Sunday 18 February 2018

Kingman hammers rivals to live up to Guineas billing

James Doyle riding Kingman win The Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at Curragh racecourse
James Doyle riding Kingman win The Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at Curragh racecourse

Chris Cook

Kingman is a Classic winner after all, and a good one at that, after hammering his rivals by five lengths in the 2,000 Guineas. Several factors conspired against him in the English equivalent three weeks ago and his trainer, John Gosden, was "very worried" that the testing ground may have gone against him here but the colt now appears exceptionally talented and quite resilient, too.

While Gosden had been praying for rain in the build-up to the Newmarket Classic, in which Kingman finished second, his fear this time was that there had been too much, making the ground soft to heavy in the straight.

Such extreme conditions favour specialist types, can blunt the pace of any favourite or stretch his stamina past its snapping point. But punters retained enough faith in Kingman to send him off as the 4/5 favourite and probably did most of their worrying before the stalls opened.

This race never threatened to go against Kingman, who was drawn against the inside rail but was gifted a dream run up the middle of the track after the field crossed over to the stands' side.

One of the more obvious dangers, War Command, was withdrawn in the morning because of the ground but Aidan O'Brien, the country's perennial champion trainer, still fielded four runners. Any jockey, finding himself opposed by so many from Ballydoyle, is bound to fear that they can find a way to bend the race to their will. One English-based trainer, who came here to win a big race last year, described it as "entering the lion's den".

James Doyle, Kingman's jockey, admitted to having held concerns but, in the end, "straightforward" was the word he used to describe his first Classic success. "I couldn't have asked for the race to go any better," he said.

"Kingman got into a nice rhythm, a lovely rhythm and when I let him down just inside the furlong pole, he really quickened up."

Remarkably, Doyle was maintaining an unbeaten record at this track, having also won on Al Kazeem and Rizeena, the only two horses he had ridden here before. Still more amazingly, all three successes were in Group One races, though the jockey immediately killed off the statistic by taking a ride in the race after the Classic and finishing third.

At 63, Gosden might be called the best Flat trainer at work in Britain, but he has not often been blessed with the sort of material that can lead to Guineas success and it would have been depressing to miss the target with a horse who is manifestly good enough.

He praised Doyle and also The Curragh's management for arranging the card so that the Guineas course was not overused and was "pristine" for the big race, failing which he might have withdrawn Kingman.

The winner will now be aimed at the St James's Palace Stakes on day one of Royal Ascot next month, when he may meet once more with Night Of Thunder, who beat him at Newmarket. That horse is trained by Richard Hannon and a stablemate of Shifting Power, who was runner-up here, providing a rare one-two in this race for English stables.

O'Brien has won the Irish 2,000 Guineas nine times, with five in the past six years, but was held out of the places on this occasion. He will be back with three challengers for today's 1,000 Guineas, though the favourite is another English raider, Lightning Thunder.

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