Matt Chapman: These are my horses to follow this Flat season with the Classics around the corner (2023)

THIS time next week we'll be going Grand National crazy in The Sun - don't miss all the best coverage of the world's most watched horse race.

I'm confident, incidentally, of sorting the Aintree marathon out!


Today, however, with the Flat season slowly chugging into gear, it's time to take a look at the horses that should be taking centre stage between now and Breeders' Cup time in November.

Let's start with my favourite of the Classics, the Qipco 2000 Guineas, and the Aidan O'Brien pair of Auguste Rodin and Little Big Bear who top the markets at about 3-1 and 5-1 respectively.

They have opposing qualities. The Vertem Futurity hero, Auguste Rodin, looks a Derby type who connections are hoping will be fast enough for the Guineas - O'Brien has already spoken of a possible Triple Crown bid.

Little Big Bear landed the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Phoenix at the Curragh. It's hard to know whether he'll stay a mile and he returns soon after a setback.


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O'Brien said: "He is being trained for the 2000 Guineas. He’s a very different type of horse to Auguste Rodin, in that he’d be very comfortable and happy to go back sprinting, though I think there is a very good chance that he’ll get the mile.

"He’s a very relaxed horse and raced very relaxed. He should give himself a good chance."

Frankie Dettori may well ride Andrew Balding's Chaldean - provided he's not in America - and the son of Frankel proved he was a super tough and talented juvenile with success in the Group 1 Dewhurst.

It's hard to see Chaldean out the frame with just normal improvement and a mile will be no issue.

Noble Style is unbeaten for Godolphin and super talented, while Sakheer and Nostrum have much more to give.

Nostrum was only third in the Dewhurst for Sir Michael Stoute, but I suspect he's better than that.

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Don't ignore Royal Scotsman, either. His Dewhurst ran was huge and connections expect him to be a better three-year-old.

This promises to be a fabulous 2000 Guineas.

As for the fillies version, the Qipco 1000 Guineas, much depends on what Dermot Weld does with Tahiyra, who looked very exciting when landing the Group 1 Moyglare last term. Weld is giving nothing away.

O'Brien has Meditate in the line-up, and she's another that surely has to be right there in the shake-up after ending up with success in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies' Turf at Keeneland.

That followed a fine second to Lezoo in the Cheveley Park where it seems fair to suggest the six furlong trip was too short.

O'Brien revealed: "She’s a very professional fully. She’s not over big, but she’s strong and versatile.

"She did a gentle piece of work at the Curragh recently as she had been away to Tipperary to gallop a month before that and came back a little bit sore, so we had to go gentle with her.

"That wasn’t a big enough interruption to impact her preparation and she’s still on target to go straight to Newmarket."

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With that in mind, it might be worth having a few quid each-way on massively experienced stable companion Never Ending Story.

The recent Leopardstown trial winner was third in a Group 1 at Longchamp in October and prior to that had been fourth behind Tahiyra at the Curragh.

The daughter of Dubawi is just the type O'Brien does well with in the 1000 Guineas. She's not the most talented in the line-up, but is tough and consistent. At 14-1 she's not a bad each-way wager.

The Derby at Epsom is wide open, with Auguste Rodin currently the clear favourite, but I'll be interested to see how the Godolphin-owned Silver Knott progresses.

He was slowly away and then just touched off at the Breeders' Cup having landed the Autumn Stakes on his previous start. His pedigree gives hope he will stay and current odds of 20-1 might be generous.

There are a plethora of older horses to get us excited in 2023, too, with the brilliant Japanese horse Equinox heading the list as well as Coral-Eclipse victor Vadeni.

But there's no doubt Stoute's Desert Crown is the one many of us can't wait to see back.

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Absent since a massively impressive victory in the Derby last June, the son of Nathaniel could easily have even more to show as an older horse.

First things first, it's Aintree. The Flat, though, is about to explode. Yeeehaaa!

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