Hughes confident Toronado can triumph in duel with Dawn
Few jockeys feel as comfortable riding the unique Goodwood racetrack as Richard Hughes, who is poised to exploit his tactical expertise aboard classy Toronado in today's much-vaunted 'Duel on the Downs' for the Sussex Stakes.
It takes two for a duel to take place, and Godolphin's Dawn Approach, trained by Jim Bolger, and a worthy favourite, is the other player in this equine shootout, which has all the hallmarks of earlier epic encounters for this race, such as King's Lake v To Agori Mou in 1981 and Marling v Selkirk in 1992.
They were battles that have assisted the evolution of the one-mile Sussex Stakes, from its unpromising start as a six-furlong two-year-old race in 1841 to the great contest it is today.
Frankel more than did his part, winning the past two runnings in quite brilliant style. In 2011 he overwhelmed Canford Cliffs, which suffered a career-ending injury in the race.
Last year Frankel was breathtaking and railed like a greyhound on the tight bends before accelerating away in the home straight.
Hughes has rarely been as confident before a big race as in the build-up to today's showdown.
The reigning champion jockey, who rode the first two winners yesterday and who has dominated Goodwood in recent years, is eager to take his revenge on Dawn Approach, a colt he admires as a rival, but one he believes Toronado can beat, particularly here.
So far, the score stands at 2-0 to Dawn Approach, which has won eight of his nine starts. Bolger beats the drum that his colt is better and stronger than in the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot when he beat Toronado by a short-head. But Hughes is not buying that argument and will be feeling even more confident of victory after learning that Toronado has drawn the outside in stall seven.
It gives him the option of holding back and then coming late to pounce in the final furlong. Now there can be no fears of being pocketed on the rail.
Hughes has been delighted with Toronado's preparation for this race.
"He has been flying. We were unlucky at Royal Ascot when we got a bump when he was just about ready to stake his claim on the outside. It cost him the race. But I think we now get our chance to beat Dawn Approach," he said.
Hughes has matured greatly as a rider in recent years and his attempts to win the jockeys' championship have had much to do in bringing about that maturity.
A title under the belt, riding seven winners in a day at Windsor last season, plus landing his first British Classic, aboard Sky Lantern in Newmarket's 1,000 Guineas in May, have all combined to generate a brand of confidence that sees Hughes approach big races in a supremely positive frame of mind.
When he says he will win the Sussex Stakes he means it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)