This Saturday at Newmarket in England, Pinatubo could prove himself the best three-year-old in the crop. Not just locally, but of the entire world.
While Contrail has sent hearts racing during his bid for the Japanese Triple Crown, and America’s best runners will clash both this weekend in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and also June 20 in the revamped Belmont Stakes (G1), perhaps no horse’s 2020 debut has been more heavily anticipated than Pinatubo’s. The Godolphin runner will finally be unveiled in the Qipco 2000 Guineas, where he faces 14 rivals going a mile.
Unbeaten in 2019 through six starts and honored as the Cartier Champion Two Year Old Colt, Pinatubo – by Shamardal – was the highest rated European juvenile since Celtic Swing in 1994, meaning he was rated higher than even Frankel, who many consider the United Kingdom’s best of all time. The cleverly named Pinatubo, which is a volcano and his Dalakhani dam is named Lava Flow, went into training with Charlie Appleby last spring.
He quickly drew notice when scoring first out on May 10, winning over Wolverhampton’s synthetic track by more than three lengths.
After annexing a treble of stakes races on the grass, including the Chesham Stakes by 3 ¼ lengths on the final day of Royal Ascot, Pinatubo took the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes at The Curragh. He was partnered for the first time by now regular pilot William Buick, storming home nine lengths clear. He toyed with a good field so easily that it prompted Appleby, who is best known in America as the trainer of Breeders’ Cup winners Wuheida, Outstrip, and Line of Duty, to call him “the best two-year-old I’ve ever trained.”
Pinatubo ended the 2019 season with a win in the Darley Dewhurst (G1) over the same track he will race on Saturday. He defeated Guineas rivals Arizona and Wichita handily.
One has to watch his prior races to understand just how overwhelming he was on the track. Even as a green juvenile he could bravely split horses, head horses and pull away, and simply run rivals off their feet. He rates, pounces, and accelerates away with frightening speed.
Pinatubo was slated to return in April, possibly at Newbury, but the global pandemic halted racing in the UK and Pinatubo has been forced to wait on the sidelines. There is some question about whether he will stay the distance of the Epsom Derby (G1) – or even attempt it – as sire Shamardal was best over a mile and some of his best runners include Hong Kong miler Able Friend and European sprinter Blue Point. But his dam was a stakes mare in France over 1 3/8 miles, and her sire Dalakhani won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe over 1 ½ miles.
Shamardal died in April, with Darley Europe’s press release about the great horse’s death stating, “Shamardal’s greatest performer to date is of course Pinatubo…”
To prove himself, Pinatubo will have to best not only Arizona and Wichita, but Kameko, Kinross, and Mums Tipple. Kameko won the Vertem Futurity Trophy (G1) on November 1 in his most recent start, and is by American star stallion Kitten’s Joy. Kinross, by Kingman, was a debut winner over the course last fall for trainer Ralph Beckett, while Mums Tipple was injured in his lone defeat after taking the Goffs UK Premier Yearling Stakes by 11 lengths. He has never run past six furlongs.