IT may be 2,000 Guineas day at Newmarket, but North Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby has eyes only on his local Thirsk meeting as he aims to continue his winning run in the long-running feature contest.
The £25,000 Thirsk Hunt Cup, sponsored by totepool, is the target of Off Art, winner of all his three races last year, including one on this course.
Easterby re-introduced him in the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster’s opening meeting of the new campaign and, although the four-year-old was unable to justify favouritism, he ran a fine race to finish fifth to Ocean Tempest, who has since won in Listed company.
Easterby, pictured, has had winners at Ripon, Pontefract and Redcar in the past week and has his horses in excellent heart. Off Art, well berthed in stall two, can add his contribution to the Great Habton stable’s scoresheet in Thirsk’s historic event, while the promising Dutch Breeze (4.15) can also win in maiden company for Easterby later on.
Richard Fahey, whose Farlow, a winner at this track last month, poses a major threat to Off Art, has several winning chances on the card. He runs two juveniles in the opening two-year-old maiden and could go close with Tony Hamilton’s well-drawn mount Diamond Creek (1.55). Flycatcher (2.25), a Beverley winner on her reappearance, should also go well for Fahey off bottom weight in the fillies’ handicap.
David O’Meara can also figure among the winners at his local venue. The Nawton trainer has solid prospects with Music In The Rain (3.00), who overcame trouble in running to win decisively at Catterick ten days ago. He can cope with a revised handicap mark and top weight.
Also worth noting are recent Doncaster winner Red Baron (5.20) and the promising Premium Pressure (5.50), who carries the nap vote.
Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan will be conspicuous by his absence as he travels to Newmarket.
It’s a big day for Ryan. Not only does he saddle The Grey Gatsby in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, but his high-class sprinter Hot Streak goes for the Palace House Stakes.
The Grey Gatsby may be a 50-1 shot, but he is not to be underestimated representing a trainer who sent out Glory Awaits to finish second to Dawn Approach in last year’s race.
That said, today’s Classic looks steeped in quality with the unbeaten trio of Kingman, Kingston Hill and Toormore taking on Australia from the Aidan O’Brien camp, which is also represented by War Command.
It promises to be a fascinating race, but anyone who witnessed Kingman glide through the Greenham Stakes at Newbury will surely not take any convincing that John Gosden’s classy colt can either win or go very close to winning the first colt’s Classic of the season.
Hot Streak commands respect in his Group 3 assignment, but David Barron, from Maunby near Thirsk, saddles Pearl Secret, who is a horse with untapped potential.
Irish raider Trading Leather makes appeal in the Qatar Bloodstock Jockey Club Stakes, as does Postponed in the Makfi Newmarket Stakes.
1.55 Diamond Creek, 2.25 Flycatcher, 3.00 Music In The Rain, 3.40 Off Art, 4.15 Dutch Breeze, 4.50 Tacticus, 5.20 Red Baron, 5.50 Premium Pressure (NAP).
2.05 Rock Choir, 2.40 Pearl Secret, 3.10 Trading Leather, 3.50 Kingman, 4.25 Stars Above Me, 5.00 Postponed, 5.35 Born In Bombay.
Today’s other meetings: Doncaster, Goodwood, Hexham and Uttoxeter.
Tomorrow’s meetings: Hamilton, Newmarket and Salisbury.