Great clashes in the Sussex Stakes

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Andrew Asquith recalls some of the great clashes in the Sussex Stakes ahead of another big showdown on Wednesday.

The Sussex Stakes is high on the list of premier Group 1 races in Europe, one which provides the first clash of the generations over a mile in Britain, and one that has served up some mouth-watering head to heads in recent years.

Goodwood have done a fine job of marketing the race as the ‘Duel on the Downs’ and this year’s renewal has another fantastic encounter in store between star older miler Baaeed and leading three-year-old colt Coroebus.

Coroebus is attempting to emulate the likes of Canford Cliffs, Frankel and Kingman – to name a few – by winning this race as a three-year-old having been successful in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but in the shape of Baaeed he faces a formidable opponent who has established himself as the best miler around and won the Queen Anne Stakes last time.

Frankel slams Canford Cliffs

One of the most eagerly-anticipated Sussex Stakes this century was undoubtedly the 2011 edition which saw the outstanding Frankel go toe-to-toe with defending champion Canford Cliffs.

Only four runners went to post but the race revolved around Frankel and Canford Cliffs, though even that match was barely a contest such was Frankel’s dominance.

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There was no obvious pace in the race and there was some hesitation in the first furlong as nobody was too keen to make the running.

However, Tom Queally decided to take the initiative on Frankel and he was able to turn the screw at the head of affairs, having Canford Cliffs in trouble before Frankel showcased his remarkable acceleration to streak clear in a matter of strides under minimal assistance.

Canford Cliffs was a top-class miler in his own right, having won five consecutive Group 1s heading into the race. He may not have been at his best on the day (reportedly suffered an injury and was retired afterwards), but Frankel made him go to places that he had never experienced before and didn’t allow him to display his own lethal turn of foot.

Frankel would go on to win the Sussex Stakes again 12 months later – he is still the only horse to win the race twice – before bowing out as arguably the best racehorse there has ever been; he is the highest-rated Flat horse in Timeform’s history.

Kingman’s sizzling sectional

The 2014 Sussex Stakes also featured a clash between two top-class milers in Toronado and Kingman.

Toronado, the 2013 Sussex Stakes winner, had won the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot on his seasonal reappearance, but was now facing a progressive three-year-old in Kingman who had overcome the disappointment of being narrowly beaten in the 2000 Guineas by recording impressive victories in the Irish 2000 Guineas and St James’s Palace Stakes.

The race turned tactical with one of the outsiders setting only a steady tempo, resulting in a two-furlong dash for home, and the quartet were only separated by three lengths at the line.

Therefore, the bare form couldn’t be rated too highly, but the closing sectionals recorded by Kingman were more associated with those of a sprinter than a miler.

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James Doyle rode Kingman with the utmost confidence, holding on to him for as long as possible despite the lack of pace, and allowing Toronado to get first run on him as that rival kicked for home two furlongs out.

At first, it looked as though Toronado had stolen a march, as Kingman appeared to become unbalanced when making his challenge, but once he found his stride the result was spectacular. Kingman unleashed a breathtaking turn of foot to sprint past a top-class colt in the final 50 yards and be readily on top at the line.

The manner in which Kingman came from last to first in the final furlong really was something to behold and is a performance that will live long in the memory.

Rip Van Winkle achieved his first Group 1 in dominant fashion

Aidan O’Brien has won the Sussex Stakes five times in total, but one of his most memorable wins was achieved in 2009 with Rip Van Winkle, who came out on top against dual Group 1 winner Paco Boy and 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes winner Ghanaati.

On the morning of the race, Rip Van Winkle’s participation was placed in doubt due to suffering a quarter-crack of his hind hoof, but he could hardly have been more convincing in the race itself. He was ridden to take advantage of his proven stamina and he caught Paco Boy and Ghanaati a little off guard as he was sent for home four furlongs out, galloping powerfully all the way to the line.

Ghanaati wasn’t at her best, but that is to take nothing away from Rip Van Winkle, who took Paco Boy out of his comfort zone and recorded a performance on Timeform ratings only bettered in the race by Frankel in the last 20 years.

Rip Van Winkle’s dominant performance also paid tribute to the outstanding talent of Sea The Stars, who had beaten him in the 2000 Guineas, Derby and Eclipse.

Henrythenavigator just denies Raven’s Pass

There were no standout older milers in the 2008 Sussex Stakes and the two main contenders heading into the race were three-year-olds Henrythenavigator and Raven’s Pass.

The pair had already met twice before in the 2000 Guineas and the St James’ Palace Stakes, both of which Henrythenavigator won. The result here was no different, though Raven’s Pass did push him much harder than at Royal Ascot on their previous start.

Henrythenavigator was sensibly ridden closer to his pacemaker who set only a sedate gallop, while Raven’s Pass, conversely, was ridden with a little too much restraint, spotting Henrythenavigator over a length when the dash for home began.

Raven’s Pass finished with a real flourish, but Henrythenavigator always appeared to be doing enough once quickening to the lead two furlongs out, despite veering right and bumping the eventual third at one point.

Raven’s Pass would go on to get his revenge on Henrythenavigator later in the year by beating him in the QEII and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

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