Qatar Goodwood Festival News
|Tuesday 28th July - Saturday 1st August|
Mouth watering Sussex 'Duel' in prospect
Glorious Goodwood is fast approaching and already anticipation is growing for what should be a fiercely competitive renewal of the Qatar Sussex Stakes on Wednesday 29th July.
Prize money for the one-mile contest has increased to £1m this year and so it is comes as no shock to find Europe's best milers are bound for Goodwood.
A generational clash between the three-year-old Gleneagles – a Classic winner in Britain and Ireland already this season – and Freddie Head's superb five-year-old Solow – unbeaten in his last six races and fresh from proving himself to be a top-class miler at Royal Ascot.
It is testament to both Head and Ballydoyle supremo Aidan O'Brien that these high-class horses are set to go toe-to-toe.
It is arguably the most anticipated mile-race of the season, as 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles clings to favouritism at 1.72 on bet fair with Solow just behind at 2.75.
The odds suggest a duel is on the card and, almost inevitably, in the countdown to the race it will be referred to as 'The Duel on the Downs – Part IV'.
In 2011, the imperious Frankel confirmed his growing reputation when sweeping aside Canford Cliffs after Sir Henry Cecil's superstar had been sent off the 8/13 favourite – the final time in his career he would go off so close to even-money.
The great Frankel enjoyed a procession 12 months later before long-time sparring partners Dawn Approach and Toronado showed up in 2013 to lock horns.
Richard Hannon's Toronado, with Richard Hughes on board, quickened up close home to avenge his 2000 Guineas defeat at the hands of Jim Bolger's runner.
Toronado was back to defend his crown last time out but John Gosden's Kingman atoned for his own Guineas failure by adding a third Group One of his season.
Now, we are braced for 'The Duel Part IV' – every bit as exciting and unpredictable as those that have gone before.
What of this year's leading protagonists? The young pretender Gleneagles is stepping into the ring with his elders for the first time, can he cope?
The son of Galileo has shown some differing sides to his character in three wins this season.
At Newmarket in May he effortlessly won the 2000 Guineas for Ryan Moore, making a mockery of his 4/1 odds in gaining Classic success.
A couple of weeks later and it was an altogether different story at the Curragh for the Irish 2000 Guineas.
On good to yielding ground, Moore was forced to work frantically in order to get Gleneagles to pick up and reel back Ivawood and Endless Drama out in front.
That he did so and got himself to the front inside the final furlong for a half-length was a glowing tribute to the horse's attitude.
At Royal Ascot, back on firm ground, Gleneagles was peerless in the St James's Palace Stakes where he delivered one of the most impressive displays of the entire meeting.
O'Brien has repeatedly suggested that his charge is a "specialist miler" and he is loath to expose him to anything bar his optimum trip.
Hardly surprising given the level of ability he has shown under various conditions this season.
While not necessarily a specialist miler, Solow has proved himself to be capable of delivering on the biggest stages.
Head began his season in the Dubai Turf over 1m1f at Meydan in March.
With Maxime Guyon taking over in the saddle from Olivier Peslier, Solow romped to victory leaving The Grey Gatsby trailing in his wake.
A second Group One of the season followed in the Prix D'Ispahan at Longchamp – again over 9f – in May.
It meant that Solow turned up in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot with a burgeoning reputation.
Able Friend – the best miler in Hong Kong – showed up along with the Hannon pair of Toormore and Night Of Thunder but Solow had all the answers, in command at the furlong pole and never likely to taste defeat thereafter.
Head has signalled his desire to tackle Gleneagles head on at Goodwood, even hinting the Ballydoyle youngster could be vulnerable having "had a tough season for a three-year-old”.
The French connection would relish any rain with softer ground perceived to be in Solow's favour. Just as Gleneagles showed at the Curragh he can battle in ground soften than ideal, Solow proved at Ascot that firm ground is no barrier to success.
Dubbing the contest as a duel is, of course, tinged with danger.
Amongst the opposition could be Peter Chapple-Hyam's rapidly improving Arod while Hannon could be represented by any Toormore and Night Of Thunder.
Perhaps tellingly, the Marlborough trainer suggested at the Glorious Goodwood launch that "we may only be playing for places behind the front two”.
As has been the case in recent years, 'The Duel on the Downs' is going to be the theme for Glorious Goodwood's Sussex Stakes.
Hopefully it lives up to expectations!