Duel on downs falls flat as Gleneagles is withdrawn
Fine weather is as important to the feel-good factor of Goodwood as great horses, but it is rain that fell over the weekend which has resulted in Aidan O'Brien's decision not to declare the 2,000 Guineas winner Gleneagles for his long-anticipated clash with French gelding Solow in tomorrow's Qatar Sussex Stakes.
Yesterday the ground at Goodwood was described as good to soft and soft up the straight but, with its free-draining chalk base and no further rain forecast, it is expected to dry out to good before racing starts today.
O'Brien, however, had been hoping for fast ground. In contrast, Freddy Head has always maintained that Solow's chances would be increased by any rain. Either way the defection of the unbeaten headline act, coming just after Derby winner Golden Horn was pulled out of the King George, is a blow to the first £1m Qatar Sussex Stakes.
Golden Horn's absence, of course, did not stop the King George being a thrilling finish but it took off some of the gloss, and Solow's most serious opposition now looks like being provided by last year's 2,000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder, trained by Richard Hannon, and the unexposed miler Arod.
The Classic generation, for which the Sussex is a first chance to prove themselves against their elders, will be represented by last year's Dewhurst winner Belardo, fourth in the Irish Guineas, which will be suited by the ground, and Bossy Guest.
A part of Charlie Hills may now regret not having gone for the Sussex Stakes with Dutch Connection, arguably the third best three-year-old miler in Europe behind Gleneagles and Territories, but he drops back to seven furlongs today in the Lennox Stakes on the opening day of the Goodwood Festival.
Goodwood is pushing for the Lennox to be upgraded to Britain's only Group One seven-furlong race, when its Qatari backers have promised to increase its current value from £300,000 (the same value as last year's Sussex Stakes) to £500,000, and it has certainly attracted a strong field for the distance which traditionally falls between the two more fashionable stools of sprinting and miling.
Certainly both Dutch Connection and Toormore would have been legitimate contenders for a minor berth in the Sussex tomorrow, and Limato has Group One form having finished second to subsequent July Cup winner Muhaarar in the Commonwealth Stakes at Ascot.
However, the ground will not particularly suit any of the main protagonists and, despite Dutch Connection having won over course and distance, the race can fall the way of Ascription, a fast-finishing runner-up to Cable bay in a Group Three race at Haydock last time.
Hugo Palmer, his trainer, has other things on his mind at the moment or should have - he is on a short honeymoon after his wedding last Saturday - but his six-year-old goes on ground with cut and won over a mile here at this meeting, albeit a handicap, two years ago.
It will require a career best but Palmer has his string in great form.
Palmer might not be too far from the action in the previous race, the Group Two Qatar Vintage Stakes, with Galileo Gold, a Paco Boy colt owned by the sponsors' Al Shaqab Racing, which looked at home on good to soft ground when winning at Haydock last time.
Ed Dunlop likes Oasis Fantasy in the Summer Stakes, while Mark Johnston has several chances to get his favourite meeting off to a winning start.
The handicaps are where he traditionally fares best and he has hopes in the opener. Zand has been racing in Switzerland, so remains a bit of an unknown quantity, but Sennockian Star won the race last year and can repeat the feat today.
Meanwhile, trainer Jonathan Pease, who won the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with Bago in 2004, has announced that he is to retire at the end of the season. (© Daily Telegraph, London)