Havana Gold can repel challengers and critics in Craven
Only four runners will go to post for Newmarket’s Craven Stakes but quality comes readily to the rescue of quantity.
All have provisional bookings for the 2000 Guineas at the beginning of May, with one fist of Richard Hannon’s double-handed assault on the race, Toronado, seen as the most likely to justify such lofty expectations.
The unbeaten son of High Chaparral finished his juvenile campaign with a game victory over the reappearing Dundonnell in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, wrapping up a hat-trick that included a pair of straight-forward victories in lesser company.
The first Classic of the season is rightfully dominated by Jim Bolger’s Dawn Approach but an impressive victory here for Richard Hannon’s main arrow will remind Godolphin that the Rowley Mile will not be staging a precession this year.
Roger Charlton’s Dundonnell was only half a length adrift of the aforementioned favourite in that contest on Town Moor and was far from disgraced when stepping up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, eventually fading to fourth when holding every chance at the furlong pole. With that in mind a price more than three times greater than Toronado will have plenty of interest with connections visibly impressed with that Santa Anita run.
Tawhid and, Hannon’s supposed second string, Havana Gold make up the rest, both arriving on merit alone.
Godolphin’s charge was really getting the hang of things on his final two starts, posting two easy four-length victories at Nottingham and finally Newbury in a hot Group 3. Further improvement will be required, something that may not necessarily apply to Havana Gold.
A hugely impressive debut season ended in disappointment after a reverse to the Guineas-bound Ghurair but he was only just touched off there and that form could still prove to be better than any in this opposition.
Aside from that and an unfortunate unseating of Ryan Moore when his saddle slipped at Deauville when favourite for the Prix Francois Boutin, he won four races during the season, showing his ability to grind it out if required.
The fact that Richard Hughes has got off him to ride Toronado can be seen as a negative, but the stable number one had to ride one of them.
A race which boasts as many question marks as credentials, Hannon undoubtedly is in the strongest position, but the winning hand may be a surprise one.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.