2000 Guineas: Trainer Ed Walker ready for 'dream' Stormy Antarctic win

Stormy Antarctic
Storm Antarctic is a "very playful, very relaxed character", says trainer Ed Walker

George Peckham has reason to be grateful that his friend and fellow trainer Ed Walker's preparation of well-fancied Stormy Antarctic for the Qipco 2000 Guineas has gone as smoothly as it apparently has.

Less than a week before Walker, 32, saddles the striking, chestnut-coloured colt as his first runner in any of British flat racing's Classics, he was best man at Peckham's wedding in Ireland.

And he actually only turned up at the church after supervising an early morning workout for the horse on the gallops at home in Newmarket.

"It's just as well Stormy did so well," said Walker, now in his sixth season of training, "because if he'd worked shockingly, and we were thinking we weren't going to be able to run him in the Guineas, and then I had to try to pretend to be in good spirits, it wouldn't have been ideal.

"It was all a bit nerve-wracking, but [jockey] George Baker came up specially to ride him and he was very happy, and the horse came out of it very well.

"He's never been a super, flashy work-horse, and George and I were joking afterwards that if Aidan [O'Brien, trainer of race-favourite Air Force Blue] had been hiding in a bush watching he wouldn't have been quaking in his boots, but it's what he does on the track that matters."

Stormy Antarctic, owned by Hong Kong businessman PK Siu and his family, burst towards the top of the reckoning for the opening classic of the season on 30 April with an authoritative defeat of Derby hope Foundation in the Craven Stakes staged during a thunder and rain storm at Newmarket in mid-April.

Such were conditions that day - most TV pictures were blacked out and commentators silenced - that some have labelled the colt, a son of the US stallion Stormy Atlantic, a mud-lark fortunate to have raced on going which he relishes, but Walker doesn't agree at all.

He told BBC Sport: "It's annoying when people pigeonhole horses, and he doesn't deserve that. He's got very, very good soft-ground form, but that's purely by default not design, where we've ended up running.

Stormy Antarctic at Newbury
Stormy Antarctic saves his best for the track, according to his trainer

"No one could have expected those freakish conditions at Newmarket and I wouldn't be afraid to run on good or good to firm ground, and who knows he may be better on better ground.

"I think it's testament to his character and personality that the weather that day didn't faze him - a clap of the thunder as they went to the start made the whole stand vibrate; he's a very playful, very relaxed character who loves life and just gets on with the job."

"We sent him into the Craven thinking he was going to need it and worried that he might get a bit tired. Foundation was very well-hyped, and I never thought we'd beat him like we did, cantering past him. It was extraordinary to watch, and exciting to think that he's improved since."

Walker is rated a young trainer very much on the move - up flat racing's greasy pole, and literally.

Remarkably Walker - a former assistant to Roger Charlton and Luca Cumani who started out in his own right in late 2010 - is already in his fourth base, at Lester Piggott's Eve Lodge Stables in Newmarket's Hamilton Road.

And at the end of the year he will relocate again, this time away from flat racing's historic HQ to a yard at the Lambourn racing centre in Berkshire.

To leave with a Classic winner in his pocket would, Walker admits, be a dream result.

He said: "Every day I go down the Rowley Mile [racecourse] driveway to go to watch the horses work on the gallops there, and you see a list of Guineas winners on the flags and you dream and pray that one day your name and your horse will be there.

"It slightly takes the pressure off having an odds-on favourite in there trained by Aidan, because everyone's expecting him to win and that we're all racing for second, but he [Stormy Antarctic] couldn't have won his trial any better, he couldn't have come out of it any better, he looks fabulous, he's in great shape.

"We're really, really excited - it's a huge moment."

The 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday 30 April (15:45 BST) will be featured on BBC Radio 5 live