained by Jim Bolger, is the co-third choice for the Epsom Derby at 6-1. Timeform says he "will be suited by 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/2 miles," and there is no reason to disbelieve that. The Guineas fourth-place finisher, Rip Van Winkle, has been an underachiever to date.

By Galileo out of a mare by the Group 1-winning sprinter Stravinsky, Rip Van Winkle's Guineas preparation was interrupted twice due to injury, so he will surely improve next time out. While likely to stay 1 1/4 miles, Rip Van Winkle is not a cinch to stay 1 1/2 miles, although he is Ladbrokes's fifth choice in the Epsom Derby at 10-1.

As it was last year, the 2000 Guineas looks very much like becoming a high-class hors d'oeuvre to the main courses being served later this season.