YOU could forgive the Richard Hannon camp for not being too keen on this year’s Sussex Stakes being labelled another ‘Duel on the Downs’.
They’d probably rather leave Toronado, their contender for the big race of Glorious Goodwood, to do the talking on the track when he takes on Dawn Approach.
Two years ago, when the Hannon team were involved in the same billing for the same race, they saw Canford Cliffs well beaten by Frankel.
And this year, Godolphin-owned Dawn Approach has already seen off Toronado twice – easily in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and then by the closest of margins in the St James’ Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Many believed the result there could have been reversed but for interference suffered by the runner-up.
But whatever hopes and fears they may have ahead of Goodwood’s £300,000 Group 1 feature race of the week on July 31, there’s no getting away from the fact it’s the race that anyone with even the tiniest interest in racing want to see.
Richard Hannon junior admitted Toronado was the Wiltshire yard’s big hope this year at a festival where they have done so well for so long.
The Dawn Approach camp seem even more bullish about round three of the heavyweight pair’s contests.
Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: “Jim (Bolger - trainer) is in the driving seat and knows Dawn Approach incredibly well. He is keen to go for the QIPCO Sussex Stakes and the horse is very, very well.
“This clash with Toronado very much reminds me of King’s Lake versus To-Agori-Mou in the 1981 Sussex Stakes. We expect summer ground, which is going to be quite quick. Dawn Approach has handled that surface very well.
“It is going to be a fantastic race and the highlight of Glorious Goodwood. I think both camps believe they have the better horse. Dawn Approach needs to beat Toronado fairly and squarely again over the Sussex Downs to establish himself as the true three-year-old champion over this distance and then head on to Deauville for the Prix Jacques Le Marois to take on Intello.
“Toronado could warm us up a bit in the Sussex Stakes but I don’t think he will beat us. Dawn Approach has beaten Toronado twice and hopefully he can do so again.
“Dawn Approach is very courageous and has the perfect attitude for a miler. Jim is keen to run the horse at Goodwood in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes and then go on to the Jacques le Marois at Deauville ten days later.
“The three big mile races in Europe now are the QIPCO Sussex Stakes, the Jacques le Marois and then the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. When we reach that race, we will talk about the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.”
Bolger, Dawn Approach’s trainer, added: “The races Dawn Approach has had this season did not take very much out of him because he was bucking and squealing two days after each one.”
Asked is there will be a pacemaker in the Sussex Stakes, the trainer said: “Leitir Mor seems to go for the same races as Dawn Approach and he likes a bit of daylight so he won’t be too far away (from the front) I expect.
“I saw the St James’s Palace Stakes a couple of time afterwards and I was more interested in what happened to my own horse rather than any other horse. I know we got a good smack from the inside which knocked him sideways for a couple of strides but he recovered quickly. He was very dour in the finish and he always would be if he has to be.
“I respect all the runners who race against Dawn Approach - I enjoy competing in those Group 1 races and so if that is rivalry I am definitely enjoying it.
“I am not really concerned about the course at Goodwood. I prefer a level track but it is the same for everybody.”
Hannon junior, whose father trains Toronado, said: “I thought we went there to beat Dawn Approach but to his credit he stayed on and beat us. I’m not saying we’ll beat Dawn Approach but we are fully entitled to go to Goodwood and take him on again.
“We were unlucky in the race at Ascot. I thought we came there to beat Dawn Approach but to his credit stayed on and beat us - he’s a hard horse to go past. We were unlucky earlier in the race but maybe at the line we weren’t.
“Our horse is a very good horse and we are going to take on Dawn Approach again. It is going to be an awesome race at Goodwood if there is same distance between them - a bit closer than Frankel and Canford Cliffs.
“He didn’t run his race in the Guineas when he didn’t finish as he can. He definitely put that to bed at Ascot - his breathing was right and he is much more relaxed.
“He’s going very well now and is very relaxed in his work. Hughesie (Richard Hughes) came in to ride him this week and, watering down what he said, he thought the horse would run really well in the Sussex Stakes. We’re very pleased with Toronado and hope he runs a massive race.
“We’ll leave the riding plans to Hughesie - Goodwood can be a difficult course and things can go spectacularly wrong at times. We will ride him a bit differently - closer to the speed. He won’t be ridden just to beat Dawn Approach, there will probably be eight or nine others in there to negotiate.
“Havana Gold has come out of his race in France well and there’s a chance he might show up in the QIPCO Sussex Stakes.”