Toormore has the Classic class
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt fancies Toormore to come out on top in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.
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Toomore, the champion two-year-old of 2013, is fancied to end a winning run of favourites and give his rookie trainer Richard Hannon a first classic victory in Saturday's Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
The unbeaten son of Arakan put up three smashing performances last season, beating the reopposing Ertijaal first time out at Leicester, then comfortably reeling in subsequent Breeders Cup winner Outstrip (who got first run on him) at Glorious Goodwood before making all in the Group One National Stakes at The Curragh.
Although tactically versatile, Toormore was again sent on when making his reappearance in the Craven Stakes just over two weeks ago and, to these eyes, did everything that was required of him winning with ears pricked from The Grey Gatsby with only moderate encouragement from Ryan Moore.
A miler through and through - and perhaps the most obvious miling specialist in the field - this beautiful mover (who is now reunited with champion jockey Richard Hughes) may prove better suited to this test than some of his main rivals.
Hannon, who also runs Night Of Thunder (Kieran Fallon) and Shifting Power (Frankie Dettori), has made a good start to his training career since taking the licence from his father Richard senior, who won this race three times with Mon Fils, Don't Forget Me and Tirol.
Like the selection, it is difficult to find any fault in Kingman, who bids to become the fourth consecutive market leader to win this first classic of the season after Frankel, Camelot and, last year, Dawn Approach.
The similarly unbeaten colt had been off the course since last August (following a minor setback) when reappearing in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury and took the breath away with a stunning four-and-a-half length trouncing of Night Of Thunder.
Trainer John Gosden considers Kingman as possibly the best horse he has trained but has been concerned about quick ground conditions at Newmarket all week and, while a fair amount of rain fell across the Heath on Thursday, the going remains just on the fast side of good.
As such, the favourite has been uneasy in the market over the last 48 hours and there has to be a small doubt regarding his equal effectiveness over a stiff mile given he is a son of Invincible Spirit (though stoutly-enough bred on his dam's side). He may well prove hard to beat - indeed a possible champion - but, in a hot renewal, looks short enough in the betting.
For the long-term, and perhaps thinking ahead to the Derby, then Australia and Kingston Hill are fascinating runners.
Both are bred to excel over further, in particular the much vaunted Australia, a blue-blooded son of Galileo out of the Oaks (and multiple Group One) winner Ouija Board whose progeny so far have needed middle distances.
However, such is this colt's high reputation at Ballydoyle - Aidan O'Brien described him last year as "the best horse we have ever had" (massively high praise) - he is clearly considered fast enough for a Guineas and it says something that stable jockey Joseph O'Brien prefers this Group Three winner over last season's Dewhurst hero War Command.
For all the hype and for all O'Brien's magnificent record in this race, it would be some performance for this horse to win on his pedigree.
The same, but to a slightly lesser extent, could be said of Kingston Hill who will almost certainly want at least a mile and a quarter in the future.
Unbeaten in three starts, this son of Mastercraftsman has an extremely likeable attitude and was doing all his best work at the finish over this trip when winning a Group Three here last October before following up in the Group One Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in which he was particularly impressive.
This will be slightly unknown territory for Kingston Hill on faster ground than he has so far encountered and one senses that there is a risk he may get going a bit too late, but trainer Roger Varian is confident he will be equally effective on better going and the colt certainly moves well enough.
A tough and genuine horse who finds plenty for pressure, the final furlong here is likely to be his best furlong on this stiff course which exposes stamina limitations and he could prove a decent each-way bet at double-figure odds.
For some punters, War Command is the forgotten horse in the race and it is worth remembering that the mighty Rock Of Gibralter was Aidan O'Brien's second-string Guineas contender when beating Hawk Wing in 2002.
A brilliant six-length winner of the Coventry Stakes last June, he was subsequently beaten at odds-on and then had to work hard to win the Dewhurst, though that effort was subsequently boosted by third-placed Outstrip in the States.
Overall, I think there are a few holes in War Command's form; in retrospect, the Coventry didn't boast much strength in depth and the Dewhurst runner-up, beaten just over a length, was the consistent but pretty well exposed Cable Bay.
Of the others, I cannot resist giving Noozhoh Canarias, the first Spanish-trained runner in a British classic, an honourable mention.
A Listed winner in France last August, this exciting son of the Godolphin miler Caradak ran a tremendous race in the Prix Jean Luc Lagardere at Longchamp on Arc day when leading all the way until worn down close home by the smart Karakontie with Charm Spirit (recent winner of the Prix Djebel over a length away in third).
Given that horse racing in Spain is of a much lower profile than here, in Ireland and France, it is extraordinary that a colt as good as Noozhoh Canarias has emerged; he should not be discounted and his free-flowing style of racing will probably ensure a gallop which will test the doubtful stayers and assist the stoutly-bred.
2pts win Toormore
1pt e.w. Kingston Hill