VIDEO: Toormore triumphs to get Qatar Goodwood Festival off to a flyer
He could have run in Wednesday’s showpiece Sussex Stakes – but Toormore turned up a day earlier to provide one of the highlights of the first day of the inaugural Qatar Goodwood Festival.
Now owned by Godolphin, Toormore was put up for the £300,000 Qatar Lennox Stakes, the first big feature race of the five-day festival, with the operation having other entries in the Sussex.
And it proved a shrewd move as James Doyle held off some strong opponents to take the crown - the first half of an all-too-familiar Richard Hannon double as the festival got off to a successful start.
A pair of other Godolphin runners, Night Of Thunder and Belardo, take part in Wednesday’s Group 1 £1m Qatar Sussex Stakes.
“With those running tomorrow, we were able to drop Toormore back in trip and come for the prize money here, for which we thank Qatar,” said John Ferguson, bloodstock advisor to Sheikh Mohammed, Godolphin’s founder and driving force. “Seven is not his ideal trip - a mile is his distance - but the money was there.”
Toormore was racing for the first time in the Godolphin blue. “He was bought as a stallion of the future but right now racing is his game,” said Ferguson. “He’ll stay in training next year and he’ll be able to compete in the big international events. He’s a tough Group 1 performer and is the sort of horse we love to run.”
The Arakan four-year-old, the leading juvenile of his generation, is coming back to his best. He made all the running under Doyle as 9/4 joint favourite to hold the other joint market leader Dutch Connection, with another Goldolphin runner Safety Check a head third. It was his first victory since beating The Grey Gatsby in the Craven Stakes in April last year, despite some excellent placings in top company.
“He did it the hard way,” said Hannon. “They came to him one by one. He needed to get a win under his belt and get his confidence back, and now we can move to the next level. He deserved this go today and I should think the Prix Jacques Le Marois will be next. He’s such a pleasing horse to have in the yard, with a great attitude.”
Doyle also paid tribute to the colt’s attitude. “A mile is his trip - he’s a bit exposed at seven - but he’s been knocking at the door in some top races and deserved this. I didn’t want to go too slow today to keep the others at it and he helped me every inch of the way.”
Trainer Charlie Hills felt the rain-softened ground and seven-furlong trip were not ideal for Dutch Connection after the three-year-old finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length.
“He was closing in on the winner at the line and did well to finish second. He ran a cracker,” said Hills. “The ground wasn’t ideal for him today and I think he’s more suited to a mile. We’ll think about the Jacques Le Marois, although the ground can be soft there, and perhaps the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland.”
Charlie Appleby is eyeing the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury for Safety Check’s next start after the four-year-old finished a head further back in third.
“As long as he comes out of this OK then there’s no reason to think he won’t go forward,” said Appleby. “He had to carry a 5lb penalty here but going into the Hungerford that will be down to 2lb so that should help. He’s going to come on for the run so I’m delighted with that.”
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