View from connections ahead of Saturday's QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
- Related Content
Tony Hamilton is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to shoot for Classic glory for the first time in his riding career as he partners Garswood in Saturday's QIPCO 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
For so long the Hartlepool-born 29-year-old was the trusty understudy to dual champion jockey Paul Hanagan at Richard Fahey's Malton yard.
But his opportunities increased markedly when Hanagan was given the job of retained jockey to leading owner Hamdan Al Maktoum last February.
Fahey still calls upon Hanagan from time to time, and the pair teamed up to clinch their first British Group One when Mayson landed last year's July Cup.
Although Hanagan was available for the 2000 Guineas, Fahey is sticking with Hamilton after he guided Garswood to a hugely impressive victory in the European Free Handicap at last month's Craven meeting.
Hamilton, who has been with the Fahey team for over a decade, can hardly wait for the big day.
He said: "We always thought for a long time he was a very good horse at home but he wasn't quite showing it on the track.
"He was a big baby in his first two maidens and Richard ended up running him over five furlongs just to get him racing.
"This year he's finally shown on the track what he'd been showing us at home and it was great to see him do it at Newmarket.
"I got a great kick out of it as we've always thought so much of him.
"To keep the ride on him in the Guineas is brilliant and I'm very grateful to the owners. I've done a lot at work at home on him."
One crucial factor Garswood has in his favour is an ability to handle Newmarket's undulating nature.
Hamilton said: "A few days after the race Paul (Hanagan) asked me how he handled the dip and I said, 'What dip?'. Riding him, it didn't feel like we went through it he was so smooth.
"We haven't got to the bottom of him yet but I'm sure we will on Saturday."
Fahey is searching for his first Classic success and is is confident mood.
He told At The Races: "He's fine and everything has gone according to plan. He's eating well and is in great form.
"It may sound a bit cocky (but) we felt he would be impressive (in the Free Handicap) and he was very impressive, so we were delighted with him.
"He's always been a big, strong horse and he was so laidback last year.
"We dropped him back to five furlongs as he got beaten in a couple of maidens over six furlongs and we were shocked.
"He would come there on the bridle and go left then right through greenness.
"When we dropped him back to five it gave him a wake-up call and he just got beat a head in a Group Three (Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot) over five after that.
"I saw a video of the favourite, Jim Bolger's horse (Dawn Approach), and he looks to have done fantastically well over the winter and he has the form in the book. Toronado was also impressive (in the Craven).
"That's the big two, and then of us in the bunch, any can come and take the two on."
Aidan O'Brien has saddled six previous winners of the 2000 Guineas, including Rock Of Gibraltar (2002), George Washington (2006), Henrythenavigator (2008) and last year's hero Camelot.
This time around the master of Ballydoyle saddles three runners in Cristoforo Colombo, Mars and George Vancouver, with the former the choice of the trainer's son, Joseph.
"It's a very good race, as always. The quality horses are there," O'Brien snr told Racing UK.
"We always thought a lot of Cristoforo Colombo last year and he was unlucky on a few occasions as he wanted fast ground and never got it.
"He ran well in the Middle Park on ground he wouldn't like and his dad (Henrythenavigator) was the same - he didn't get his ground as a two-year-old and it changed for him as a three-year-old.
"The reason we have the cheekpieces on him is he can be a little bit lazy. We don't think they're a disadvantage and it will help him to concentrate a little bit.
"He hasn't run over further than six furlongs, but we always thought he'd get much further."
George Vancouver (Colm O'Donoghue) makes his first appearance since winning last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Mars (Seamie Heffernan) has only made one previous racecourse appearance, running away with a Dundalk maiden last July.
"George Vancouver loves fast ground, he travels very well and he's a seasoned horse. I would think the race will hopefully suit him well," said O'Brien.
"He ran a good race in Dewhurst. He came there to challenge and maybe the ground was a little bit softer than he would have ideally wanted.
"Mars is a lovely horse and always was. He's a free-moving horse and he showed plenty of speed for a Galileo.
"He's only a baby and it's only his second run and his first run on grass.
"We think the experience will do him good and hopefully he will learn a lot, but we always thought he was a very smart colt.
"You would hope that he'll get a mile and a little bit further."
Richard Hannon has won the race with Mon Fils (1973), Don't Forget Me (1987) and Tirol (1990), and this year is double-handed with Toronado and Van Der Neer.
Toronado is undoubtedly the first string following his breathtaking performance in the Craven Stakes and connections are confident of upsetting unbeaten favourite Dawn Approach.
The Herridge handler's son and assistant, Richard Hannon jnr, said: "Toronado did his last proper piece of work last Sunday and goes to Newmarket in the form of his life.
"We always felt that he was more one for the Derby than the Guineas, but this spring he has been showing much speed in the mornings than he did last year, so, while Dawn Approach is obviously a very good horse, we feel that we have a solid chance of beating him.
"You had to be impressed with Toronado's dress-rehearsal in the Craven as he did it the hard way, and it takes a good horse to win like that from the front, repeatedly quickening."
Racing Post Trophy runner-up Van Der Neer is an interesting outsider following a stylish comeback on the all-weather at Lingfield.
"Van Der Neer would not have the speed of Toronado and may eventually prove a 10-furlong horse, but his form is solid," said Hannon jnr.
"He was second to Kingsbarns in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, where he hated the soft ground - and his preparation this spring could not have gone better.
"Lingfield would not have been his track, but he won his trial there in spectacular fashion considering that he was only 80% straight, and he did not take the home turn well and was still last straightening up.
"Like Toronado, Van Der Neer is very laidback and uncomplicated, and I can easily see him finishing in the four."
Richard Hughes will be partnering Toronado and believes he compares favourably with former Hannon stable star Canford Cliffs, who was third in the Guineas before going on to claim five consecutive Group One prizes.
Hughes told www.richardhannonracing.co.uk:: "I have been so impressed with Toronado this season and put him right up there with Canford Cliffs - and maybe even in front.
"He is the more straight-forward of the two and you can ride him any way in a race, and I think he will handle the dips and ridges at Newmarket better than Canford Cliffs did.
"Dawn Approach is a very good horse, but he invariably hits a flat spot and I think we will win."
Marco Botti's Moohaajim enjoyed a fine juvenile campaign, winning the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury before being touched off by Reckless Abandon in the Middle Park at Newmarket.
Some doubt his ability to stay a mile after he was beaten into third on his reappearance in the Greenham Stakes, but the Italian-born trainer is hopeful a lack of stamina will not be an issue.
He said: "It looks like the ground is going to be OK for him and he is drawn next to Dawn Approach, which is good.
"I think he has come on since Newbury. He did a nice piece of work earlier this week and all is going the right way.
"He has to go an extra furlong, but I was happy he was nice and relaxed at Newbury on ground that was quite dead.
"You can't be too confident, but the horse is bred to get a mile and I am convinced he can."
Joining the Bolger and O'Brien-trained runners on the trip from Ireland is Niall Moran's 100-1 outsider Dont Bother Me.
The Dark Angel colt has run well in defeat twice this season and Moran is confident his stable star will outrun his huge odds.
He said: "He's travelled over well and I think he's improved a good bit from his last run. He's had two nice runs this season and I think he deserves a crack at it.
"The conditions are perfect for him and he's in good old heart. I'm not bringing him over just for the day out.
"I know he's a 100-1 shot, but that's only because I train him.
"He'd be half the price if one of the big trainers had him."