Plenty expected of Australia in 2000

As a son of Galileo out of the brilliant race mare Ouija Board, Australia is certainly bred to be a Classic contender and he gets his chance in the Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket today.

A very slow start on his Curragh debut saw him suffer a narrow defeat, but he went one better at the same track at the second time of asking before annihilating another well-touted colt in Free Eagle at Leopardstown.

O’Brien has not made any secret of the regard in which he holds the colt this spring and although his parents excellent over middle distances, plenty is expected of Australia this weekend.

“Everybody knows he’s bred to get the Derby trip. Obviously, he has to start somewhere and it would be nice to start him at Newmarket on a nice bit of ground,” O’Brien told At The Races.

“We’ll take it one race at a time and hopefully get him started and go from there.”

Australia is one half of a formidable twin assault on the race for the master of Ballydoyle, with War Command another major contender.

The American-bred colt is the mount of Ryan Moore and won four of his five starts at two, including the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and most recently the Dewhurst at Newmarket.

Middleham Park racing manager Tim Palin insists the team are not feeling any pressure ahead of Toormore’s bid for Classic glory.

The Richard Hannon-trained Arakan colt was champion two-year-old after winning each of his three starts last year, completing his hat-trick with a brilliant display in the National Stakes at the Curragh in September.

He was a workmanlike winner of last month’s Craven Stakes over the Guineas course and distance and carries an unbeaten record into this weekend’s Group One assignment, but connections admit he is likely to face a far sterner test against Kingman and Australia.

Palin said: “I don’t think any of us are feeling any pressure, to be honest. There’s certainly no pressure on Richard Hughes or Toormore.

“After the Kingman won the Greenham Stakes at Newbury the way he did, all of the pressure was taken off our shoulders.

“If Kingman is the next Frankel we’re not going to beat him and if Australia really is the best horse Aidan O’Brien has ever trained, as people are suggesting, we’re not going to beat him either.

“Toormore cost £36,000, he was champion two-year-old and is lining up in a 2000 Guineas with a fighting chance. That in itself is a dream come true.

“I think it looks one of the better 2000 Guineas’ in recent years and it looks as though it will be a pivotal moment in the champion three-year-old miler division.”

Palin is confident Toormore will run to a level capable of winning most renewals of the season’s opening Classic, but is unsure whether that will be good enough.

“Our horse is a course and distance winner, returning to the scene of the crime and what you see is what you get with him,” he said.

“He clocked a very good time in the Craven, a time that was good enough to win 132 of 135 renewals of the 2000 Guineas. Two of the faster times were on good to firm ground and the other one was Zafonic’s win in 1993.

“Toormore has a strong back catalogue of times and while I’m not really a times guru, a bad horse cannot clock good times.

“He’s certainly a very quick horse, we know he stays after winning the Craven and we know he handles the track.

“I think we can be reasonably confident about what we’ll get from our horse.

“If one of the others is better than him, then so be it.”

Toormore is one of three runners for Hannon, with the trainer also saddling Greenham Stakes runner-up Night Of Thunder and Free Handicap winner Shifting Power.

He told his website www.richardhannonracing.co.uk: “The Craven definitely knocked the rust off Toormore and he will be a lot sharper this time.

“He will never be as spectacular as Canford Cliffs or Toronado, but he is a very good galloper with no complications, and the Rowley Mile brings out the best in him.

“Night of Thunder should not be under-estimated. He has gears and, though he was well beaten by Kingman in the Greenham, he is definitely better than that.

“The favourite had the run of the race at Newbury, but our fellow will improve for the extra furlong, and we feel that Kieren Fallon’s style will suit him.

“Similarly, we think Shifting Power, a big colt who was always going to make a better three-year-old, can progress again.

“He showed plenty of spirit to win the Free Handicap and will also appreciate the step up to a mile.

“He is unbeaten and we don’t know how good he is.”

Kingston Hill enjoyed a spectacular end to his three-year-old season, completing a hat-trick in little over a month with a brilliant display in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.

Although always rated more of a Derby hope, trainer Roger Varian, saddling his first British Classic runner, expects his stable star to make his presence felt.

He told his website www.varianstable.com: “He has had a trouble free preparation and looks in great condition. I have been happy with his work and we are very much looking forward to running.

“He looked top-class last season and nothing he has done since his win in the Racing Post Trophy has made me doubt that.

“It is very exciting to go into a Classic with a horse like him. I am confident he will run a big race.”

Ertijaal is an intriguing player for trainer William Haggas and jockey Paul Hanagan.

The son of Oasis Dream may not have run on turf since running away with a Yarmouth maiden last June, but already this year he has struck twice on the all-weather at Lingfield, claiming the Spring Cup and most recently winning a richly-endowed event on Good Friday.

Haggas said: “He’s certainly going there in very good shape and we’re very pleased with his condition. He’s entitled to be there, albeit as one of the outsiders.

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