Kingman to be crowned Europe's champion miler
Small fields are the bane of racing at the moment but today's Qipco Sussex Stakes should produce a contest to savour.
In a race which could become very cat-and-mouse, Kingman should be crowned the champion miler in Europe.
The two main protagonists in the latest Duel on the Downs, last year's winner Toronado and Kingman, are both coming to Goodwood on the back of impressive wins and you could argue the best is yet to come for both.
But the key to today's outcome will be the tactics of their respective jockeys as both colts are best when held up until late to use their principal asset, a devastating turn of foot. If both set sail at the same time, it could be a finish to relish.
No one rides Goodwood quite like Richard Hughes, Toronado's jockey, even though luck seemed to desert him on Beacon in the second race of the meeting yesterday. But James Doyle has grown into his job as first jockey to Khalid Abdullah and is riding with increasing confidence, a trait he showed to great effect in the St James's Palace when Kingman's acceleration in the last furlong left a lasting impression.
The pace will probably be set by Aidan O'Brien's Darwin, a Group Three performer, even though stable companion War Command, the winner of the Dewhurst last year, was ruled out of the race yesterday because of lameness.
On the St James's Palace form, Kingman appears to have the beating of the Godolphin runner, Outstrip, which was beaten by three and a quarter lengths. It is hard to see the loser reversing that here unless the Irish Guineas and St James's Palace winner seriously underperforms or the undulations and the lightning-quick ground do not suit him.
Toronado, despite giving the young pretender 8lb, should not be underestimated, however. He beat a very smart three-year-old in Dawn Approach to win the race last year, and although the mighty Frankel set a precedent for winning it twice, the race has been opened up to older horses only relatively recently.
So, he is proven on Goodwood's unique course, where Richard Hannon's charges invariably run well, and his Queen Anne win at Royal Ascot went slightly under the radar. Having gone to Ascot without a run since last August, he is bound to have come on in leaps and bounds for the race and connections, while remaining respectful of Kingman, are convinced that their colt can be a world-beater over a mile.
Toronado would also seem to be up against it statistically as, in the past 10 years, the race has favoured three-year-olds. Only four older horses have won it, from a pool of 46 runners, while six three-year-olds have triumphed from 28 runners. Since Ramonti struck for Godolphin in 2007, it has gone to a three-year-old every year, apart from Frankel's second victory.
An underlying theme to Goodwood this week will be the ongoing battle between the colts' trainers, John Gosden and Hannon, for the British trainers' title. Gosden leapfrogged Hannon to top of the table when Taghrooda won the £1m King George at Ascot last Saturday.
A victory here for either trainer could have a big effect on the title; if Kingman wins, it would give Gosden, £500,000 in front, some clear water. A win for Toronado would keep Hannon in touch.
Eight St Leger hopefuls go to post in the warm-up for the Sussex, the Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes. Somewhat made the running in the Eclipse but stayed on to finish third behind Mukhadram having disappointed on his first three starts.
Mark Johnston, his trainer, feels he has turned a corner and, if he is right, a repeat should be good enough to beat Derby fifth Red Galileo and Observational, a winner here in May.
Apart from Darwin in the Sussex, O'Brien brings over long-margin maiden winner Highland Reel for the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes, but Richard Hannon's Dr No, a close-up also-ran behind The Wow Signal in the Coventry Stakes, looks promising now that he is stepping up to seven furlongs.
The Ascot juvenile form looks solid and the Coventry result was franked at the weekend when Kodi Bear, half a length in front of Dr No, went back to Ascot to win the Winkfield Stakes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)