Lydia Hislop: There's a fighter in town
Our columnist Lydia Hislop talks the talk on Telescope and believes Toronado can walk the walk in the International.
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There's been a lot of yap about Toronado and Telescope this season. "Too much yapping" in the opinion of the latter's trainer, Sir Michael Stoute. Not uncharacteristically, Stoute wants to "allow his performances to do the talking". Cue yowls of protestation from his jockey, Ryan Moore.
Yap, on the other hand, is something at which weighing-room colleague Richard Hughes excels. I'm not knocking it. I like a bit of good-natured trash talk and, as Toronado's rider, he has given connections of Dawn Approach the verbal eyeball all season.
It briefly looked like all yap and no trousers after the 2000 Guineas, in which Dawn Approach brushed aside Toronado. Then the St James's Palace Stakes, despite narrow defeat, proved there was indeed a fighter in town and, last time out, sweet revenge was his in the Sussex Stakes.
While Telescope will clearly have to rely for comeback yap on Harry Herbert, manager director of the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing ownership syndicate, he finds himself in Toronado's early-season position. Much was expected of him last time out, more than was delivered.
Yet, like Toronado's Guineas fourth, Telescope's second in the Rose Of Lancaster was by no means a bad run. In fact, it was better than that. In terms of actually being in a battle with good-class and more experienced opponents, I would argue it was a career best.
But, undeniably, it fell short on the yap scale and Stoute himself did admit to being "disappointed" at Haydock. However, in reacting by stepping the colt up in trip for tomorrow's Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur at York, he has clearly drawn on the evident positives of the performance.
On that day, Telescope got in a battle with David Livingston, the eventual winner, from two furlongs out and was soon clearly getting the worse of it. Yet, likeably, he stuck to his guns and ran as though the extra two furlongs of this mile-and-a-half Group Two would extract some improvement.
On that point, the likely tactics are pertinent. Might Moore be tempted to make all or much of the running? We know from Telescope's clock-busting Leicester cakewalk that he's capable of going it alone. Bar for Foundry, whose likely run style is hard to predict on the basis of one career start, almost all of his opponents are hold-up merchants.
The exception is his main on-paper rival, the Gordon Stakes winner Cap O'Rushes, who managed fourth in the Irish Derby on the premise of being a pacemaker for the disappointing Libertarian. Moore won't want to waste Telescope's asset, classy stamina, in a steadily run race and leave himself vulnerable to a turn of foot, perhaps Cap O'Rushes's main weapon.
Telescope's other opponents are an interesting if unintimidating bunch. Of them, Secret Number has the best form to date and shaped at Royal Ascot as though 12 furlongs would suit. His pedigree can be read to support that view and he can't be judged on his fifth behind Cap O'Rushes at Goodwood last time as he repeatedly met interference.
Foundry is impossible to assess, aside from being the pick of a number of entries from the powerful Aidan O'Brien yard and sure to enjoy the trip. Spillway's stamina for a well-run 12 furlongs remains unproven. Willie The Whipper would relish that, but ground lacking in cut is an unknown.
The cheekpieces are a positive for Nichols Canyon if they address his immature tendency to wander under pressure, as displayed at Newbury, and induce him to travel more sweetly than in the Queen's Vase last time. The ground is a minus for him, but he is capable of better than he has yet shown.
As I've had a speculative ante-post bet on him and Mighty Yar for the St Leger, I would like him to show some of that capability tomorrow. However, I suspect he simply lacks the class of Telescope. Expect some Arc yap after he wins the Voltigeur tomorrow, perhaps not from Stoute or Moore...
In the following Juddmonte International, Toronado brings the single best form-line to the party - his aforementioned Sussex Stakes defeat of Dawn Approach and Declaration Of War - and yet he is the second favourite.
This is understandable: Al Kazeem is unbeaten since 2011, has won three Group Ones and, unlike Toronado, is proven at ten furlongs. It's also hard not to root for him, because he's recovered from a stress fracture of the pelvis to make it to the top and represents a highly likeable set of connections.
However, the lack of pace makes this as difficult a race for Al Kazeem's rider, James Doyle, as it should be straightforward for Hughes. Doyle will want to ensure that Toronado's unknown stamina boundaries are properly tested, but this might require him to produce Al Kazeem earlier than ideal.
Meanwhile, Hughes can watch on from behind and play his cards late - a reprise of the Sussex Stakes tactics, in fact, especially if Declaration Of War tackles Al Kazeem first like he did Dawn Approach at Goodwood.
O'Brien's runner is much more of a threat than the betting suggests because he is unexposed at what may prove his optimum trip. He and Trading Leather should swap positions and prices. That horse and Hillstar are quite closely matched on their respective King George second and third to Novellist, separated by three-quarters of a length.
Although both have shown their best form over 12 furlongs, my hunch is the drop in trip will inconvenience the Irish Derby winner more than the King Edward VII victor because Trading Leather improved for the step up in trip whereas the relatively lightly raced Hillstar is just improving. Poor Rewarded. Not just an oxymoron.
York's flat track and long straight is the ideal venue for trying a new trip, as Frankel did so imperiously last year. Toronado's sire, High Chaparral, offers encouragement for the task and his dam's side, although predominately speedy, is not devoid of stamina. 15/8 is a no-yap price to find out.