Super 12: small but select line-up expected for 2,000 Guineas
Forget the quantity and focus on the quality - that was the message as Newmarket director of racing Michael Prosser looked ahead to the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.
The first Classic of the season will have its smallest field for at least 22 years after only 12 colts were confirmed for the race on Monday.
Should three more come out before Saturday, it would be the first single-figure field since 1988. But Prosser pointed to the presence of champion juvenile Churchill, plus impressive trial winners Al Wukair, Barney Roy and Eminent.
"We've had small fields before and when El Gran Senor beat Chief Singer, Lear Fan and Rainbow Quest in a great race in 1984 there were only nine runners," he said.
"We have a vintage renewal. I think what happens is that if the quality is there, with great depth, other trainers are less inclined to roll the dice. They know when you've got four or five outstanding colts you're running only for place money."
Churchill's trainer Aidan O'Brien agreed and said: "It's a very high-quality race, all the horses expected to be there were there. Sometimes in other years there might be lesser horses who have run, but I'd say it's a high-quality field."
O'Brien will have a big say in the size of the field, having also confirmed Lancaster Bomber, Peace Envoy and Spirit Of Valor.
"Apart from Churchill, I'm not sure how many others we'll run," he said. "We'll talk with Ryan [Moore] and see how he thinks the race is shaping up before deciding."
The William Haggas-trained Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet is likely to head to France, while of his Qipco 1,000 Guineas entries, O'Brien added: "Rhododendron, Hydrangea and Winter are intended runners at this stage. Roly Poly could wait for the French Guineas, and we'll decide about her and Rain Goddess over the next few days."