Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 March 2018

Kingman far from the finished article

Kingman and James Doyle win Sandown’s Betfred Mobile Solario Stakes
Kingman and James Doyle win Sandown’s Betfred Mobile Solario Stakes

Marcus Armytage

When Sandown's 'Summer Raceday' was run in aid of the Variety Club of Great Britain, they would promise you Cameron Diaz but, inevitably, she would be a last-minute non-runner and you'd have to suffice with Dot Cotton from Eastenders and Keith Chegwin.

To become a genuine superstar rather than a minor celebrity Khalid Abdulla's Kingman still has a lot to do and that, in all probability, starts by winning the Dewhurst Stakes on Future Champions' Day at Newmarket in October.

Had you not seen his debut victory at Newmarket at the end of June when he beat two subsequent winners by six lengths, yesterday's two-length beating of Emirates Flyer in the Betfred Mobile Solario Stakes would neither have bowled you over nor had you regretting that you had not helped yourself to the 8/1 available yesterday morning about Newmarket next May. Those who had been led to expect the second coming might have been left slightly underwhelmed.

Bookmakers, in contrast, were impressed and, though it might be more of a reflection of what else is about, after the race they universally cut the John Gosden trained colt for the 2,000 Guineas to as short as 7/2 in Victor Chandler's case, though he is still available at a more realistic 6/1 with Coral.

Sure, victory came readily enough. He is still learning, the trainer had left a bit to work on, he showed an impressive turn of foot when he needed it, and James Doyle, the owner's new retained jockey having his first ride in the famous silks since his surprise appointment earlier this week, did not have to get particularly serious.

But Emirates Flyer is no world-beater, though he and Music Theory are both comparatively battle-hardened. However, even as an unbeaten Group Three winner, Kingman will have to keep on a steep upward curve if he is retain his position as ante-post favourite for next season's Classic going into the winter or, better still, match the feats of Raven's Pass, a previous winner of the Solario for Gosden, which went on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Gosden's efforts to douse the flames of hype and hyperbole – taken to another level yesterday by the trainer's non-appearance – are understandable, particularly in light of the example set by the recent Voltigeur winner Telescope, which took an awful panning in the press before the Derby without even setting foot on a racecourse.

Lord Grimthorpe, Abdulla's racing manager, was also keeping a lid on expectations and certainly not over-playing the colt. "I hope he's a good horse," he said. "I was pleased with him. He was relaxed, he got into a rhythm and quickened nicely when asked. James was very positive about him and comfortable with him.

"He's still learning how to cope with it all. I was happy watching him move to the start, but he wouldn't want it any firmer than it was today. We'll have to aim him a bit higher now. There's the Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp, the Dewhurst and John's put him in the Racing Post Trophy, but I guess the Dewhurst is the most likely."

Doyle, for whom it was a good start to his new retainer, was also happy with Kingman. "He's beaten what's been put in front of him so far and you can't ask for much more than that," he said. "Obviously, he has a big reputation. He relaxed into a rhythm, he's well balanced and has a good turn of foot. It's a good start and, hopefully, there will be more exciting times ahead."

How far up the equine celebrity ladder Kingman can climb remains to be seen. At the moment, he still remains some way off Hollywood.


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