05/13/2011 2:55PM

Wootton Bassett French 2000 Guineas favorite


English-based Wootton Bassett is the favorite among 15 final entrants to land the Group 1 Poule D’Essai des Poulains, or French 2000 Guineas, on Sunday at Longchamp.

The Poule D’Essai des Poulains is one of four group races Sunday at Longchamp and one of two Group 1’s, the other being the Poule D’Essai des Pouliche, or French 1000 Guineas, for 3-year-old fillies. Both Group 1’s are contested over one mile.

Trained by Richard Fahey, Wootton Bassett hasn’t started since Oct. 3, when he captured the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere by 2 1/2 lengths, beating nine foes. The Lagardere, however, was contested over soft going, and a persistent spell of dry weather in Paris has hardened the course. Race officials have watered the grass to keep it good-to-soft, and rain may fall Sunday morning, but some horsemen with stock preferring softer going are steering clear of Longchamp this weekend. Wootton Bassett, an English-bred son of Iffraaj, won his three other starts in 2010 on good or good-to-firm going, albeit over less challenging opposition.

The two horses that dead-heated for second behind Wootton Bassett in the Lagardere, Tin Horse and Maiguri, also are back for Sunday’s race, but both were handily beaten last fall, and others may provide Wootton Bassett with a sterner challenge. The Freddie Head-trained colt Salto, for instance, was five lengths better than Maiguri finishing second to Roderic O’Connor in the Group 1 Criterium International in his 2010 finale. Godolphin has two runners for the race, with Modern History, a listed winner at Toulouse last out, more highly regarded than once-started Midsummer Fair.

There may be no favorite as strong as Wootton Bassett among the 16 fillies in the French 1000 Guineas, but the unbeaten Galileo filly Golden Lilac looks like a prime player for trainer Andre Fabre. Three-for-three to start her career, Golden Lilac has reached only Group 3 success, but was a sharp winner over the course and distance in the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte on April 24, her first start of 2011.

Helleborine won her debut over a firm course last June and in her second start finished second in the Group 1 Marcel Boussac on Oct. 3 at Longchamp, though Misty for Me, the Boussac winner, flopped in the English 2000 Guineas this spring. Helleborine had a somewhat troubled trip when second to Moonlight Cloud – who is passing Sunday’s race – April 7 Prix Imprudence over seven furlongs at Maisons-laffitte. Godolphin’s Zoowraa, an easy winner of two English starts at 2, makes her first start for trainer Mahmood al Zarooni.

Also on the Sunday program at Longchamp is the Group 2 Prix Hocquart for older runners at 11 furlongs, and the Group 3 Prix de Saint-Georges, a five-furlong dash.

Goldikova starting her season

The great Goldikova is likely to make her first start of 2011 on May 22 at Longchamp in the Prix d’Ispahan.

Goldikova, now 6, has started her last two campaigns in the nine-furlong Ispahan, impressively winning the race in 2010, but finishing a shocking seventh, the worst placing of her career, over soft going in the race’s 2009 edition. Byword, beaten a half-length by Goldikova in the 2010 Ispahan, is expected to be among her rivals again a week from Sunday.

Goldikova, according trainer Freddie Head, has wintered very well since winning her third straight Breeders’ Cup Mile last fall at Churchill Downs.

◗ Epsom Derby and Arc de Triomphe winner Workforce may now bypass an early-season showdown with So You Think in the May 22 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, his connections announced this week. Workforce had been mentioned as a likely participant in the Tattersalls, but now may be more likely to make his first start of 2011 in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard on May 26 at Sandown.