An increase in prize money from £300,000 to £1m was always likely to up the ante for Glorious Goodwood’s biggest race – now, with the contest a fortnight away, it’s becoming clear just how keen connections of top milers are to get involved.
Many see the Qatar Sussex Stakes, to be run on Wednesday, July 29, as a showdown between Aidan O’Brien’s Gleneagles and Freddy Heads’ French-trained Solow – both of whom their respective mile races at Royal Ascot last month in impressive style.
But Richard Hannon has not given up hope of his yard having a say in the result, as it has in many of the recent renewals of the showpiece, and plenty of other contenders remain in the frame – with 21 runners in total still engaged ahead of the next cut-off point next week.
Gleneagles and Solow’s connections set out their stall at Goodwood’s festival launch in London on Monday, when both camps said the star horses were on target to meet on the Downs.
Hannon joked that he could have four runners in the race, but wouldn’t complain if the big two didn’t show up.
Head, speaking from France, told guests: “Solow is very well and I am very happy with him. There are not many races he can run in in France, and that is why we decided to go to Goodwood, particularly with the prize money on offer. He has already won at Ascot this year so we will come to the UK again and try once more.
“I think he ran a very good race at Ascot and I was very happy with him. I think it was as good as his other wins. Goodwood should not be a problem to him as he is a very handy horse and easy to ride. He also has plenty of speed.
“It is difficult to compare him to my other milers like Goldikova. Solow is a very good horse but was backward and took time to come to his peak. It is going to be a very tough race and Gleneagles is a very good horse. I think Gleneagles has had a tough season for a three-year-old.
“The one thing I would like to see for Solow is some rain, as softer ground would help him.”
Kevin Buckley, UK representative for Coolmore, spoke about the chance of Gleneagles in the Qatar Sussex Stakes, commenting: “I spoke to Aidan and Joseph (O’Brien) at Newmarket on Saturday and they said Gleneagles is in great shape. He did a very nice piece of work on Friday.
Aidan said every time Gleneagles runs, he lives up to expectations and I agree with him. He is a specialist miler.Coolmore’s Kevin Buckley
“Aidan said every time Gleneagles runs, he lives up to expectations and I agree with him. He is a specialist miler. He is a very tough horse with a low action. His dam is a sister to Giant’s Causeway who won the Cherry Hinton and he is by the world’s best stallion, Galileo. They are very special ingredients.
“We would ideally like the rain to stay away - hopefully Uncle Seamus (Seamus Buckely, Goodwood’s Clerk of the Course) can help out! Gleneagles is a versatile horse so it is going to be an interesting race and very tactical.
“With Ryan Moore’s unfortunate accident (the leading jockey was injured in a stalls incident at Newmarket last week), we are still waiting for tests and updates this week.
“It is obviously an injury that is going to take some time and he needs to take some time to get back to himself. As regards riding arrangements at Goodwood, we have always chosen the best available on the day and I am sure that will be the case again.”
The Hannons have tasted Sussex Stakes success twice in the past five years, with Canford Cliffs and Toronado, and their hand for the race this year is headed by Toormore and Night of Thunder – but they have five entries at present.
Hannon said: “The Qatar Sussex Stakes is worth a million pounds and it looks like the top horses are going to turn up. It is going to be fantastic race and I am just glad we can be part of it. Hopefully, our horses can run well.
“I think we are looking at the Qatar Sussex Stakes for Toormore and Night Of Thunder. Night Of Thunder won’t run unless there is some rain. If Toormore can be handy and do things his own way, I hope we can be competitive but I think we may only be playing for places behind the front two (Gleneagles and Solow). It looks sure to be fabulous race. The fact they (his two contenders) are both are 16/1 tells you about the quality of the race.
“I wasn’t happy with where either of them finished at Ascot but I think they both ran to the best of their abilities. Both horses may be better on a turning track, especially Night Of Thunder while Toormore had to do all the donkey work last time out. Something will have to pick up to turn around the Ascot form with the front two.
“Ivawood, who won the Richmond Stakes last year, has entries in the Thoroughbred Stakes, the Lennox Stakes and the Sussex Stakes. The Sussex might cut up, and there is £100,000 on offer for fourth so he could also run there.”
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