William Haggas’ Skardu set for the 2,000 Guineas after landing Craven Stakes at Newmarket
Skardu booked his place in an increasingly difficult to decipher Qipco 2,000 Guineas when swooping for a neck victory in the bet365 Craven Stakes at Newmarket.
The William Haggas-trained 3-1 shot was cut to 6-1 (from 20s) by Paddy Power for the first Classic of the season back on the Rowley Mile a fortnight on Saturday after a last-to-first run which looked to underplay his superiority over runner-up Momkin.
James Doyle-ridden Skardu staked his claim as the doubts about 2,000 Guineas favourite Too Darn Hot running forced his price out to 4-1, the longest odds the colt trained by John Gosden has been for the 2,000 Guineas since he won the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster in September.
Skardu (right) maintained his unbeaten record by coming home to win the Craven Stakes
Haggas conceded that the absence of the favourite would enhance Skardu’s chance but expressed satisfaction with the performance of a colt who was a 33-1 winner at the course on his debut in September.
The trainer said: ‘He had a nice race, relaxed well and showed a nice turn of foot. We are trying to educate the horse and go into the fast lane because he has a lot to learn. But I can’t fault him at the minute.
‘He had gone from a maiden to a group three race so hopefully there is some improvement in him.’ Haggas, whose best finish from six 2,000 Guineas runners was Fury’s fifth place to Frankel in 2011, added: ‘It’s nice to have a horse with a chance.’
The bookmakers clearly are not rating unbeaten Too Darn Hot’s chances of getting to the race.
Skardu booked his place in an increasingly difficult to decipher Qipco 2,000 Guineas
Gosden said he will decide after the weekend if the splint bone issue will rule the colt out.
Too Darn Hot’s sisters Lah Ti Dar and So Mi Dar, like him owned by composer Lord Lloyd-Webber, both missed Classics through injury and Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: ‘Too Darn Hot is drifting like a barge for the Guineas and the Phantom’s curse looks like it might be striking again.’
Aidan O’Brien’s pair — Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Magna Grecia and Middle Park Stakes winner Ten Sovereigns — are 9-2 joint second favourite for the 2,000 Guineas while Godolphin’s Andre Fabre-trained Persian King is 9-2.
The chances of the colt, who won the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket last season, coming over from France again surely must have been enhanced by the Craven Stakes defeats of fellow Godolphin colts, Royal Marine, who pulled far too hard, and Zakouski.