This was that rarity on the Turf, an unqualified success. No quarter given, no excuses needed. After consecutively obliging his trainer and jockey to come up with exasperated pleas in mitigation, Toronado finally cut down Dawn Approach in a race that amply matched its billing as "the Duel on the Downs". For the Qipco Sussex Stakes, rendered a procession by Frankel in the two previous years, this time owed its vintage quality to the desperate margin explored by one outstanding colt – and the contrasting nonchalance exhibited by the rider of another.
As a champion in his pomp, Richard Hughes is sealing his status as a defining figure of his era. Here he was in his element, restraining a top-class horse behind a molten pace before pouncing with timely panache. And, for those who admire the character of the man no less than his talent, how gratifying to see that charming smile and bright eye contribute to scenes of celebration in wholesome contrast to the stony professionalism that can petrify similar occasions.
His joy was compounded by relief, as he had been adamant throughout that Toronado could do something like this. That had required Hughes – along with Richard Hannon, his father-in-law and the seasoned trainer of this colt – to insist politely that Toronado had not been himself when swatted aside by Dawn Approach in the 2,000 Guineas; and had been unlucky not to reel in the Irish colt when hampered at Royal Ascot.
With one memorable exception, at Epsom, Dawn Approach had never needed any such exoneration. When it came to it, the punters seemed to find their credulity stretched by Toronado, allowing him to drift from 6-4 in the morning to a fairly astonishing starting price of 11-4. Leonine as ever in the paddock, Dawn Approach was sent off a shade of odds-on – but the big money was coming for the older horse, Declaration Of War.
And there was a moment halfway up the straight when the Ballydoyle raider, still tanking along, loomed upsides Dawn Approach. Kevin Manning had committed past the weakening pacemakers two furlongs out, having been first of the principals off the bridle, and his mount kept finding extra in a fashion typical of horses trained by Jim Bolger. Having seen off Declaration Of War, however, Dawn Approach could not stem a late surge so relentless that Hughes was able to give Toronado several congratulatory pats down the neck even as he went half a length up. It was another two and a half back to Declaration Of War, himself well clear of the rabble.
"There was a lot of pressure on today," Hughes admitted. "There were no excuses if he got beat. I thought his reputation would be ruined if he didn't win. I said before the race I'd come fast and late, but that the most important thing was to let him get his head down early and let him breathe – which had been an issue in the Guineas."
Hughes was grateful to Declaration Of War for a tow into the race, and perhaps also for eroding the resistance of Dawn Approach. He avoided any kind of slugfest with the favourite, keeping them well apart once finally playing his hand. Of course, to ride so patiently is his first instinct regardless. "There's only one winning post at Goodwood, and it's right down the end," he said.
Sure enough, riding Toormore in the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes, Hughes again reeled in a Godolphin colt despite finding himself with lots of ground to make up as Outstrip burst clear. "He's one of our nicest two-year-olds," Hughes said. "But he's a big baby still, mentally and physically, and he'll have to fill out and develop a bit more before he's the real deal."
Outstrip was saddled by Charlie Appleby, who recently took over the Godolphin string previously supervised by his former boss, the disgraced Mahmood al-Zarooni. He had celebrated a first Group success when Cap O'Rushes won the Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes, albeit his rally off a slow pace identified the head runner-up, Excess Knowledge, as a better candidate for the Ladbrokes St Leger. The sponsors assented, making Excess Knowledge 8-1 for Doncaster and Cap O'Rushes 10-1.