In a contest resembling more a cycling sprint than a Group One at Goodwood, James Doyle played the part of Chris Hoy to perfection to steer Kingman to victory in the Sussex Stakes and leave nobody in any doubt that the three-year-old colt is the best miler in training.
This was less the “Duel on the Downs” than the “Dawdle on the Downs” as Richard Hughes, rider of the favourite’s chief antagonist Toronado, called upon all his considerable experience at this unique circuit to find a way to beat a horse he probably knew in his heart of hearts would, all things being equal, beat him.
Hughes decided that go-slow tactics were the best way to scupper Kingman and with the other two riders, Joseph O’Brien on Darwin and William Buick aboard Outstrip, unwilling to commit themselves, the first half of the race was run at the sort of pace you might see in a three-mile chase.
It was not until the two-furlong pole that Hughes said “go” on Toronado. For a moment, Kingman looked in trouble, but once he had organised his legs on the camber, he made up the ground so fast – the split times said as quickly as Frankel, the winner of this race in 2011 and 2012, ever ran – that by the line Doyle had him a length clear and back on the bridle.
Kingman’s trainer, John Gosden, acknowledged the “clever ploy” adopted by Hughes at a venue the twice-champion regards as his home pitch, but it was to no avail.
“No matter what they try, his turn of foot gets him home,” Doyle said. “That’s what separates him from the rest. It was just like an Olympic cycle race, everything sitting in behind and then ‘swoop!’ But he’s the one with the best gears.”
Gosden is convinced that Kingman would have been champion sprinter if they had chosen that route, but there is a commitment to the top mile races now, signing off for the season, and perhaps for good ahead of a stud career, with a crack at the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in October.
In the following race, Highland Reel emerged as the latest standard-bearer for Ballydoyle. He is now joint-favourite for next year’s 2,000 Guineas and clear market leader for the Derby after brushing aside a decent field in the Vintage Stakes.
In normal circumstances, a victory for the Queen on the Sussex Downs would be greeted enthusiastically; expect Estimate to bring the house down if she lands today’s Goodwood Cup.
The mare’s positive test for morphine at Royal Ascot last month was apparently caused by accidentally contaminated feed, an explanation all but confirmed by the British Horseracing Authority chief executive, Paul Bittar, but nevertheless it was an embarrassment.
On her day, Estimate is one of the best stayers in Europe and, given she had suffered an interrupted preparation before finishing a gallant runner-up in the Ascot Gold Cup, an even better showing can be anticipated this time.
Brown Panther, successful in this race 12 months ago, did not appear to last home the extra half mile at Ascot but is likely to make Estimate fight all the way over his optimum trip, while the Northumberland Plate winner Angel Gabriel holds strong each-way claims.
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