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Can O’Brien bounce back with Paddington in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood?

August Rodin’s inexplicable flop in the King George Vi and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot on Saturday might just be playing on some punter’s minds. With question marks lingering over the 3-year-old colt’s inability to keep pace last weekend, eventually being steered home in his own time in last place, attention turns today to another of O’Brien’s 3-year-old colts with a big reputation. Can O’Brien bounce back with Paddington in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood today?

Clouds gather menacingly over Goodwood Racecourse ahead of Day 2 of the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Photo: Paul Blake

O’Brien however, speaking after Paddington’s Coral Eclipse victory at Sandown last month expressed no such concerns. “He’s put on a bit of weight since Ascot and it’s strange for a horse to do that,” O’Brien said. “He’s been progressing with every run and he’s getting heavier, stronger and quicker.”

“The surprising thing about him is the progression he’s making from race to race. He’s getting more confident, stronger, bigger. Mentally he’s more professional, and he came out of Ascot in an unusually good way.”

“It’s very surprising what he’s doing. He’s a lot quicker than Giant’s Causeway, his constitution is amazing too. Giant always ran at the same weight, but this horse is getting heavier so physically he’s doing very well. He’s surprised us so much with every run. There’s something very different happening.”

Despite O’Brien’s assured confidence, Paddington will have ‘the spectre of Rodin’ to contend with today, not to mention the soft Goodwood ground. Throw in the gothic looking clouds hovering menacingly over West Sussex this morning, coupled with the increasing probability of thunder storms, and today’s race has all the makings of a Mary Shelley novel for the favourite.

If Paddington happens to falter, his most likely rival looks to be Inspiral. Frankie Dettori’s mount, a filly by Frankel, is rated 120 – 5 pounds less than Paddington. Although she gives Paddington 4 pounds, in effect putting her 9 pounds behind the young upstart, there are still many who feel that she will go well.

Potentially the most versatile horse in the race is Facteur Cheval. The 4-year-old has form on ground from good to soft to heavy and looks set to mount a serious challenge.

As the gloom descends over Goodwood today, Chindit is declared a non-runner. Paddington drifts slightly out to 1/2, despite Chindit’s withdrawal, and the haunting begins. It’s a signal…man.

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