Kingman (right) beats Toronado and Darwin in the Sussex Stakes
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
KINGMAN confirmed his status as the second best racehorse in the world with an explosive win in the Sussex Stakes last week. The pace may have been desperate and the bare form limited, but the raw talent was there for all to see.
Runner-up Toronado was noted for his own speedy turn of foot last year, but after striking for home two furlongs out the winner of the 2013 Duel on the Downs failed to shake off the speedy youngster who struck late to secure his position as Europe’s number one.
Kingman beat the best three-year-olds at Royal Ascot and saw off the leading older miler in comprehensive style at Goodwood last week, which leaves very little for the world number two to prove on his own continent.
He’s had five starts already this year and connections have pointed at the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot (Oct 18) as his top assignment, which will probably close out his season. But that local target doesn’t mean there’s any need to drop the global ambition.
World champions can be crowned on any stage given the right conditions (ability, opposition, pace) and if we get a fresh Kingman going full pelt against a good field on Champions Day the colt will have the opportunity to show exactly what he’s worth.
Last time he ran at Ascot he banged out a career high RPR of 128 when reversing the form of his only defeat with 2,000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder; a performance that puts him just 2lb behind world leader Just A Way.
Kingman sits in a clear second on the global RPR list with Just A Way in a clear first, but if you’re betting on one of those stars to improve again in the autumn it would have to be Kingman.
Just A Way posted his world leading RPR of 130 when running away with the Dubai Duty Free over 1m1f. That win came way back in March and it was his second start of the year, which doesn’t bode well for an autumn campaign. His other problem in the coming months will be lack of opportunity.
Becoming Japan’s first winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is now such a big deal in the country that even horses unsuited to the test – so long as they have the talent – are sent to Paris to seek their fame and fortune.
This is the position Just A Way finds himself in and, instead of pursuing a path that best suits him (international races over his optimum distance of 1m-1m2f), he will instead spend the rest of the season being trained to see out the 1m4f distance of the Arc.
That means he is unlikely to build on his peak form, achieved at this optimum trip back in March, and leaves him in the likely position of becoming just another footnote in the long and disappointing history of Japanese Arc defeats.
Kingman, on the other hand, has been on the up this year; he hails from a yard that tends to get them to improve throughout the year and is set to face some top class competition on his next start with Richard Hannon intent on sending Olympic Glory or Toronado. All he needs then is a decent pace, which he did not enjoy last week.
The opening splits of Wednesday’s Sussex Stakes were incredibly slow. They covered the first 5f in a time horses of their class should have run 6f. Of course, they absolutely sprinted home with some devilish splits, but it didn’t stop them posting the slowest winning time for 35 years (1m41.75s).
Kingman was not best placed for the sprint to the line but he still had the gears to out-sprint the speedy Toronado and claim a cosy length success, posting an RPR of 123+.
The horse himself may well have improved since Ascot but the farcical nature of last week’s race did not allow him to show it. That will have to wait until Champions Day, when trainer John Gosden may well throw in a pacemaker to ensure he has every opportunity for that world title bid.
The pecking order in Europe may be taking shape nicely, but a spanner flew into the works in the US on Saturday when leading light Palace Malice was beaten ten-lengths by front runner Moreno (118) in the Whitney Handicap.
The Whitney has been won and lost by some big names down the years and this should be no exception, although it may not be Moreno or Palace Malice who finishes the year at the top of the pile.
For my money it’s Will Take Charge who will show up best of the Whitney nine in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The busy four-year-old was beaten a nose by Mucho Macho Man in last year’s Classic and he’s been running with credit on almost every start this year – all six of them – often looking like he needs the 1m2f distance to be at his best.
Saturday was no exception and he kept on steadily up the straight over 1m1f to be beaten just over four lengths under top weight, posting an RPR of 116+. At his best he’s a 126 performer and if he’s still going in November he looks the one to beat.
No excuses have come to light for Palace Malice, but if you can put a line through this one he too would be in the mix. We’ve still got three months till the Classic, but at this stage Will Take Charge looks the pick at 10-1.
TOP OF THE CLASS: Kingman 123 John Gosden (GB) (Sussex Stakes, Goodwood, 1m, 30 July)
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