Toormore (7) beat Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Outstrip last seasonPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Toormore bids to pick up 2,000 Guineas gauntlet
THE new main man he may be but the king has yet to be crowned.
Since Saturday's stunning success plaudits have poured upon the spring's hottest property. However, the Qipco 2,000 Guineas is not won at Newbury in April but Newmarket in May. Kingman is very much the one to beat but something may beat him. That something could be Toormore.
He was, of course, a champion at two but for now he is nothing at three. Kingman has showed himself to be potentially exceptional, while major paper players Australia and Kingston Hill are waiting until the stalls for the Guineas crash open.
There is left just one clear opportunity for the marking of cards and it comes over the Classic course and distance as Toormore seeks to build on undoubted juvenile excellence.
Not that the Novae Bloodstock Insurance Craven Stakes is a one-horse race. Godolphin's Be Ready is held in high regard, Patentar and Postponed possess considerable scope, while The Grey Gatsby and Anjaal were Group-class last year.
It is, however, Toormore who tackles the Guineas sighter with the strongest credentials and with trainer Richard Hannon attempting to maintain his father's domination of today's highlight.
Since the turn of the century five Craven winners hailed from the hands of the reigning but retired champion trainer. The son who assumed his licence and now wants to assume his title was particularly integral to the most recent of those Craven victors, Toronado, who dazzled on this day last year.
A similar performance is now desired from Toormore, who earned an official 2013 rating of 122 from BHA handicapper Matthew Tester but can still be backed at 8-1 for the Guineas.
"He will improve for the run but I'll be disappointed if he can't win," said Hannon. "He seems in great form but he's never been a flashy horse who shows you loads in his work. At no point last year would you have said that on his morning work he was an aeroplane, but clearly he was and just saved his best for the racecourse.
"Matthew Tester is right 101 times out of 100. If he thinks he was last year's top two-year-old he must be a very good horse. In my opinion he has also trained on from two to three, but he was always going to have a trial because that's the way we do things. He'll need it, but remember what a trial did for Sky Lantern."
Hannon, who is two-handed in the race, added: "Anjaal is also very decent and will definitely get the mile. We need to find out if he's good enough for the Guineas but he's entitled to plenty of respect. My feeling is he will run very well."
Be Ready had the Hannon horse Barley Mow in second when breaking his duck in autumn Listed company at Doncaster. He now makes his annual bow as a 20-1 shot for the Guineas.
"Be Ready has done very well over the winter," said trainer Saeed Bin Suroor on the mark yesterday with a Classic prospect in True Story. "This is a tough race to start off in but he has been working well. I'm looking to see a good run, although he will improve for his first start of the season."
Fellow Godolphin colt Outstrip - a Toormore victim at two - beat The Grey Gatsby in the Champagne Stakes but trainer Kevin Ryan believes his contender was always going to make a better three-year-old.
That might also turn out to be the case with Postponed, who earned more for finishing second in a sales race than Toormore did for notching Group 1 honours.
"He's a promising horse but this is a big jump on form," said trainer Luca Cumani. "We are looking for a good run but are not thinking about the Guineas."
Marco Botti, who describes once-raced Patentar as "a nice horse but jumping up in class", may or may not be thinking about the Guineas. With Hannon there is no uncertainty.
"I have huge respect for Kingman," said Toormore's trainer. "He could not have done it any better on Saturday but the race was set up to suit him. I'm not saying we'll beat him in the Guineas but I'm not frightened of him."