No pressure on Toormore team
Views from the rest of the connections ahead of Saturday's QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Middleham Park racing manager Tim Palin insists the team are not feeling any pressure ahead of Toormore's bid for Classic glory in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas.
The Richard Hannon-trained Arakan colt was champion two-year-old after winning each of his three starts last year, completing his hat-trick with a brilliant display in the National Stakes at the Curragh in September.
He was a workmanlike winner of last month's Craven Stakes over the Guineas course and distance and carries an unbeaten record into this weekend's Group One assignment, but connections admit he is likely to face a far sterner test against Kingman and Australia.
Palin said: "I don't think any of us are feeling any pressure, to be honest. There's certainly no pressure on Richard Hughes or Toormore.
"After the Kingman won the Greenham Stakes at Newbury the way he did, all of the pressure was taken off our shoulders.
"If Kingman is the next Frankel we're not going to beat him and if Australia really is the best horse Aidan O'Brien has ever trained, as people are suggesting, we're not going to beat him either.
"Toormore cost £36,000, he was champion two-year-old and is lining up in a 2000 Guineas with a fighting chance. That in itself is a dream come true.
"I think it looks one of the better 2000 Guineas' in recent years and it looks as though it will be a pivotal moment in the champion three-year-old miler division."
Palin is confident Toormore will run to a level capable of winning most renewals of the season's opening Classic, but is unsure whether that will be good enough.
"Our horse is a course and distance winner, returning to the scene of the crime and what you see is what you get with him," he said.
"He clocked a very good time in the Craven, a time that was good enough to win 132 of 135 renewals of the 2000 Guineas. Two of the faster times were on good to firm ground and the other one was Zafonic's win in 1993.
"Toormore has a strong back catalogue of times and while I'm not really a times guru, a bad horse cannot clock good times.
"He's certainly a very quick horse, we know he stays after winning the Craven and we know he handles the track.
"I think we can be reasonably confident about what we'll get from our horse.
"If one of the others is better than him, then so be it."
Toormore is one of three runners for Hannon, with the trainer also saddling Greenham Stakes runner-up Night Of Thunder and Free Handicap winner Shifting Power.
He told his website www.richardhannonracing.co.uk: "The Craven definitely knocked the rust off Toormore and he will be a lot sharper this time.
"He will never be as spectacular as Canford Cliffs or Toronado, but he is a very good galloper with no complications, and the Rowley Mile brings out the best in him.
"Night of Thunder should not be under-estimated. He has gears and, though he was well beaten by Kingman in the Greenham, he is definitely better than that.
"The favourite had the run of the race at Newbury, but our fellow will improve for the extra furlong, and we feel that Kieren Fallon's style will suit him.
"Similarly, we think Shifting Power, a big colt who was always going to make a better three-year-old, can progress again.
"He showed plenty of spirit to win the Free Handicap and will also appreciate the step up to a mile.
"He is unbeaten and we don't know how good he is."
As a son of Galileo out of the brilliant race mare Ouija Board, Australia is certainly bred to be a Classic contender.
A very slow start on his Curragh debut saw him suffer a narrow defeat, but he went one better at the same track at the second time of asking before annihilating another well-touted colt in Free Eagle at Leopardstown.
O'Brien has not made any secret of the regard in which he holds the colt this spring and although his parents excellent over middle distances, plenty is expected of Australia this weekend.
"Everybody knows he's bred to get the Derby trip. Obviously, he has to start somewhere and it would be nice to start him at Newmarket on a nice bit of ground," O'Brien told At The Races.
"We'll take it one race at a time and hopefully get him started and go from there."
Australia is one half of a formidable twin assault on the race for the master of Ballydoyle, with War Command another major contender.
The American-bred colt is the mount of Ryan Moore and won four of his five starts at two, including the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and most recently the Dewhurst at Newmarket.
Kingston Hill enjoyed a spectacular end to his three-year-old season, completing a hat-trick in little over a month with a brilliant display in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Although always rated more of a Derby hope, trainer Roger Varian, saddling his first British Classic runner, expects his stable star to make his presence felt.
He told his website www.varianstable.com: "He has had a trouble free preparation and looks in great condition. I have been happy with his work and we are very much looking forward to running.
"He looked top-class last season and nothing he has done since his win in the Racing Post Trophy has made me doubt that.
"It is very exciting to go into a Classic with a horse like him.
"I am confident he will run a big race."
Ertijaal is an intriguing player for trainer William Haggas and jockey Paul Hanagan.
The son of Oasis Dream may not have run on turf since running away with a Yarmouth maiden last June, but already this year he has struck twice on the all-weather at Lingfield, claiming the Spring Cup and most recently winning a richly-endowed event on Good Friday.
Haggas said: "He's certainly going there in very good shape and we're very pleased with his condition.
"He's entitled to be there, albeit as one of the outsiders.
"We're hoping a return to turf will bring about some improvement and hopefully he'll run better than his price suggests.
"He hasn't done a lot wrong in our eyes, anyway."
Outstrip was third behind War Command in last year's Dewhurst before going on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.
His trainer, Charlie Appleby, told www.godolphin.com: "I have been very pleased with Outstrip's preparation. It was always the plan to go straight for the Classic and hopefully he will be competitive.
"I think it was the good to soft ground that went against him in the Dewhurst Stakes, rather than the course.
"He ran well at Goodwood, which is an undulating course, and has worked twice on the Racecourse Side gallops here in Newmarket without any problem.
"I would be delighted if he finished in the first three or four."
There is a strong European interest, with Charm Spirit and Bookrunner both running for France and Noozhoh Canarias a first ever Spanish-trained runner in a British Classic.
Freddy Head's Charm Spirit warmed up for his trip to Newmarket by taking the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte, with the Mikel Delzangles-trained Bookrunner just a neck away in fourth.
"I am very happy with Charm Spirit. He has done very well since the Djebel," said Head, who rode Zino to victory in 1982.
"I wanted fast ground for him, which it looks like he will get, and the undulating course won't bother him as he is a very handy horse.
"He will be my first 2000 Guineas runner as a trainer and it is a race that I would love to win.
"I like Newmarket a lot and have been lucky there."
Delzangles trained 33-1 shot Makfi to win the 2000 Guineas four years ago and expects Bookrunner to improve for his Djebel comeback.
He said: "The horse looks in great form and I think his run in the Prix Djebel was good for him.
"He needs to improve on what he did that day if he is going to run well in the Guineas, but I think he has improved, so we will see.
"I think the ground should be good for him and he looks to have a good draw, as he is drawn near some very good horses.
"It looks a very strong race with horses like Kingman, Australia and Richard Hannon's horses in there, but this is what you expect in a Guineas.
"It is hard to compare (Bookrunner with Makfi) at this stage.
"We will see how he runs on Saturday and we will find out in a few months whether he can be as good as Makfi or not."
Noozhoh Canarias is a hero in Spain for Madrid-based Enrique Leon and although he suffered defeat on his only previous appearance outside his homeland, he ran with plenty of credit to finish second in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp.
Leon said: "With all the travelling my mind has been busy, but now the nerves will probably start to build up.
"I am very happy and proud to be responsible for the first Spanish runner in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.
"The reason why we travelled to Newmarket is the potential for fast ground but I would also be happy if it rode 'good'."
Noozhoh Canarias has set the pace in most of his races and Leon said: "If nobody else wants to make the running we will be happy to do it - it is what he is used to."
Kevin Ryan's Craven runner-up The Grey Gatsby and David Elsworth's rank outsider Master Of The World complete the 14-strong field.