The Sussex Stakes is the first opportunity of the season for the Classic generation to take on older horses over 1m at the highest level (3.05pm, Goodwood, Wednesday).
This year’s renewal is, once again, billed as a Duel on the Downs between Kingman, representing the three-year-olds, and last year’s winner, Toronado, representing the older generation.
The big guns have frightened away all bar three opponents and, while it may still be unwise to treat this as purely a two-horse race, the fact that the bookmakers bet 20/1 bar the front pair bears testament to their apparent superiority. Indeed, they are officially rated within 1lb of each other, but have 7lb and more in hand of their rivals.
Kingman (4/7, update now: 4/9), trained by John Gosden (pictured), was a little disappointing when beaten half a length by Night Of Thunder in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May, but set the record straight with impressive wins in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh three weeks later and the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot last month.
Outstrip (33/1) and War Command (20/1, Update: now a non-runner) finished third and fourth in the latter race, but never really threatened Kingman, who displayed a devastating turn of foot in the closing stages, and they appear to have little chance of reversing the form.
Darwin (50/1) is a Group 3 winner over 7 furlongs, but is officially rated 14lb inferior to Kingman and 13lb inferior to Toronado, so it will be a major shock if he’s capable of any better than third place, at best. Despite being trained by the current leading trainer in the Sussex Stakes, Aidan O’Brien, he appears to have little, or no, realistic chance of winning.
That, of course, leaves the other main protagonist, Toronado (5/2), who finally mastered his old rival Dawn Approach in this race last year and came with a strong late run to beat Verrazano by half a length in the Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot last month.
That form has taken a knock, with Verrazano subsequently finishing last of nine, beaten 13 lengths, behind Mukhadram in the Eclipse Stakes over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Sandown earlier this month. It may be unwise to read too much into that performance, because Verrazano had finished well beaten on both previous attempts beyond 1 mile 1 furlong but, even so, it sounds a slight note of caution.
Frankly, the bookmakers have this about right and, with the weather in West Sussex apparently set fair for the rest of the week, Kingman has the look of the proverbial ‘good thing.’ Unfortunately, there’s little value in his current best odds of 4/7 with SkyBet (Update: Now best at 4/9 with Coral, Betfred or Bet365) , but both the manner of his victory and the sectional times at Ascot suggest the Invincible Spirit colt is something out of the ordinary.