A two year old who excelled and improved in each of his three starts as a juvenile, Richard Hannon's Toronado staked his claim for Classic glory on Thursday with an un-urged, wire-to-wire victory in the Group 3 Craven Stakes at Newmarket.
Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
A small but select field of four; What this season's renewal of the Craven Stakes lacked in quantity was more than made up for in quality headlined by a rematch between the Group 2 Champagne Stakes rivals, Toronado and Dundonnell. Dundonnell, last seen finishing fourth in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf, was looking to overcome a half-length defeat at the hands of his rival last time and was in receipt of a three pound pull in the weights from that foe. However, with Dundonnell ponied down early to the starting stalls, the imposing figure of Toronado stood tall in the parade ring, a colt which had filled out, progressed in stature over winter and seemingly ready to run. The betting markets seem to agree. Installed as the odds-on 8/11 favourite, Toronado would seemingly be hard to challenge in this contest en route to bigger and better things. A colt that trainer Richard Hannon had earmarked as his best two year old prospect after victory at Ascot in July, Toronado bounced out of the starting gates, taking things up at the head of affairs, as the four runners settled in single file through the early part of the race. Easily bowling along at his own comfortable pace, Toronado looked to be enjoying things up front as Richard Hughes allowed the three year old to canter along on a tight rein, shadowed on his every move by James Doyle aboard Dundonnell. As the runners edged towards the infamous bushes, a marker for the two and a half furlongs point, Hughes still seemed to be travelling well with his mount moving effortlessley into the dip as his main rivals began to be nudged along. Momentarilly it looked as though his stable mate, Havana Gold, was coming with a strong wide run in the face of a strong headwind which forced it's way down the Newmarket straight. However, as Havana Gold edged closer under Jamie Spencer, Hughes gave Toronado a nudge, asked him to extend as he slipped the son of High Chaparral an extra inch of rein, and the star of the Hannon yard began to extend towards the line with a minimum of fuss for a comfortable four length success.
"He's a machine - he's a very good horse." said trainer, Hannon Snr, "We've always known that but he's proved it today. He quickened and then he quickened again. He'll come back for the Guineas and what beats him wins, I guess. He's not quite there in his coat, but when he comes back in two weeks he'll look a lot better. He's been working so well, and with a lot of good horses.".
Hannon also made comment on the runner up, Havana Gold, who will now join his stable mate, Olympic Glory, by running in the French 2,000 Guineas [Poule D'Essai des Poulains] on May 5th. Shortened in the betting markets for the English 2,000 Guineas, Toronado is now the 3-1 second favourite behind marginally odds-on favourite, Dawn Approach. A winner of the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket's Future Champions Day, Dawn Approach looked to provide the main hurdle for Toronado to overcome to ensure victory in the contest run over the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket on May 4th.
A colt which benefits from a strong staying pedigree, Toronado was also cut for the Epsom Derby, the second English Classic run on June 1st, and now sits as the 8-1 second favourite.
"There's no doubt he stays and he has the speed for a track like Epsom" said Hannon Snr, who looks for his first Derby winner in his final year as a trainer, "I spoke to John [Magnier - Coolmore] the other day about his pedigree and he said 'He's got loads of speed, but he can stay well.".
Should Toronado win the Epsom Derby, he would cap a fantastic season for Coolmore sire, High Chaparral, who has enjoyed dual-hemisphere success after the scintillating victories of It's A Dundeel during Australia's Sydney Autumn Carnival.
Photo Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)