Wednesday 17 December 2014

Mick Halford has high hopes for Toscanini's season

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

Halford: Ambitious plans for his string. Photo credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Halford: Ambitious plans for his string. Photo credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Mick Halford hasn't enjoyed much luck since Certerach captured a famous Dubai World Cup for his normally industrious Co Kildare stable, but a few smart operators like the Meydan hero and Royal Ascot runner-up Toscanini could still salvage something significant from the campaign.

Crowned champion trainer of Dundalk's winter all-weather series for a second year in a row, Halford capped a fantastic Meydan carnival that yielded five wins when Jamie Spencer drove Certerach to a lucrative Group Two success a week later. However, Kernoff's Curragh win on Friday was just his sixth domestic triumph since then, in contrast to 16 wins during the same time span last year, when he signed off with 36 wins.

For the most part, Halford's horses have simply been running well without getting their heads in front, a point emphasised by 52 of his 134 runners – 39pc – finishing second, third or fourth. Of his three cross-channel starters, two placed second, and it will be fascinating to see what the latest of those, Toscanini, is capable of in the next few months.

Third to the Coventry runner-up Cappella Sansevero on its Naas bow, the Shamardal colt was then denied by Kool Kompany back at the Kildare venue. He again emerged with plenty of credit when second to John Gosden's Richard Pankhurst in the Chesham at Ascot.

"Whether we go for a maiden to get his head in front or go for a Group race, we'll just wait and see," Halford said of plans for Toscanini. "His form was boosted again by Kool Kompany. I've backed off him for the time being and we'll make a plan in the next week or so."

Toscanini is owned by Godolphin, whose figurehead Sheikh Mohammed also owned Halford's sole Group One winner, Casamento. It remains to be seen if Toscanini can soar that high, but it wouldn't be the greatest surprise if Halford managed to double his Group One tally before the year is out.

His Aga Khan-owned Massiyn was chinned in the Irish St Leger in 2012, and the centrepiece of the second day of the Champions Weekend in September is a target for the same owner's Dabadiyan, and Certerach. Fourth and second behind Ernest Hemingway at the Curragh on Sunday, they are Halford's main contenders for the Palmerstown House Estate-sponsored feature.

"I was happy with both of them," Halford declared of their performances at headquarters. "Both are in the Irish Leger and at this stage it's a feasible option for the pair of them. Before then Dabadiyan will probably go to Roscommon on Monday for the Lenebane Stakes and I think Certerach will go to Leopardstown for the Challenge Stakes."

September has also been nominated by Tom Hogan as a target for his crack sprinter Gordon Lord Byron, which was well held behind Slade Power in the Diamond Jubilee. Second and first in the last two Haydock Sprint Cups, the six-year-old is again being targeted at the six-furlong Group One.

"He tweaked a muscle," Hogan said of his stable star's Ascot defeat. "I think he did it jumping from the stalls. Hopefully we'll have him back in September for the Haydock Sprint Cup again."

Michael Stoute has hinted that Hillstar could skip this weekend's Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, though he confirmed his runaway Hardwicke Stake winner Telescope will tackle the King George VI Stakes at Ascot on July 26. The 10-time champion Flat trainer has also put it on record that he deems his stable jockey Ryan Moore to be the best rider on the planet right now.

"You have only got to look at his record. In late October he won the Canadian International at Woodbine. Then he moved down to the Breeders' Cup and rode a couple of winners there. And he finished up winning the Japan Cup. So he really is an international rider," he declared of the man who also won the 2013 Epsom Derby for Ballydoyle aboard Ruler Of The World. "There probably isn't a better one around anywhere. He has become world-class. He is a thorough professional – very dedicated."

Elsewhere, Jamie Osborne has indicated that his UAE Derby hero Toast Of New York will probably run on Lasix when he tackles the Belmont equivalent on Saturday evening.

Irish Independent

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