Dubai: French Group 1 scorer Royal Marine heads a potentially strong three-pronged Godolphin challenge into the 2,000 Guineas (G1), the first Classic of the 2019 British flat-racing season, which takes place at Newmarket Racecourse on Saturday.
Trained by Emirati handler Saeed Bin Surour, the son of Raven’s Pass is joined by the Charlie Appleby-trainee Al Hilalee and Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision in the 1,600 metre contest.
Godolphin, who enjoyed a landmark 2018 season during which they amassed 30 Group 1 wins around the world, are looking for their fourth Guineas trophy and first since Dawn Approach triumphed in 2013. Their previous wins came courtesy Mark of Esteem in 1996 and Island Sands in 1999, both horses that represented Bin Surour.
Royal Marine, who did not enjoy running on the dirt at Meydan where he finished fourth in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial in January, makes his second start of the UK season following his respectable fourth in the Craven Stakes (G3) over Saturday’s course and distance on April 17.
Bin Surour commented: “Royal Marine was unlucky in the Craven Stakes, when he didn’t get the best of runs, but he came out of the race well.
“We are putting a hood on him to help him relax and any rain would be helpful as he is a better horse with some ease in the ground.
“His last piece of work went well and I am looking for a good run.”
Al Hilalee is unbeaten in two starts having posted wins at Newmarket’s July Course in July and over a Listed mile at Deauville, France, in August.
The Dubawi colt was supplemented into the 2,000 Guineas at the start of this week and his trainer Charlie Appleby said: “Al Hilalee is two wins from two starts and his preparation for this race has gone well.
“Stepping up in trip is always going to suit him in time, but we saw with Masar last year that the 2,000 Guineas is one of the best trials for the Derby.
“It is only his third start, so he doesn’t take as much experience into the race as most of the field, but he does things the right way round — he finishes off strongly and races can change complexion when you hit the rising ground at Newmarket.
“In what looks at open renewal, we feel that he deserved to be in the line-up, and I am looking forward to getting his season under way.”
Dark Vision made a strong start to his racing career last year with a hat-trick of victories that culminated in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in July.
Johnston, who is seeking to roll the clock back the years to 1994 when he saddled Mister Baileys to win the 2,000 Guineas, commented on his charge’s chances: “Dark Vision was very disappointing on his final start last year at Doncaster, but he clearly wasn’t right afterwards.
“The Chelmsford race wasn’t the class of the 2,000 Guineas by any means, but at least the run had a lot of similarities with his Goodwood win in the Vintage Stakes last year.
“I think with another 50 yards, he probably would have won at Chelmsford. It is a very short straight there and he came from an impossible position.
“If he runs up to his Goodwood form, then he has to be a live contender.”
The Godolphin trio take on the leading duo of Ten Sovereigns and Magna Greic who represent nine-time 2,000 Guineas-winning handler Aidan O’Brien.
Craven Stakes victor Skardu, the mount of Godolphin pilot James Doyle, also looks to have a big chance.