Tuesday 20 March 2018

O'Brien out to gatecrash latest 'Duel on Downs'

O'Brien: High hopes for Goodwood
O'Brien: High hopes for Goodwood

Marcus Armytage

RACING descends on West Sussex today for the start of five days of Glorious Goodwood, one of the most iconic and historic race meetings in the calendar.

There are few better places to be on a fine day or with the clouds scudding across the sky. But, in contrast, there are few worse places to be, with perhaps the exception of the Scottish Highlands or Newmarket's July course, if it is raining hard or a sea fret has closed in.

The authorities will be hoping that the worst of the unsettled weather for the week, forecast for today, passes through as expected by lunchtime and before the first race at 1.55.

The best racing at Royal Ascot is on the Tuesday but at Goodwood it is on the Wednesday, when this year Dawn Approach, the top three-year-old in Britain and Ireland, meets Toronado for a third time in the Qipco Sussex Stakes or the 'Duel on the Downs – part II.'

Part I, two years ago, turned out to be a rather one-sided affair between Frankel and Canford Cliffs, and Henry Cecil's majestic colt turned the Sussex into a similar procession last year.

There were only inches between Dawn Approach and Toronado when they met in the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot in June and both camps are exuding confidence.

However, it would be wrong to rule out Aidan O'Brien's Declaration Of War, returning to a mile, making it a three-cornered contest for a race that promises to determine the champion miler.

Joseph O'Brien was a bit late to get going on him in the Eclipse, when he was beaten by two lengths by Al Kazeem, and he had Elusive Kate, twice a Group One winner since, behind him in the Queen Anne.

The Sussex is ably supported by the Gordon Stakes, which could easily throw up a St Leger contender, and the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes, in which Charlie Appleby, Godolphin's new trainer, will hope to get on the Pattern-race scoresheet with Outstrip.

Luck and the draw often play a major part in races at Goodwood and they could play a role in this year's Festival opener, the 18-runner bet365 Handicap.

Trainer Mark Johnston always does well here and his horses have never been in better shape coming into the meeting. Provided the ground remains on the fast side, his horses should be followed almost blindly.

From the other side of Yorkshire, Richard Fahey's Supplicant, a neck behind Extortionist in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot, can go one better in the bet365 Molecomb Stakes, while Aljamaaheer has solid Group One form on his record and is napped to carry a 4lb penalty for winning Ascot's Summer Mile to victory in the Group Two bet365 Lennox Stakes.

Newmarket trainer Ed Dunlop has no runners but he will still be hoping to leave Goodwood a winner tonight. He captains a Racing XI against the Lord's Taverners XI in a cricket match in front of Goodwood House. It is the first of a series of social events which mark out the week as something considerably more than just a race meeting. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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