Pinatubo got his name from a volcano in the Philippines, which proved his Godolphin owners either have a soft spot for lava and ash, or a hard sense of foreshadowing as to what kind of horse they own. Because right now, Pinatubo is the hottest horse coming into Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Pinatubo 2000 Guineas
Pinatubo put on a vintage performance in last year’s Vintage Stakes, winning by five lengths. He is the prohibitive favorite to win the first English Classic of the season — the 2000 Guineas. (Image: Godolphin Racing)

England’s first Classic of the season co-headlines this weekend’s Newmarket card with Sunday’s 1000 Guineas. Originally scheduled for May 2, the race for 3-year-old colts and geldings was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country opened for racing on Monday.

Apparently, Newmarket – which hasn’t raced since November — still has kinks to work out. A glass pane burst out of the Champions Gallery 30 minutes before Thursday’s first race, showering glass on the grandstand below. Because Newmarket – like all other racetracks throughout England – currently races without fans, nobody was hurt. Racing, meanwhile, continued unabated.

Come Saturday, it may take more than glass shards to slow down Pinatubo. He captured all six of his 2019 races by a combined 24 lengths. That included a nine-length victory in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, and a two-length victory over Aidan O’Brien’s Arizona in the Dewhurst Stakes in his final start. Arizona is one of four horses O’Brien sends to Newmarket’s Rowley Mile starting gate as the standout Irish trainer seeks his 11th 2000 Guineas victory. Those wins include the last three: Churchill in 2017, Saxon Warrior in 2018, and Magna Grecia last year.

A Once in a Generation Horse

No trainer has won four consecutive Guineas since James Edwards from 1834-37. Given Pinatubo’s incendiary juvenile season, however, joining Edwards may elude even O’Brien’s capable hands. Pinatubo’s 128 official rating in the European Classifications is 10 points ahead of his closest pursuers, Earthlight and Kameko, and the highest figure by a 2-year-old in 25 years.

The Shamardal progeny by Lava Flow is that good.

“Pinatubo looked [like] a potentially outstanding two-year-old when thrashing a competitive field in the Vintage Stakes and his next performance in the National Stakes was breathtaking – the kind you rarely see in top company,” said British Horseracing Association Lead Two-Year-Old Handicapper Graeme Smith in a release announcing the rating. “This was one of the great two-year-old performances, and the best by any two-year-old in the last 25 years.”

Charlie Appleby, Pinatubo’s trainer, isn’t throwing cold water on the hot rating. Nor is he cool when it comes to discussing his prize charge.

Pinatubo’s Trainer Won’t Hold Back the Praise

“I don’t want to sound too confident, but he’s the highest-rated two-year-old for 25 years, looks great, won on all ground and on that track,” he told the Sporting Life. “He’s not a horse that will light you up too much in the mornings, but is the ultimate professional, like any sportsman on the top end. He’s got a great mind on him and he knows when the gates open, it’s ‘game on.’ “

And it’s game on at an odds-on price of 5/6, offered by Ladbrokes.

Should you seek non-volcanic value, Arizona currently sits at 6/1 at Ladbrokes. You can get Vertern Futurity Trophy winner Kameko and standout jockey Oisin Murphy at 7/1 on Coral. O’Brien’s second-stringer, Wichita, offers juicy exotic possibilities underneath at 14/1 on Paddy Power.

The pick: Pinatubo.

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