Aidan O'Brien provides a sense of normality during an unprecedented Guineas meeting at Newmarket
In these uncertain times, it was both reassuring and comforting that Sunday’s QIPCO 1,000 Guineas provided the racing world with a sense of the ‘old normal’.
The pictures coming out of an almost deserted Rowley Mile over the weekend gave the Newmarket course a rather eerie feel. It was a scene that unfortunately could well be with us for many months to come.
And yet, thanks to Aidan O’Brien, there was still more than a whiff of familiarity about proceedings as the Ballydoyle-trained Love stormed to victory in the second Classic of the Guineas meeting.
Much of the focus heading into the contest centred around Roger Charlton’s pre-race favourite Quadrilateral – winner of last year’s bet365 Fillies’ Mile at the same course, where Love had come home third.
But the daughter of Galileo emphatically turned the tables on this occasion, travelling widest in the early stages before turning on the taps after the dip to win by four-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of Cloak of Spirits in second.
It secured a fourth victory in the last five years for O’Brien, and was his sixth overall.
The trainer, speaking via a Zoom press conference from his base in Ireland, said:“She was doing everything right throughout the winter and during the spring. She is a lovely filly. We always felt she would get much further than a mile.
“We knew the horses were well but we did stop and start (with the preparation) so you have to be a little careful.
“When you back off them some horses thrive, some don’t and some need work to make them thrive. It’s not as straightforward as usual and thanks to everyone we were delighted with her coming here.”
Attention now switches to the Investec Oaks, for which Love has been installed 6/4 favourite with bookmakers.
This year’s renewal is scheduled for July 3 at Epsom, and O’Brien is confident his filly will have no issues with the step up in trip.
“We always thought the Oaks was going to suit her and the Guineas was the place to start off,” he added.
“We thought she’d be a filly for a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. We thought she’d stay well and it was a nice starting point here.
“The distance between the races should be perfect and we always thought the Oaks would suit her.”
Like Quadrilateral, Charlie Appleby’s Pinatubo could not deliver as the unbeaten favourite 24 hours earlier in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas.
The son of Shamardal was six from six in 2019 and was the highest rated horse in a quarter of century, but he had to settle for third under William Buick as Andrew Balding’s Kameko took the honours for big-race sponsor Sheikh Fahad.
It was a first Guineas triumph for Balding, who is now eyeing up a tilt at next month’s Investec Derby.
“It’s a massive thrill. We have been looking forward to the race for a long time,” he said. “It is fantastic they could get it on – the Guineas is the Guineas whenever it is run.
“He won a Group 1 (Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes) very impressively at the end of last year that has an impressive record of producing Guineas winners, so we have been thinking about this since November.
“To me it (The Derby) looks the obvious choice, there would be a stamina doubt but there’s only one way to find out.
“Probably his optimum trip would be a mile and a quarter, but I think for one day only, he might be able to stay a mile and a half.
“I would be slightly reluctant to run him back at Ascot, so we will see what is on offer for him.
“He will certainly get a mile and a quarter, but there is a certain race over a mile and a half in July that would be quite appealing.”
It was also a race to savour for 2019 Flat Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy, who was winning a Classic for the first time.
“It is an incredible feeling and I can’t put it into words. For Andrew Balding, for Sheikh Fahad – these are the people I started with,” said the 24-year-old.
“He is a son of Kitten’s Joy, who is the same sire of Roaring Lion who was special to me.
“When we are in a race, having no crowd there doesn’t affect us, it is just when we pull up.
“The only two people shouting at that point you could hear was Frankie Dettori (Wichita’s jockey) and me. He was shouting at me and I don’t know who I was shouting at!
“It was massive and a day I won’t forget. When I look back at this in a few years’ time I won’t remember there was no crowd, it will just be Kameko winning the 2,000 Guineas for Qatar Racing and Andrew Balding. It is the biggest winner of my career and for all the right reasons.
“I had my first ride for Sheikh Fahad in 2012 so it has been nearly eight years together in some form or other. He leaves it up to me and so does Andrew. I feel very privileged.”