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Horse Racing Preview: Big guns set to strut their stuff in May

Horse racing fans are in for a treat during May, with the schedule on both sides of the Atlantic packed with some top-class meetings.

The month starts with the final day of the Punchestown Festival which features a host competitive races over the jumps.

However, that meeting is likely to be overshadowed by events elsewhere, with the United Kingdom and United States staging important races on the same day.

2,000 Guineas

The 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket is the first Classic of the flat season in the UK and often provides pointers for The Derby at Epsom in June.

Charlie Appleby’s One Ruler has already been well backed and has been pleasing his trainer in the run-up to the big race.

The Godolphin owned son of Dubawi won a Group 3 over course and distance last October, before being narrowly edged out at Doncaster later the same month.

One Ruler should run well at Newmarket, although Aidan O’Brien’s St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley are likely to provide stiff opposition.

Kentucky Derby

Essential Quality is unbeaten in four career starts and is expected to run a massive race in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

He won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on his seasonal reappearance and the extra furlong he will travel in the Derby should be right up his street.

The Brad Cox trained horse has already proved that he is tactically versatile and his recent workouts have been eye-catching.

Godolphin have never previously won the Kentucky Derby, but Essential Quality has the talent to finally end the breeding operation’s long wait.

1,000 Guineas

O’Brien has trained four of the last five winners of the 1,000 Guineas and could enhance that record courtesy of Santa Barbara in this year’s renewal.

Ten of the last 12 winners of the race had already won over a mile and Santa Barbara’s solitary outing last season saw her romp home over that distance at the Curragh.

The second that day, Kailash, recently ran out a comfortable winner of a Cork maiden to give the form a significant boost.

Pretty Gorgeous and Sacred could prove to be troublesome, but Santa Barbara looks a banker bet to continue O’Brien’s excellent record in the race.

Chester Cup

After positing two solid second place finishes this season, Almighwar looks a good bet to go one better in the Chester Cup.

He ran well when second on his seasonal reappearance at Kempton behind Al Zaraqaan and is bred to stay extreme distances.

The four-year-old was just a neck behind Elysian Flame on his most recent outing at Newbury, with the pair pulling six lengths clear of the rest of the field.

The pair are likely to lock horns once again at Chester, although Almighwar will have a weight pull on this occasion and can turn the tables.

Yorkshire Cup

Trainer Mark Johnston is famous for training stayers and he may have another star on his hands in the shape of Sir Ron Priestley.

The 2019 St Leger runner-up recently made a successful reappearance in the Listed Further Flight Stakes at Nottingham and could take high order in the staying ranks this season.

Stradivarius has won the race twice before, but may not attempt to complete the hat-trick after it was confirmed he would run in the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot in April.

John & Thady Gosden’s talented stayer would be tough to beat if he turns up at York, but Sir Ron Priestley is the value bet.

Lockinge Stakes

While the Gosdens may decide to swerve York with Stradivarius, they are strongly fancied to claim Group 1 glory in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury.

Their Palace Pier became one of May’s best horse racing tips after recently roaring to an easy win at Sandown despite not looking fully tuned up.

There looks to be plenty of improvement to come from the four-year-old and it will be a huge shock if he is beaten in the Lockinge.

The Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot is Palace Pier’s summer target, with a run in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown is also a possibility.

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