It may have only attracted a four-runner field, but this year’s Craven Stakes certainly unearthed a gem as Richard Hannon’s Toronado produced a sensational performance to propel into the 2000 Guineas reckoning and the unbeaten colt could well prove to be a tough nut to crack for short-priced ante-post favourite Dawn Approach, who currently heads the Classic betting.
Jim Bolger’s Irish raider still stands pretty at the pinnacle of the Guineas market, but Toronado certainly sent a few shockwaves through the Emerald Isle as he merely brushed his three rivals off with aplomb to storm to a four-length success in the Group Three event on Thursday afternoon.
Sent off an 8/11 favourite, the High Chaparral colt was sent to the front inside the first furlong and Richard Hughes set a decent gallop from the outset, but his two main rivals Dundonnell and Havana Gold were struggling to keep up and whilst Hughes remained motionless, the jockeys in behind were getting lower in the saddle.
At the two-furlong pole, the champion jockey duly pushed Toronado clear and he showed a dashing turn of foot to suggest that he could be a genuine Classic contender for the Guineas, which takes place on May 4 and bookmakers were quick to cut Hannon’s unbeaten colt from 8/1 to 3/1 in the 2000 Guineas market, with Dawn Approach duly easing to 5/4 in what should be an epic clash at Flat HQ.
With flat racing beginning to click up a notch the two-day Craven meeting has certainly provided punters with some vital clues for the Guineas meeting that is about a fortnight away and Richard Fahey’s Garswood could well fly the flag for the northern brigade and his two-and-a-quarter length success in the Listed Free Handicap saw his price plummet to the 20/1 mark.
However, the star of the opening day had to be Sir Henry Cecil’s Hot Snap, who catapulted her legendary handler into the limelight again as she got the better of Sky Lantern in what could prove to be a vintage renewal of the Nell Gwyn Stakes.
The betting had suggested that Richard Hannon’s Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Sky Lantern would be the one to beat in the Group Three and when he came coasting up the inside rail the market had looked to be right, but Tom Queally eased Hot Snap into the race and in a matter of a furlong had sent her from first to last in an astonishing turn of foot.
A half-sister to Midday, she had always had the potential to become a star on the level and the way she quickened past a former Group One winner highlighted her class and bookmakers were quick to send her to outright favourite for the 1000 Guineas, which takes place on May 5 at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile and she is currently a 4/1 shot to land another Classic prize for the Warren Place team.