Toormore named top juvenile in European Rankings
Last Updated: 16/01/14 12:24pm
Toormore (right): Earned a mark of 122
Middleham Park racing manager Tim Palin is still pinching himself after the syndicate's Toormore was crowned champion two-year-old in the European Thoroughbred Rankings.
Middleham Park Racing is one of the fastest growing ownership groups in the sport, but the team have not had too many horses capable of mixing it at the top level.
Toormore became their first Group One winner when completing his hat-trick with a most impressive display in the Group One National Stakes at the Curragh in September and ended his juvenile campaign with a top rating of 122.
The Richard Hannon-trained son of Arakan remarkably cost just £36,000 as a yearling and Palin believes his rise to the top is evidence dreams really can come true.
Palin said: "It's a bit of a miracle, to be honest. I still can't quite believe it. When you think how many yearlings go to the sales, you've probably got a one in 10,000 chance of getting a champion.
"Then you think most of the best ones go for £500,000, £1million or £2million, so to get a champion for £36,000 is virtually impossible. It just shows that relatively small owners like us have got a chance. Maybe they should have announced he was the champion juvenile on December 25, as that's the time of year when miracles are meant to happen!"
Toormore is Hannon's first ever champion juvenile and is now officially in the care of his son, Richard junior, who took over the licence on New Year's Day.
He is a best priced 10-1 for the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in May and Palin revealed he is likely to head straight to the first Classic of the season without a prep run.
"I went to see him just before Christmas and he looks absolutely magnificent," said Palin. "We haven't given him a break as such. He's just been ticking over and everyone is very happy with him.
"We brought him to a peak three times last year and we'll probably do the same four or five times this season. He has really strengthened up behind the saddle, in his shoulders and his withers and it's only half way through the winter. As long as the weather holds up, he has time to strengthen up some more yet.
"We've spoken with Richard Hannon and I think we've decided we'll go straight to the Guineas, unless Richard Hughes or whoever is riding him in early April thinks he will benefit from a race.
"If that's the case, he would probably go for the Greenham at Newbury, but at the moment we're leaning towards going straight for the big one at Newmarket.
"He's a very clean-winded horse and it's a long season. We still want him to be at the peak of his powers in October."
Palin has not ruled out the possibility of Toormore stepping up in distance at some stage during his three-year-old campaign, but is keen to see him prove himself at a mile first.
He said: "Looking at his pedigree, you would have to think his optimum trip will be a mile. He could probably operate at either side - we might want to try a mile and a quarter at some stage - but at the moment we want to establish him as the best at a mile.
"I think we can safely say he won't be running in any kind of Derby, be that the English or the French."
Toormore is rated 2lb below Dawn Approach's mark of 124 when he was crowned champion juvenile after winning each of his six starts at two in 2012.
Matthew Tester, the British Horseracing Authority senior handicapper responsible for two-year-olds, said: "Toormore improved markedly with every race and there is no reason to think that he has peaked.
"The champions of the last six years went on to win seven classics and 26 Group Ones. We are shaping up for a really exciting three-year-old season.
"122 is not an exceptional figure for a champion. Dawn Approach the previous year was 124 and in recent times we have seen 126-rated champions like Frankel, New Approach and Dream Ahead, but 122 is a very satisfactory figure for such a relatively unexposed horse."
Second in the juvenile list behind Toormore on a figure of 120 is the Roger Varian-trained Kingston Hill, who won his three outings in little over a month culminating in a dominant display in Doncaster's Racing Post Trophy in late October.
Varian said: "He's a Cartier Award winner, he's unbeaten, he's a Racing Post Trophy winner and he's second on official ratings, so I'm very happy. It's great for the horse, for us and the owners that he's getting recognition for what he's achieved so far.
"He is in very good form. He's been with me all winter and everyone is very pleased with his condition. He's ticking along very nicely.
"He'll be aimed towards the 2000 Guineas and at the moment I don't think he'll have a prep run. He's a Group One winner already, so I don't think he has a lot to prove going for a trial race.
"Nothing is set in stone, but as long as we're happy enough we can get him ready enough at home, I would imagine he'll go straight to Newmarket in May."
Wesley Ward's American star No Nay Never and Aidan O'Brien's War Command are joint-third on 119.
No Nay Never won the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot before heading to France to win a hot renewal of the Prix Morny at Deauville.
War Command was a brilliant winner of the Coventry Stakes at the Royal meeting and although he suffered defeat on his next start, he went on to win his next two including the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.
Jonathan Pease's Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner Karakontie is next in on 118, ahead of Australia, Outstrip and top juvenile filly Chriselliam on 117.
O'Brien's Australia, a son of Galileo out of Ouija Board, won twice from three starts in 2013, signing off with a smart performance at Leopardstown to take him to the head of ante-post lists for the Derby.
Outstrip was third in the Dewhurst before winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf for Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby.
The Charlie Hills-trained Chriselliam proved her Group One victory in the Fillies' Mile was no fluke by showing a blistering turn of foot to win the Breeders' Cup Fillies Juvenile Turf.
Spain's Noozhoh Canarias, narrowly beaten by Karakontie in the Lagardere, and David Wachman's three-times winner Sudirman are rated on 116.
In total 50 two-year-olds achieved a figure of 110 or above, with one of those on 111 being John Gosden's unbeaten Kingman, who had his season curtailed by a setback but remains prominent in the Guineas betting.