Jamie Lynch: Craven Day Preview

Can Toormore emulate Toronado in the Craven?
Can Toormore emulate Toronado in the Craven?

Jamie Lynch looks towards Craven Day and identifies a day of reckoning for some of the protagonists.

"Toormore and Australia had a bit of thunderous noise about them for the Guineas, that was until Kingman stole the show in the Greenham."

A big day for... TOORMORE

In 1704, unsuccessful playwright John Dennis premiered his doomed production, Appius and Virginia, at the Drury Lane Theatre. Reports say it had only one saving grace: the then revolutionary use of metal balls being rolled around a wooden bowl to recreate the sound of thunder.  

No sooner had his play failed and closed than his ball-in-a-bowl idea was nicked- or 'sampled' as the modern saying goes- by the producers of Macbeth just up the road. Dennis' irate response was recorded at the time, and still echoes now:

'Damn them! They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.'

Toormore and Australia had a bit of thunderous noise about them for the Guineas, that was until Kingman stole the show in the Greenham. As well as Toormore's thunder, Kingman stole his intended trick of hogging the limelight by scooting up in a trial, à la Toronado. It's a hard act to follow, but Toormore could easily pull something special out of the hat himself.

He was Timeform's top-rated juvenile of 2013 following three unbeaten starts, culminating with the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh, in the process clocking the race's fastest winning time since Hawk Wing in 2001, and it was all his own work, from the front; very smoothly from the front, suggesting he'll glide down the dip in the Craven, à la Toronado.

His main rival carries the Godolphin colours, à la Toronado. Be Ready won a listed race with a Group-standard performance, and conceding him 3 lb will be a true test of Toormore's merit, a rite of passage, determining whether he's a worthy challenger to Kingman. Thinking he is, I'm predicting a four-length win, à la Toronado, then onwards and upwards to the Guineas, à la not Toronado.

A big day for... ALJAMAAHEER

The first time he ever represented Jamaica, Usain Bolt claimed silver over 400m in a Caribbean regional event. He dropped back in trip, and the rest is history. Step forward Aljamaaheer, a silver-medallist miler whose sights are being reset on sprinting to the top, with the Abernant the first step.

The mid-life redirection makes all sorts of sense, firstly because of the miling talent around, an oversubscribed division, and secondly as he's long since impressed with his high cruising speed, often promising more than he's delivered over eight furlongs.

You can only base these things on a hunch, but mine is that Aljamaaheer will love being let rip over shorter trips. It's a big departure for him, making this a big day indeed, but he's got a big engine, and my guess is he'll be aimed at the big summer sprints after Thursday.

A big day for... AIDAN O'BRIEN

In the first fortnight of the Flat season, beginning in Ireland on 23rd March, Aidan O'Brien sent out 22 runners, including the Dubai party, of which only four ran to form by Timeform measurement, and one solitary winner. Not a crisis, nor even a situation, it was simply a sleepy state of affairs and a corner that needed to be turned, which has happened in the last week, with three winners from 10 runners and all bar two of them hitting their ratings mark.

One of those woken up during the collective lie-in was Johann Strauss, and you can bet he'll be a different horse at Newmarket on Thursday from the one who was beaten at 4/5 at Leopardstown. He's Timeform top-rated in the Tattersalls Millions 3-y-o Trophy, earning his figure from chasing home Kingston Hill (for whom it's therefore an interesting if not big day too) in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

There are a couple of other potential pattern performers snapping at his 107-rated heels, namely Sudden Wonder (Godolphin) and Hunters Creek (God-Gosden), but Johann Strauss still harbours Derby hopes, at least in a supporting role, and, by High Chaparral, going up in trip will help him make an announcement.    

A big day for... STRONG THREE-YEAR-OLD FORMLINES

There's no greater source of rivet and reward in racing than following a strong three-year-old formline, and we're privileged to witness the start of one courtesy of the 10-furlong handicap at 17:40. All the right stables, all the right pedigrees and all the right profiles.

Whether Toormore rises to the Kingman challenge, or Aljamaaheer relishes sprinting, or Johann Strauss transforms from his reappearance are all open to doubt (bar the last one), but what's absolutely set in stone, like the Wood Ditton not working out as expected, is that the three-year-old event that closes the meeting will be a form fountain, flooding handicaps everywhere in the coming months.

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