Tough task for Birchwood warns Richard Fahey

Birchwood, with James Doyle on board, wins the Superlative Stakes. Picture: PA

Birchwood, with James Doyle on board, wins the Superlative Stakes. Picture: PA

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RICHARD FAHEY admits Birchwood faces a tough task in today’s Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood giving weight to all of his rivals.

The Godolphin-owned juvenile , though, could be heading to the Downs unbeaten but for a lacklustre run in Ireland, for which Fahey has never found an explanation.

Last time out in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket, the Dark Angel colt bounced right back to his best to beat Air Vice Marshall, who is a late defector from this race due to the ground.

“It won’t be easy, he’s giving everything 3lb,” said Fahey. “I wouldn’t know what happened to him when we took him to Ireland.

“He played up in the preliminaries, he didn’t go down to the start that well and just wasn’t himself. It was a filthy day – maybe that was it – it was just off the cuff.

“When it rained over there I thought he’d love that, so we won’t be using the ground as an excuse.

“I’m happy with him, though. He’s done everything we’ve asked since Newmarket.”

Meanwhile, Richard Hannon feels the drop in grade gives Toormore an “excellent” chance of returning to 
winning ways in the Qatar Lennox Stakes at Goodwood today.

The four-year-old runs in the Godolphin blue for the first time, having been sold by Middleham Park Racing earlier this month.

His last three runs have been at Group One level and he has performed creditably each time, most recently when fourth behind Solow in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot.

With wins in the Richmond Stakes at two-year-old and a narrow defeat in this race last 
year under his belt, he has 
vital course form in the 
book.

Hannon also has a strong second string to his bow in Tupi, twice a winner at Listed level this season and not far behind Dutch Connection in the Jersey Stakes.

“Toormore has been to Goodwood twice, winning the Vintage Stakes as a two-year-old and being beaten only a neck in this race last year, and previous experience of this track is always a help,” Hannon said.

“The rain won’t be a problem for him either as the ground was very testing when he bounced back to run a blinder in finishing third in last year’s QEII Stakes at Ascot.

“Dropping down a grade must give Toormore an excellent chance here, and it would be great if he could click first time up in the blue of Godolphin, who have bought him from Middleham Park since Ascot.

“However, our other runner Tupi would also be in with a shout. He ran well at Royal Ascot in between winning twice in lesser grade at Newmarket, and remember he did finish second to Highland Reel in the Vintage at this meeting 12 months ago.”

l Glorious Goodwood has been robbed of one of its highlights as Gleneagles bypasses tomorrow’s Qatar Sussex Stakes due to unsuitable ground.

Aidan O’Brien’s dual 2000 Guineas winner and St James’s Palace Stakes hero was supposed to test his mettle against the older generation for the first time, with Freddie Head’s Solow, a winner at both the Dubai Carnival and Royal Ascot, his main adversary.

However, the course was hit by 18mm of rain on Sunday, leaving the ground on the round course good to soft.

As a result, Solow is now an odds-on favourite. Richard Hannon’s Night Of Thunder, last year’s 2000 Guineas winner, is in opposition, but was some way behind Solow at Ascot.

Connections will be hoping slower ground helps him close the gap.

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