Arizona will lead Aidan O’Brien’s quest for a fourth consecutive victory in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket tomorrow week.
The Ballydoyle trainer has won the colts’ Classic 10 times in total and was successful 12 months ago with Magna Grecia, having struck in 2018 with Saxon Warrior and Churchill in 2017.
It would be a fifth Guineas in six years for O’Brien and he is happy with Arizona, who landed the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last year and ended the campaign strongly, finishing second to Pinatubo in the Dewhurst and running better than his fifth placing suggests in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
O’Brien said: “The horses have been ticking over, but obviously every time you think you had a target and put a sight on it, the next thing the target moves and you have to change again, so it’s a little bit tricky and horses do feel that.
“It’s unusual and strange, but all we can do is do our best and see where they all land. Everything seems good at the moment and everyone seems happy, but we won’t really know until we get going where the horses are and we’ll get a better picture. But so far, so good really.”
Wichita — another son of No Nay Never — is set to join Arizona, while three other stablemates are in contention.
O’Brien said: “I suppose there’s the two No Nay Never colts and then there’s New World Tapestry, Royal Dornoch, and Royal Lytham, that’s kind of what we are thinking at the moment. Fort Myers and Vatican City might wait for the Irish Guineas.
“It’s not straightforward this year, but we talk to the lads most days and see what they are thinking. They are the kind of horses we think we might be entering at this stage.
“Will the Irish 2,000 Guineas be too close to Ascot — that’s what we have to work out, probably the horses we are going to run at Ascot will have to run at Newmarket.
"That makes it a little bit tricky for us, but that’s what we’re thinking and we could run three, we could run four.
“It would be unusual a horse could back up that quickly after the Irish Guineas (and go to Ascot), but who knows, you never know.”
He added: “Arizona is in good form, everything has gone well with him. Obviously we had our eye on the first weekend of May, but he seems to be in good form. He was getting ready for that, then we just eased back a little bit.
“He’s a big, rangy, scopey horse and we always thought he would improve from two to three and it would suit him being a three-year-old. We’ll see — he ran a very good race to win the Coventry and ran some very good races after that. We think he’s ready to start.
“You never know (if will stay a mile) until they start doing it, but we always felt he would get a mile. I’m not sure how much further he’d get, but he travels well and is usually coming home in his races.
"He’s a straightforward horse, a good traveller, and he likes nice ground. We’ve been looking forward to running him.”
Although aware of the standard set by Pinatubo, on whom Arizona closed the gap at Newmarket from their meeting in the National Stakes at the Curragh, O’Brien, who has Love, Peaceful, and So Wonderful in the mix for the 1000 Guineas, is concentrating on his own hand.
He said: “We go into every race thinking about our horses and what way it will suit each of them to run their best race, that’s what we always do. We don’t think too much about the opposition, because you’re usually either good enough or you’re not.”
O’Brien, who will not be at Newmarket as things stand, revealed he has Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, Broom and Sir Dragonet under consideration for the Coronation Cup, which will be run this year on the Rowley Mile course on Friday, having been moved from Epsom, and like the Guineas forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
The 2000 Guineas will be one of 21 live races broadcast on ITV Racing between next Friday and Sunday. It will be the channel’s first broadcast since Thurles in Ireland was shown on March 21 and will hosted by Ed Chamberlin from his home ‘studio’.
Francesca Cumani will also be part of ITV’s home-based team, as will Jason Weaver and all the direction and production team of the show, using innovative technology and adhering to social-distancing guidelines.
Richard Hoiles will be based off site in a commentary booth.