Toronado threat gathers pace

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TORONADO was last night strongly challenging long-time market leader Dawn Approach for Qipco 2000 Guineas favouritism on the eve of the Newmarket Classic.

The Richard Hannon-trained colt was mightily impressive in winning the Craven Stakes on his reappearance, laying down the gauntlet to Jim Bolger’s Godolphin-owned Dawn Approach, who was last seen winning the Dewhurst in October.

Coral spokesman David Stevens said: “Although Dawn Approach has been favourite for the Guineas since last summer, his position has come under threat from Toronado in recent days, to the point where the latter now looks set to take over at the head of the betting.

“The vibes coming from the Richard Hannon team are extremely strong, and there is sure to be further support for Toronado in the build-up to the season’s opening Classic, especially with champion jockey Richard Hughes in the plate.”

But Bolger is confident Dawn Approach possesses all the necessary attributes to give him his first victory in the colts’ Classic.

The master of Coolcullen has enjoyed a quite brilliant training career, but the first Classic of the British Flat season on the famous Rowley Mile course is one of the few top-level prizes to have eluded him so far.

Dawn Approach’s sire New Approach came mighty close to breaking the trainer’s duck when beaten just a nose by Henrythenavigator five years ago, before going on to a famous triumph in the Derby. Bolger said: “Dawn Approach did his final piece of work on Tuesday and it all went very well. I have been very happy with his preparation. I could not have wished for a smoother passage through the winter and into the spring..”

Hannon has won the race with Mon Fils (1973), Don’t Forget Me (1987) and Tirol (1990), and connections of the latest big hope from Herridge are in confident mood. Assistant trainer Richard Hannon jnr, said: “Toronado did his last proper piece of work last Sunday and goes to Newmarket in the form of his life. Dawn Approach is a very good horse, but we feel that we have a solid chance.”

Racing Post Trophy runner-up Van Der Neer is an interesting second string for the team following a stylish comeback on the all-weather at Lingfield. “Like Toronado, Van Der Neer is very laidback and uncomplicated, and I can easily see him finishing in the four,” said Hannon jnr.

Richard Hughes rides Toronado, and said: “Dawn Approach is a very good horse, but he invariably hits a flat spot and I think we will win.”

Aidan O’Brien has saddled six previous winners of the 2000 Guineas, including Rock Of Gibraltar (2002), George Washington (2006), Henrythenavigator (2008) and last year’s hero Camelot. This time around the master of Ballydoyle saddles three runners in Cristoforo Colombo (Joseph O’Brien), Mars (Seamie Heffernan) and George Vancouver (Colm O’Donoghue).