May 24, 2013
SEA SHANTY took Richard Hannon through the £1m mark in prize money when winning at Sandown last night, Bunker having earlier staked his claim for a Chesham Stakes run at Royal Ascot when making a successful debut at Haydock, but we are pitching our rod into even deeper waters this week-end when we make a triple assault on Ireland's first two classics of the season.
Van der Neer and Havana Gold both go for the Irish 2000 Guineas tomorrow with solid classic form and, assessing their chances, Richard Hannon jnr, who will be making the trip to Ireland, said: "They are both in good nick. Van der Neer has done two nice bits of work since he ran so well to finish third at Newmarket and, though he is never spectacular in the mornings, he looked the part when breezing at Herridge on Wednesday morning and the stiff uphill finish should suit him. Havana Gold takes his racing well, so, while this comes quickly after his super run in the French Guineas, we feel it is worth the gamble. Jamie Spencer enjoyed such a dream run up the rails at Longchamp that he has actually got there too soon, and the plan is to hold him up longer this time."
On Sunday we have Maureen running in the Irish 1000, and Hannon jnr added: "We weren't sure going into Newmarket whether she would stay the mile, but she finished the race off better than anything. She looks well and has come in her coat since Newmarke, and, though she has a few lengths to find with Just the Judge, we think that she has a good each-way chance."
May 24, 2013
WE are also at Haydock, York and Goodwood tomorrow, and the big money is at Haydock, where, as in Ireland, we launch a twin-attack on the feature race, the £65,000 Silver Bowl.
The boss said: "Baltic King looked to be crying out for the mile when third at Newmarket last week, and he goes there with a big chance. The one worry was the draw as if you get pushed wide at Haydock you are history, but he has been lucky there (stall three), and Sean (Levey) will be able to ride him handy.
"We also run Alhebayeb, who was only just run out of the money in the Free Handicap at Newmarket. The race will have sharpened him up, and he ran as if this extra furlong won't be a problem.
"Rundell also makes the trip up there for the mile and a half handicap. He showed that he gets the trip when second at York last week, and, though he is now 4lb higher, he has a chance in what looks a competitive little heat."
May 22, 2013
JULIE WOOD, Richard Hannon's principal British owner, was on the gallops at both Herridge and Everleigh this morning to see her team out at exercise, including several Royal Ascot possibles.
"I have just completed my fifth and final outfit for the Royal meeting, and we have Championship (Coventry) lined up for the Tuesday, Fast (Queen Mary) for the Wednesday and Chandlery (Wokingham) the Saturday, so all we need now is to find something for the Thursday and Friday," joked Julie, who also has a nice Raven's Pass colt (Under My Wing) ready to run, while the likes of Arranger, a Bushranger filly, Downton, an Invincible Spirit colt, Manderley, a daughter of Clodovil, and Ice Slice, a son of the popular Dark Angel, are all doing everything asked of them in the mornings.
The boss is delighted with the overall form of the squad, and Midnite Angel and Thunder Strike both booked their ticket for the Royal meeting when winning at Windsor on Monday night, while Steventon Star, Anticipated, Beau Nash and Corncockle are all winners who could well be Royal Ascot-bound, while, despite two unlucky defeats, the highly-rated Oriel remains on target for a toppers 'n tails bid, in either the Queen Mary or the Albany Stakes.
Malachim Mist, beaten at 1-2 at Pontefract yesterday, will not be in the team, but Richard Hughes was lavish in his praise of the grey, who had previously won impressively at Goodwood and assured me that losses are only on loan.
Hughesie said: "Malachim Mist is a smashing horse and such a lovely mover, but he is ready for a step up in trip and you could run him over a mile tomorrow. The boss tells me that he is going to give him a little break now, and that will do him the world of good."
On the classic front Van der Neer and Maureen both looked in good nick as they breezed past at Herridge in readiness for this week-end's Irish Guineas, while Havana Gold, who is also off to the Curragh, also looked the part as he blew the cobwebs away up at Everleigh.
Meanwhile, we have two of the boss's favourite meetings tomorrow, Goodwood and Salisbury, and we are well represented at both venues as well as Sandown and Haydock.
Running his eyes over the unraced two-year-olds who we are launching, the boss said: "We run two nice ones in the opener at Goodwood, Mildenhall, a Compton Place filly of Barry Bull's and also Royal Connection, a daughter of Bahamian Bounty, while Sacha Park, who flies the flag for us in the first at Salisbury, is a nice Iffraaj colt who has been shaping well.
"We also run two in Sandown's curtain-raiser, Cay Dancer, a good-moving grey filly by Danehill Dancer, and Green Run, who looks to be a typical Compton Place in that she has been showing plenty of speed, while earlier on up at Haydock we introduce Bunker, a good-actioned Hurricane Run colt who could be one for the Chesham if he happens to win his maiden first time out.
"Hughesie made all on Emulating over the mile at Windsor 10 days ago, but we think that he will be even better over a mile and a quarter, so he would have solid prospects in the Classified race at Salisbury, while The Queen's Sea Shanty, who, like Prince's Trust is a possible for the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, will be suited by the stiff finish of the mile at Sandown and might well be up to defying topweight."
At Goodwood, we try Erodium in first-time blinkers in the nine furlong handicap - "the step up in trip should suit him," observed the boss - while Chandlery, who has looked on the way back in recent gallops, having missed a whole season through a broken pelvis, has his prep for the Wokingham in the seven furlong handicap on the Sussex course, where Heading North runs in the Listed race for fillies.
May 21, 2013
OLYMPIC GLORY, unable to overcome an outside draw in the French 2000 Guineas, will not now attempt to get back on track in the Irish equivalent at The Curragh on Saturday, though Richard Hannon will still be two-handed in Ireland's first classic of the season as Newmarket third Van der Neer will be accompanied by Havana Gold, who ran a screamer at Longchamp.
Explaining the change-of-plan for Olympic Glory, who was second-favourite for The Curragh race, Richard Hannon said: "There are only 12 days between the two classics, and we have decided that Olympic Glory needs a bit more time.
"He could never get into a rhythm from that draw at Longchamp and Hughesie looked after him, but he still had to travel to France and back and it takes a lot out of a horse.
"Havana Gold, who was also drawn wide, ran a stormer to finish fifth in France, beaten less than a length, but he has recovered that much quicker – remember he almost won the big Sales pot at Newmarket last year just nine days after landing the Somerville Tattersalls Stakes at the same course – so he will definitely travel to Ireland.
"It's a shame Olympic Glory can't go, but he'll be back sooner rather than later and we are still strong in Ireland with two solid chances. Van der Neer will relish the stiff finish at The Curragh, and he has come out of Newmarket great."
May 20, 2013
THE Lockinge proved a disappointment for us, but we at least enjoyed a Royal celebration at Newmarket on Saturday, when The Queen's Prince's Trust ran out an impressive winner of the maiden on only his third run, thereby evoking thoughts of a possible tilt at the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot.
Richard Hannon said: "Last year's winner (Fast or Free) only just crept in to the Britannia off 87, so we will have to see what mark the handicapper gives Prince's Trust on Tuesday, but Royal Ascot is definitely in our minds for both him and Sea Shanty, who has already won two handicaps at Windsor and is currently on 85."
May 17, 2013
TODAY is the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters audacious night-time attack on Germany, for which Britain owe so much to those brave members of 617 Squadon, 53 of which lost their lives.
The Royal Lancaster bombers caught the enemy by complete surprise, and, while today's enemy (ie the bookmakers) appear dismissive of Richard Hannon's twin attack on the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury tomorrow, the boss is hopeful that he might be able to spring a surprise or two himself.
Remember, we won consecutive runnings of the Lockinge with Canford Cliffs and Paco Boy, only for the mighty Frankel to end hopes of a hat-trick 12 months ago, so either Trumpet Major or Libranno would be resuming normal service for the Hannon team.
The layers think that we will struggle to get either in the frame, but the boss said:"Trumpet Major goes into the race on a high, having won the Sandown Mile comprehensively, and, like Libranno, who ran a creditable fourth in the same race, we think that he has tightened up for the race."
Assessing our other Newbury chances, he added: "Poole Harbour is going to win a decent sprint handicap this season, and it might be this one He ran really well when third at the Guineas meeting, and is on the same mark here, while all three of ours have chances in the seven furlong maiden, which has split, while Hughesie feels Indignant has a fair chance of getting the seven in the finale so has opted for that one over Amberley Heights."
We will also be busy at Newmarket, and the boss said:"We have two in the Listed King Charles 11 Stakes – Baltic Knight, who won what looked a very hot handicap at Newbury last month like a much improved horse, and Tamayuz Star, who has been running well in the Sales races, while Victrix Ludorum, who finished just behind Tamayuz Star in the Tattersalls Million, was still second at the half-furlong pole before getting tired. That was a good effort for a filly against the colts, and she will be sharper for the run and should have a squeak in the Coral Sprint Trophy."
THERE are not enough races for all the two-year-olds we have ready to run, so you won't find Richard Hannon missing many juvenile races, and Richard Hills and Dane O'Neill were down at Herridge on Thursday morning to climb aboard a fistful of Sheikh Hamdan's youngsters and get a feel of them on the gallops.
Sheikh Hamdan has 25 in the yard this year, so has more than doubled his input from his first year, and Richard Hannon jnr said: "He has some lovely babies coming along, and, while one or two might make Royal Ascot, we are thinking further ahead, and the boys were certainly impressed with the feel they got first hand."
However, the Hannons have changed their buying policy these last couple of years and now look more for long-term quality rather than the precocious whizz-bang youngsters, so, while today's opener at Newbury is traditionally the race in which we loose our Coventry horse – Canford Cliffs made his debut here – it might be premature to predict that either Championship or Alaskan are toppers 'n tails contenders.
Maybe they will be, but let's see how they shape today. Alaskan is by Kodiac – ironically Sheikh Hamdan's Washarr, who breezed particularly well, is by the same sire – though Richard Hughes has opted to partner Julie Wood's Championship, an Exceed And Excel colt, who has done everything right so far.
We have three of the six runners for the two-year-old fillies conditions race, and Hannon expects Oriel to be "very hard to beat" after her promising debut at Ascot last week.
He said: "Oriel ran a bit green and found the one with a previous run just that bit more streetwise, but we were delighted how well she shaped, and today should tell us whether our dreams of a tilt at the Queen Mary Stakes are warranted. We also run Suite, who won nicely at Kempton, and Chepstow winner Hedge End.
"We run a couple in the Listed sprint. Ninjago impressed everyone at Ascot when winning in this grade a fortnight ago, not least the official handicapper who put him up 10lb, and even with a 3lb penalty he looks to have strong claims, while, though Dominate needs to improve, he won his last handicap at Windsor well and deserves a crack at a Listed prize.
OLYMPIC GLORY, so disappointing in last week's French 2000 Guineas at Longchamp, will attempt to redeem his tarnished reputation when he heads to The Curragh next week-end for the Irish equivalent, in which he will be joined in the race by our Newmarket third Van der Neer.
Richard Hannon said: "You can put a line through Olympic Glory's French excursion. He was drawn in the cheap seats and could never get competitive, but at least he came back without having had a hard race, so we have decided to take him to Ireland, where the stiff mile should suit him well.
"The Curragh's uphill finish should also play to the strengths of Van der Neer, who was staying on better than anything when third to Dawn Approach in our Guineas.
"We walked off the stand at Newmarket thinking Van der Neer might have earned himself a shot at the Derby, but the colts owner, Saeed Manana, is keen to go to Ireland instead, which is fine by us, especially as Richard Hughes made the point that he had not handled the bend too well when winning at Lingfield last month.
"Maureen, who ran so well to finish on the heels of the places fillies in our 1000 Guineas, will go to The Curragh for the Irish equivalent, and, while we will talk to David Redvers before finalising a plan for Havana Gold, who ran a blinder in the French 2000 Guineas, we have decided to take Zurigha back to France for the Prix Sandringham at Chantilly. She ran a fabulous race to come from well off the pace and finish fourth in the French 1000, and Chantilly should suit her well."
NAMING a filly Fast is perhaps tempting fate, but Julie Wood, who braved the rain at Chepstow on Tuesday to watch her daughter of Kodiac make her racecourse debut, had a smile as wide as the River Severn as Richard Hughes breezed home by seven lengths on the 7-4 favourite.
Inevitably, the immediate talk was of Royal Ascot for Fast, whom Julie bought privately at Doncaster Sales last August from Paul McCartan, and remember Julie won the Queen Mary Stakes at the 2006 Royal meeting with Gilded.
She said: "Fast had a problem with a foot before the sale, but Paul assured me that she was very fast and suggested that is the name I should choose for her.
"She has looked pretty quick at home, and she also kept tabs with Fig Roll on a recent day trip to Kempton, so when that one went and won a conditions race at Salisbury on 1000 Guineas day I started to think we might have something useful."
Fig Roll, the first produce of that nippy racemare Cake, whom we also trained, looked to be crying out for a step up to six furlongs when winning at Salisbury, and, though she could well have a crack at the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot, Hannon jnr has a more immediate target in mind.
He said:"Fig Roll is not unlike Cake in that they are both small, but she has also inherited plenty of her speed, and we plan to take her to Naas early next month for the same Listed race that we won last year with Sky Lantern. Let's hope that lightning strikes twice."
Our two-year-old are just starting to get rocking and rolling, and there was a lot to like about the way that Steventon Star set about his task to win the novice race at York on Wednesday.
Hannon jnr added:"Steventon Star is definitely in the squad for Royal Ascot, and the Windsor Castle Stakes looks his race as he is all speed.
"Robert Tyrrell looks to have acquired a real smart youngster in Steventon Star, who cost 55,000gns, and he thoroughly enjoyed his day at York, where the colt travelled well and got to the front very easily. He was always just doing enough to hold on, but I liked the way he battled, and there is more improvement in the locker."
Meanwhile, Law Enforcement, a Group 1 winner in Italy last year, will be back on his travels next Monday when he runs at Cologne in the German 2000 Guineas, a classic which the Brits won last year with Caspar Netscher.
Hannon jnr said:"Things did not work out for Law Enforcement in the UAE Derby in Dubai, but we gave him a break when he got back and he has been in very good form recently."
ONE of the secrets of a successful marriage is being able to keep your mother-in-law sweet, and Richard Hannon jnr has done just that, supplying Jemima's mum Sarah (Ensor) with a winner at the first time of asking in Lilbourne Lass, who bolted up by four lengths at Bath on Wednesday evening.
Reflecting on a successful start for Lilbourne Lass, a 16,000gns purchase, Hannon said:"She is a filly by Pastoral Pursuits out of an Elusive Quality mare, and, with both those stallions renowned for the odd temperament problem, we went to Bath not knowing just how she might behave.
"We had no doubt about her ability as she had been working very well at home, but she was fractious at the stalls and it was a relief when she broke on terms.
"However, you had to be impressed with the way in which she quickened through a gap to put the lid on the race in a matter of strides, and Pat Dobbs, who rode her, is adamant that she will improve plenty for the experience. She could even be one for the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury in July, and, while any winner is nice, saddling one for Jemima's mum is extra special and will hopefully keep me in her good books for a little longer !"
May 14, 2013
STEVENTON STAR is our only runner on the opening day of York's Dante meeting tomorrow - "he is a sharp sort and confirmed the promise he showed on his debut at Newbury when winning with plenty in hand at Windsor" observed the boss - but we will have plenty of two-year-old being launched for the first time this week, at Salisbury, Newmarket and York on Thursday and again at Newbury on Friday.
Looking ahead to Thursday, Richard Hannon said:"The Doyles bought the two we run in the maiden at York. Exceed And Exceed is a sharp sort who has been showing plenty of speed at home, and he's a grand looker, too, while Art Official is a fine, big Excellent Art colt who will be suited by the six furlongs.
"We also run a couple in the Salisbury maiden. Beau Nash has already had two runs and bumped into one at Bath last time, so his experience should stand him in good stead, while Value is a Clodovil newcomer and smaller than the ones Julie (Wood) usually has by the sire, but she has been going well, too."
We also have big hopes for Heading North in the opener at Salisbury - time may show that he was attempting a huge task in trying to give 9lb to Centred of Sir Michael Stoute's at Pontefract last time.
May 13, 2013
DESPITE getting a raw deal in the draw for both the French 2000 and 1000 Guineas, we returned from Longchamp with plenty of positives, and watching the replays this morning both Havana Gold and Zurigha have ran absolute blinders.
It is amazing to think that Havana Gold has finished only fifth - he got a dream run up the inside and was in front until swamped in the last 50 yards - and Richard Hannon is now contemplating a tilt at the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Zurigha, who came from last in the fillies classic to finish strongly in fourth place, having been drawn badly in stall 17, looked as if she would benefit from stepping up to a mile and a quarter, and, like Friday's impressive Ascot winner Professor, she could well now be Royal Ascot bound.
The boss will decide whether Olympic Glory goes there - he is in the same ownership as Toronado - but we can certainly put a line through his run in the colts classic, Richard Hannon jnr observing "he was never at the races from that outside draw and it was a complete joke - it was more like a handicap and they should not have that many runners."
We experienced a couple of bloody noses in the two-year-old races at Ascot at the week-end, but both Oriel and Langavat were beaten by youngsters who had the benefit of a previous run, and they are winners waiting to happen.
May 12, 2013
WE have a fistful of runners at Windsor on Monday, but all eyes will be on the reappearance of Montiridge in the mile Listed race, in which he takes on older horses.
Obviously, Richard Hughes cannot do the weight, so Kieren O'Neill deputises, and the boss said:"This is a decent horse, who has been working with our classic horses, and we are running him here to find out whether it is worth supplementing him for the Irish 2000 Guineas.
"Montiridge did us proud last season, winning twice and then running a blinder in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket, but we had his wind tweaked during the winter and he has come back a different horse."
May 11, 2013
NO roast down the pub for us tomorrow - we are off to Longchamp for the French 2000 and 1000 Guineas, in which we have three representatives, two in the colts classic and one in the fillies equivalent, and a week on from Sky Lantern's magical victory at Newmarket let's hope we can more reason to celebrate.
The boss said: "Olympic Glory is obviously our big hope, but we have not been lucky with the draw and he will have to be on his A-game to defy the 12 stall.
"However, this has been the plan since before the Greenham at Newbury, where he looked to be a horse crying out for a step up to the mile, and the race certainly did him good as his work has been sharper since.
"He slipped under the radar last season and we probably did not realise just how good he was until he won at Glorious Goodwood. We then stepped him up to the top table in France on Arc day and he won really well, and, remember the only time he has been beaten was by Dawn Approach in the Coventry, so his form is rock-solid. We just need luck in running from that wide draw.
"Havana Gold is drawn next door and is also a decent horse. He would have been hard to beat in the Dee Stakes at Chester last week, but the owners wanted to go to France and that is fine by me. He is rated 7lb behind Olympic Glory, but he has earned a tilt at the big boys.
"We also run Zurigha in the fillies race, and she has fared even worse in the draw, being parked outside in stall 17. On form she has a bit to find, but she has been working well with our good horses, and, though she lacks experience, we hope that she will run well."
May 10, 2013
WE will be in-and-out of Ascot tomorrow as we have just the one runner, newcomer Langavat in the opening two-year-old maiden on the Royal Heath.
The boss said:"Langavat is a nice Bushranger colt owned by the Kennett Valley team, and, while two of the field have the benefit of a run and there are also a few debutants from big yards in there, we like our fellow and hope that he will run well. Bushranger is proving a popular first-season sire.
"It is never easy for three-year-olds taking on older horses so early in the season, but we pitch City Image and Tassel in against their elders on the G3 race for fillies at Lingfield, and both will be sharper for their comeback run last month.
"Emell , who also takes on older horses, and the in-form Lions Arch both head up to Haydock, with Miss Diva and Danz Choice going to Nottingham and a couple of two-year-olds making their debut at Warwick in the evening, Jana and Midnite Angel, so it looks like being a busy day."
May 9, 2013
TORONADO, who lost his unbeaten record when finishing a disappointing fourth in last week's 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, scoped clear in all his post-race tests, but connections have decided to try the highly-rated colt in a tongue-tie for his comeback race at Royal Ascot.
Richard Hannon jnr said: "Toronado's blood has come back fine, but we suspect that he might have suffered a displaced palate, which would explain why he hit the wall so quickly, so we will tie his tongue down next time.
"We also plan to dispense with the drop noseband and ride him with a little bit more restraint and, having digested our options, we have decided to bring him back for the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. The round mile should suit him perfectly.
"We have certainly not lost faith in Toronado. Clearly, he did not show anything like his true form at Newmarket - we know that from his work at home with Van der Neer (third) – and we hope that we might have found the reason and that he will bounce back in style.
"However, make no mistake, Van der Neer is also a very good horse. He is never spectacular in the mornings and does not leave scorch marks on the gallops like Toronado, but he has done nothing wrong in four races and has shown himself a proper Group 1 horse, too.
"Van der Neer was doing all his best work at the finish at Newmarket, but The Curragh is a stiffer mile, so we have opted to go for the Irish 2000 Guineas next and we will make a bit more use of him in that race.
"Like Van der Neer, Sky Lantern has come out of Newmarket better than we could have hoped. She gave us a day that none of us will ever forget when winning the 1000 Guineas, and now we look to top up the celebrations in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, where we will again cross swords with runner-up Just the Judge.
"Maureen also delighted us at Newmarket, finishing better than anything, and now we know that she gets the mile well we have more options available, and the Irish 1000 Guineas is very much the next port of call."
May 9, 2013
RICHARD HUGHES returns from his four-day suspension on Friday, and he will be doing a double-stint for us at Lingfield and Ascot.
The boss said:"We kick-start with Beat of the Drum in the Classified Stakes at Lingfield. She is a lovely Duke of Marmalade filly owned by Coolmore, and she looked to take to the Polytrack when winning at Kempton last month, so, while she is opposed by five other winners, she won't be far away.
"Caramack, third over the mile at Windsor last time, should appreciate dropping back in trip in the maiden, and then Hughesie heads back down the M25 to Ascot, where we are involved in four races.
"The opening two-year-old race carries the bonus, so we have three newcomers going here. Hughesie rides Oriel, a Fastnet Rock colt owned by the Highclere team. She has been doing everything right at home, but then Pat Dobbs has also been pleased with the feel that he has been getting from Julie Wood's Prize, a January foal by Exceed and Excel, and Corncockle (Kieren O'Neill) is also a nice type.
"Democretes, who did not have the best of runs at Goodwood last week, tries to go one better in the sprint handicap. He never seems to have luck on his side and deserves to win a race, but he needs things to drop just right.
"Professor, who also worked nicely on Wednesday, was doing all his best work at the finish over six furlongs at Newmarket's Craven meeting, so he could appreciate returning to seven, while we have two good shots to fire in the finale, Intrigo and Tobacco Road.
"Intrigo was beaten by a horse who is heading for Sunday's French 2000 Guineas (Bright Strike) at Kempton and then bolted up at Leicester. The handicapper put him up 8lb for those two runs, but he is still lower than Tobacco Road, who showed plenty of promise last season and will benefit from having Willy Twistin-Davies claiming the 5lb."
May 9, 2013
THE new office at Richard Hannon's has been a hive of activity these past few days as the boss has been shuffling his options as to where to run what and where.
We pulled out of Chester on Tuesday with Steventon Star and we have nothing on the Roodee tomorrow, so the horsebox headed up the M6 for today only, and, though we have withdrawn Dominate, we still have three runners flying the flag.
The boss said:"Dashing David was always going to make a better three-year-old and he worked well enough with Pivotal Movement on Wednesday to suggest that he will be competitive in the seven and a half furlong handicap, while Jive, who takes on the colts in the two-year-old maiden, will be sharper for the experience of her Windsor debut, and we can only hope and pray for Red Refraction in the sprint. He goes there in good form, but, yet again, we have been lumbered with an outside stall."
May 7, 2013
WE don't have too many runners at Chester's big three-day May meeting as the draw can knock you out of contention before we have even got up the M6, but the boss took a chance and entered Steventon Star for the Lily Agnes Stakes on the opening day, hoping that the race might cut up.
However, amazingly, there is a full field of 15, and Steventon Star is drawn 13, so we go there knowing that we have a mountain to climb.
The boss said: "Steventon Star won well at Windsor, having shown plenty of promise against Justice Day on his debut, and he is a speedy sort who should be ok on the the track.
"But it is a big ask from stall 13 and Ryan (Moore) is going to have him out of the stalls like Mick the Miller if we are going to be competitive."
May 5, 2013
THE Toronado champagne remained corked in the bottle, but 24 hours after what was a huge ante-climax to the 2000 Guineas we celebrated our first victory in the 1000 Guineas when Sky Lantern provided stable jockey Richard Hughes with a belated first British classic success with a battling win over Just the Judge at Newmarket today.
Bought for 75,000 Euros at Goffs, Sky Lantern, the only Group 1 winner in the first fillies classic of 2013, having captured last season's Moyglare Stud Stakes at The Curragh, could return to the plains of Kildare for the Irish 1000 Guineas on May 26, though Hughes feels that there is a good chance that the grey will stay further and has urged connections to also think about the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly three weeks later.
Punching the air as he passed the post on Sky Lantern, Hughes, who is also Richard Hannon's son-in-law, said: "This has been a long time coming, and after Toronado we certainly needed a lift.
"I spent most of Saturday night consoling my wife, Lizzie, after Toronado failed to deliver, but I also told anybody who would listen that Sky Lantern had a terrific chance, and it's nice to be proved right.
"I would be the first to admit that I gave Sky Lantern an ordinary ride in the Nell Gwyn and was determined not to make the same mistake again.
"In the trial, I took a pull and disappointed her, so my priority this time was to get plenty of cover and bring her with one good run at the end.
"We were just three lengths off them in the Dip and they had kicked four furlongs out, but I had got Sky Lantern into a nice rhythm and I always felt we would get there.
"This filly thoroughly deserved her day in the sun. She showed in the Moyglare last year how good she was, and she ought to have won in America, where she finished hard on the bridle in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly Turf but could never escape from a pocket.
"I got off Sky Lantern at Santa Anita and felt that she could be an Oaks filly, and I still think a mile and a half would be a possibility.
"I know she is by Red Clubs, but she runs as if she will stay at least a mile and a quarter, so I suppose the French Oaks could be the route to take after The Curragh."
"I can't thank Richard Hannon enough for his support - our stable have definitely moved up a notch in terms of the quality of the horses these last couple of years, and he is an amazing trainer."
Ironically, Richard Hannon jnr had seen a sky lantern installed on the roof of his new house last week, so perhaps that was a omen for what was to come
Full of praise for his brother-in-law, Richard jnr said:"I am chuffed for Hughesie, who is a great jockey, and I am delighted that he has got the monkey off his back on one of ours.
"We were all very low last night, but the one thing about luck is that it keeps on changing, and Sky Lantern has given us a timely boost when we needed it most."
May 5, 2013
REFLECTING on the below-par run of the much-fancied Toronado in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday, Richard Hughes reported that they had discovered what could be a valid reason for that disappointment.
He said: "Toronado coughed a lot after the race and on the way home, and it's nice to know that there was a reason for that performance
"I knew at half-way that I would not win, whereas at half-way in the Craven it was a matter of how far we would win. The Toronado you saw yesterday was not the same horse who won the trial, and I know he is a top-class horse who will bounce back.
"Lizzie, my wife, was more upset than me last night, and I had to keep on reminding her that it was only a horse race. I might have missed out on a big one there, but I have won plenty of big races before and, though it was tough getting beat, there are worse things happening around the world. I have always believed in Toronado and I still do - he'll be back."
FOR the third time in four years we were bit-players in the 2000 Guineas, and the fact that Van der Neer (third) and Toronado (fourth) followed in the footsteps of Dick Turpin, Canford Cliffs and Dubawi Gold by making the frame in the season's first classic was scant consolation for Richard Hannon as he headed back to Herridge on Saturday night.
The boss said: "Van der Neer has run a blinder and the way he was staying on at the end suggests that the Dante Trip might suit him well, so he will be off to York, but Toronado's run was a mystery, especially the fact that he did not finish his race.
"We will have him checked over in the new few days to see if anything is amiss, but he had been working so well and we are all somewhat shellshocked as on home form he ought to have finished ahead of Van der Neer.
"Hughesie got off and said that it was like riding in a two-mile chase. Toronado felt legless and was very tired on pulling up, though Richard suspected that all was not well going into the stalls.
"It would be nice if something comes to light as then we can regroup and go again, but maybe Toronado is just not good enough. However, all credit to Dawn Approach, who looked a proper winner."
May 3, 2013
ENJOYING a long-overdue sunshine morning on the gallops earlier this week with the Hannons and Richard Hughes, I could not ever recall the team going into a classic with more confidence – not even with Canford Cliffs before the 2000 Guineas two years ago.
Remember, Canford Cliffs, who finished third to Makfi, went off at 12-1, with St Nicholas Abbey a red-hot even money favourite, whereas, while we again have an Irish hotpot standing in our way in the shape of the unbeaten Dawn Approach, Toronado has been all the rage since his impressive winning return in the Craven Stakes here last month, and, having started that week a 14-1 chance for the season’s first classic, you will now do well to get 5-2.
The boss is chasing his fourth Guineas celebration. Don’t Forget Me and Tirol, our last two winners, both started 9-1, while Mon Fils, who got the ball rolling when springing a 50-1 surprise in 1973, revived a few memories for Richard snr as we turned the clock back four decades.
He recalled:”We had breakfast with Willie Carson on the morning of the race, and Frankie Durr, who rode Mon Fils, came in and told me that he had walked the course and that he was going to stick to the rails for the first six furlongs and then drift into the middle of the track as that was where the best of the ground could be found.
“Willie was riding Noble Decree for Bernard van Cutsem, and he was obviously ear-wigging our conversation as he followed Frankie in his slipstream from the stalls, but, whereas as planned we started to move into the centre of the track from the Bushes, Willie, for some reason, stuck to the rails and, though he chased us all the way through the final furlong, Noble Decree could not catch Mon Fils and finished second. Willie was not amused.”
Both Richard Hannon jnr and Richard Hughes believe that Toronado compares favourably with Canford Cliffs, who, though beaten in the Guineas, went on to win five Group 1’s.
Hannon said: ”Toronado did his last proper piece of work last Sunday and goes to Newmarket in the form of his life.
“We always felt that he was more one for the Derby than the Guineas, but this spring he has been showing much speed in the mornings than he did last year, so, while Dawn Approach is obviously a very good horse, we feel that we have a solid chance of beating him.
“You had to be impressed with Toronado’s dress-rehearsal in the Craven as he did it the hard way, and it takes a good horse to win like that from the front, repeatedly quickening.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Hannon snr and also Hughes, the pair watching on as Toronado’s regular exercise-rider gave him a solo breeze at Everleigh on Wednesday.
Hughes said:”I have been so impressed with Toronado this season and put him right up there with Canford Cliffs – and maybe even in front. He is much more the straight-forward of the two and you can ride him any way in a race, and I think he will handle the dips and ridges at Newmarket better than did Canford Cliffs. Dawn Approach is a very good horse, but he invariably hits a flat spot and I think we will win.”
However, Richard points out that we also have a live back-up in Van der Neer, who impressed in a gallop with likely French 2000 Guineas favourite Olympic Glory at Herridge the same morning.
He said:”Van der Neer would not have the speed of Toronado and may eventually prove a 10-furlong horse, but his form is solid – he was second to Kingsbarns in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, where he hated the soft ground – and his preparation this spring could not have gone better.
“Lingfield would not have been his track, but he won his trial there in spectacular fashion considering that he was only 80% straight, and he did not take the home turn well and was still last straightening up.
“Like Toronado, Van der Neer is very laid-back and uncomplicated, and I can easily see him finishing in the four.”
We also have runners at Goodwood, and the boss added: ”Expert is a Mastercraftsman newcomer who is ready for a run. He has been a bit of a boy, but he has undoubted talent and we hope that a run will quiet him down.
“We run both Democretes and Shamaal Nibras in the seven furlong handicap. Democretes will definitely appreciate stepping back up in trip, having finished well over six at Windsor last time, while Shamaal Nibras gets no respite from the handicapper so the fact that Willy Twiston-Davies claims the 5lb will be a big help. He is better than he looked on the Polytrack at Kempton last time.”
May 3, 2013
NEWMARKET are talking of 17 degrees on Sunday, which is good news for the chance of Sky Lantern in the 1000 Guineas but not so good for our other runner, Maureen.
Richard Hannon said: “Sky Lantern is a filly who bounces off fast ground, and the more the sun shines the better her chance.
“She was giving 3lb to Hot Snap in the Nell Gwyn Stakes there last month, so on level terms we would hope to get a bit closer.
“Sky Lantern worked very well on Sunday morning, and she probably made more physical progress through the winter than any filly we have had here, so I was delighted with that prep-run, and she will definitely be fitter come Sunday.
“In contrast, Maureen would relish soft ground, which she looks unlikely to get. She stayed the seven furlongs well in the Fred Darling at Newbury, but we are going into unknown territory over the mile.
“However, Hughesie, who was always going to stick with Sky Lantern, being a Group 1 winner, reckons Olivier Peslier will suit Maureen perfectly, and if she does stay she could be a big player as she has a potent finishing kick.”