Brilliant Abbey on course for Newmarket

St Nicholas Abbey remains among 22 confirmations for the StanJames.com 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

St Nicholas Abbey remains among 22 confirmations for the StanJames.com 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

A devastating performance in the Racing Post Trophy shot Aidan O’Brien’s colt to prominence in ante-post lists for both the Guineas and the Derby and he is a red-hot favourite for this weekend’s first Classic.

The Ballydoyle handler, who has trained five previous 2000 Guineas winners, could also be represented by Fencing Master and Viscount Nelson.

Richard Hannon has a strong hand with Greenham Stakes first and second Dick Turpin and Canford Cliffs both set to line-up, while brilliant Craven winner Elusive Pimpernel bids to give John Dunlop a first Guineas win.

Awzaan, a four-time winner as a two-year-old, is a huge contender for Mark Johnston, John Best is set to run both Inler and Elspeth’s Boy, while Hearts Of Fire runs for Pat Eddery, a three-time winner as a jockey.

The Godolphin team have not tasted 2000 Guineas success since Island Sands struck in 1999 but they have a strong hand with Saeed bin Suroor’s Al Zir and Poet’s Voice, as well as Mahmood Al Zarooni’s Buzzword in the mix.

Clive Cox’s Xtension is set for his first appearance since finishing third in last season’s Dewhurst Stakes and the trainer is confident of a bold show.

“He’s in good nick and we just need to get him through this week in one piece,” said Cox.

“We’re all very excited about him but of course it’s a very hot race and you just don’t know which ones have improved over the winter.”

The Mikel Delzangles-trained Makfi is the sole French challenger, while Arcano and Meezaan were among five withdrawals at the latest stage.

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