Glorious Goodwood: Declaration Of War can spike big guns in Sussex Stakes 'Duel on the Downs'
O'Brien four-year-old offers solid value against younger rivals Toronado and Dawn Approach
At Newmarket, the wall stood so firm that it appeared to splinter the battering ram. At Ascot, however, it only just held intact. On the face of it, then, one last heave at Goodwood today should be enough for Toronado to bring Dawn Approach tumbling down in the big showdown of the week.
After all, this downland ridge is very much home turf for Toronado's veteran trainer, who landed running here – saddling his 65th and 66th career winners at this meeting in the first two races. And Richard Hannon's belief that Toronado was below form in the 2,000 Guineas, when flattening out into fourth behind the runaway winner Dawn Approach, was certainly vindicated in the St James's Palace Stakes last month.
There was only a nostril in it there, even with Dawn Approach enjoying the relative run of the race. Dropped out from his wide draw, Toronado had to circle the field before losing crucial momentum when hampered two furlongs out. Those extra endeavours took their toll, and the Irish colt was just able to hold out for an eighth win in nine starts.
In turn, however, Dawn Approach himself deserves extra credit. If this was a less dominant performance than he produced in the Guineas, then it was still a pretty extraordinary one, so soon after his startling implosion in the Derby. Even by the singular standards of Jim Bolger, whose best horses have historically tended to match their brilliance with unflinching toughness, this was some recovery just 17 days after Epsom.
Ultimately, those weighing up short odds about both rivals in the Qipco Sussex Stakes should perhaps view Toronado as a collector of credible excuses, and Dawn Approach sooner as a collector of first prizes. "I'd say he's a hard horse to get past," Bolger observed. "Two days after Ascot he was bucking and squealing. That's the sort he is. A week later he's put up about 10 kilos, so it was time to get after him again. He has a great mind, and a great constitution."
Bolger describes his champion as in "mighty awesome form." The Hannon camp is no less bullish, but it would be typical of racing for some interloper to intrude on their duel. With Declaration Of War in the field, that is not a possibility to be taken lightly.
There is an incestuous quality to the form of the three-year-olds, after all, and nobody could be adamant as yet how they measure up against their seniors. After a breakthrough success at Ascot, Declaration Of War has since run a fine second to Al Kazeem in the Eclipse at Sandown.
It is worth noting that Mars, third in the St James's Palace Stakes, never landed a blow in fourth that day – over a trip that should have suited him rather better. Declaration Of War himself ran a curious race, briefly struggling to hit top gear despite the longer distance. Judged on the zest he showed at Ascot, however, this sharper test should be ideal. At 5-1, he provides a sound argument for settling the dilemma over his younger rivals by rejecting them both.
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