It’s game on. Ground doubts dispelled, Kingman will take on Toronado in the Sussex Stakes on Wednesday, the centrepiece of Goodwood’s five-day “Glorious” meeting.
John Gosden, Kingman’s trainer, anxious that the colt should not be risked on firm going, is satisfied that underfoot conditions, though fast, are perfectly acceptable.
So the latest “Duel on the Downs” has the green light as this year’s leading three-year-old miler Kingman faces last season’s Sussex Stakes winner Toronado with the chance to deliver another blow for the Classic generation following Taghrooda’s trouncing of Telescope in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last Saturday.
Kingman is favourite, but there is no lack of confidence in the Toronado camp. Goodwood is a happy hunting ground for his trainer Richard Hannon’s stable, while his jockey Richard Hughes, the leading rider at this fixture for the past four years, is as familiar with the unique turns and gradients as he is with his own back garden.
The combination appears to hold a strong opening-day hand, including an ace, the extremely speedy two-year-old Beacon (2.30 Goodwood), in the Molecomb Stakes.
Beacon’s in-form stablemate Sea Shanty (1.55 Goodwood) may improve further now stepped back up to 10 furlongs and would be a popular winner for the Queen, ahead of Estimate’s attempt to land the Goodwood Cup later in the week and so make headlines for the right reasons after last week’s embarrassment over a positive test for morphine.
Toormore would have been regarded as the Hannon-Hughes banker in the Group Two Lennox Stakes had he not bombed out at Royal Ascot last time. A return to seven furlongs and a drop in grade suggests a little loss of faith in last season’s champion two-year-old, although connections insist that this is merely a confidence booster.
If the old Toormore turns up it could be no contest, but there might just be a turn-up. Having raced 47 times, Es Que Love (3.05 Goodwood) is totally exposed and a losing run of 21 hardly inspires confidence.
But this enthusiastic five-year-old has been running well in very good company this year and the Sussex Downs might just be where he breaks through – he has run well on each of his three previous visits without enjoying much luck.
Good fortune is important at Goodwood, especially in big-field handicaps on the round course. A low draw is usually helpful, but even then there can be dense traffic to negotiate.
In the mile handicap Extremity (4.50 Goodwood) is drawn in stall one and habitually races handily, so that is one box ticked. Being in good form is another plus, of course, but the clincher is that he is ridden by Ryan Moore, joint-favourite with Hughes to be top jockey at the meeting and invariably in the right place at the right time.
Havana Cooler, a long-time fancy for the Ebor next month, warms up for York’s big event in the Summer Handicap over a mile and six furlongs, but he does not have a great deal in hand of Dashing Star and Continuum (also Knavesmire-bound) on last month’s Royal Ascot form.
Continuum (3.40 Goodwood) fell foul of a high draw at Ascot, forced to race wide throughout and bumped and buffeted when trying to launch a challenge. Successful since at York, he has a more manageable starting berth this time and that could make all the difference.
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