Wednesday 13 December 2017

French raider to complete Solow journey in Sussex

Aidan O'Brien's team pulled Gleneagles out due to concerns about soft conditions on the ground
Aidan O'Brien's team pulled Gleneagles out due to concerns about soft conditions on the ground

Marcus Armytage

The Duel on the Downs has become a focal point for Glorious Goodwood so it is disappointing that today's version has been relegated to a 'Solow' journey by the defection of Aidan O'Brien's crack three-year-old colt Gleneagles.

It is conceivable that no horse in the field will be able to lay a glove on the French challenger as there doesn't seem to be a hole in the grey gelding's profile.

He took his first significant step up in class in Dubai in March, winning decisively, and is one of the scarce examples of horses to have performed well in the Gulf and maintained that level on their return to Europe.

Freddy Head's early instinct to train Solow as a stayer might have been turned upside down as the five-year-old developed into a top-class miler, but the trainer has been flawless in his campaign this past year.

The Prix d'Ispahan was identified as the comeback target after Dubai and the ideal build-up for Royal Ascot, with everything working out there too.

Only the stop-start pace in the Queen Anne Stakes seemed to upset Solow's equilibrium, leaving him briefly flat-footed before emerging well in command.

That sort of pace dilemma is unlikely to materialise today with Peter Chapple-Hyam's rejuvenated Arod the presumed pace-setter, as he needs every inch of a mile and front-running tactics served him well at Ascot and Epsom last month.

Concerns about soft conditions - the reason given by the O'Brien camp for pulling out Gleneagles - have abated and perhaps the only unknown for Solow and jockey Maxime Guyon is the undulating Goodwood track.

Godolphin's Night Of Thunder has four and a half lengths to find with Solow on Ascot form. Trainer Richard Hannon felt the ground was too quick for his colt that day and expects to get closer this time. The Lockinge winner did break his maiden tag at the track but has plenty to find.

If it is too soft for Gleneagles, it might not be soft enough for Belardo, which still ranks as the best each-way prospect.

The champion European two-year-old of 2014 is still on the recovery trail after a dismal effort in the Greenham, but there was some promise in his fourth to Gleneagles in the Irish Guineas at The Curragh last time and Roger Varian's string is now in excellent form.

The most recent three names on the honours board for the meeting's signature race have been Frankel, Toronado and Kingman, and Solow is the most suitable inductee to such an illustrious group and worthy of his place.

The Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes is the first of the St Leger trials and the most prominent in the ante-post market at this stage comes from an unlikely source.

Medrano is trained by Newark-based David Brown, who has become rather better known for swift two-year-olds, and has been running earnestly in Group races before a breakthrough Listed win at Hamilton last time.

Highland Reel, impressive here in last year's Vintage Stakes, is the likely favourite but Scottish, precluded from the Leger due to being a gelding, is also interesting, being open to further improvement after finishing second at Royal Ascot on only his fourth start.

Frankie Dettori pleased his Qatari employers in yesterday's Vintage Stakes and their best chance of success today appears to be with another two-year-old in the Fairmont Molecomb Stakes. King Of Rooks was caught late on at Ascot but his two earlier wins had been impressive enough to see Al Shaqab racing purchase him. His biggest obstacle appeared to have been removed last night when it emerged that Washington DC is unlikely to run.

Dettori shone when steering Galileo Gold to a hard-earned success in the Vintage, while James Doyle also earned plaudits after getting Hannon's Toormore home in the Lennox Stakes.

Now running in Godolphin blue, he made all the running under James Doyle to make the most of a drop in class. Dutch Connection came with a late flourish but there was three-quarters of a length between the 9/4 joint-favourites at the line.

It was Toormore's first victory since landing the Craven Stakes at Newmarket in April of last year. "He did it the hard way," said the champion trainer.

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