05/05/2017 1:56PM

Rhododendron one to beat in 1000 Guineas


If she carries her 2016 form into her 2017 debut, Rhododendron is a likely winner of the English 1000 Guineas Stakes on Sunday at Newmarket Racecourse.

Rhododendron won three of her five starts last year at age 2, and it was in her season’s finale that she took a serious step forward, winning the Group 1 Fillies Mile by more than two lengths.

That race, like Sunday’s classic, was contested over one mile at Newmarket, and Rhododendron appeared to be happier on the good-to-firm going that day than she had been in previous races on softer ground. The turf is expected to be firm again Sunday, and Rhododendron need only pick up where she left off to score as the favorite.

It does not hurt that she has trainer Aidan O’Brien in her corner. O’Brien has won the 1000 Guineas three times and swept the top three placings in 2016 with Minding, Alice Springs, and Fireglow. O’Brien has two more entered in the Guineas, Hydrangea and Winter, the former the last-place finisher last fall at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Hydrangea, in opposition to Rhododendron, looks like she might prefer cut in the ground that she is unlikely to get Sunday. She narrowly beat Winter in a Guineas trial at Leopardstown Racecourse, but in that race, it was Winter, hung wide without cover for the entire trip, who had the tougher luck, and Winter probably has more room to improve Sunday.

Fair Eva, another filly racing for the first time at 3, has been well supported in ante-post wagering after ending her 2016 campaign with a solid second in the Rockfel Stakes, a seven-furlong race at Newmarket. Daban, trained by John Gosden, has more recent local form, with a narrow win in the April 19 Nell Gywn Stakes, a seven-furlong Newmarket race that suggested Daban will not be hurt by added distance Sunday.

Post time for the Guineas is 10:35 a.m. Eastern.

◗ Postponed, who was the best mile-and-a-half horse in Europe for a time last year, has been retired because of a stress fracture. Postponed, a 6-year-old by Dubawi, won nine of 20 starts, including six Group 1s. He was initially trained by Luca Cumani before Sheikh Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum moved him to trainer Roger Varian late in 2015.