No sooner had the cluster of dictaphones and microphones left the face of Richard Hannon after Night Of Thunder’s Guineas win, giving him space to celebrate by knocking back a few of his beloved ‘scrumpys’ and contemplate his next move for his shiny new classic winner, then you can almost guarantee that his next thoughts turned to the Lockinge.
Down the years this race has been kind to the Hannon team, the yard throwing up two of the last four winners.
It would also be fair to say that it’s a race that’s been kind to racing, with the last three winners going by the names of Farhh, Canford Cliffs and none other than Frankel – not a bad roll of honour.
If a similarly illustrious name is to be taken from Saturday’s encounter, it doesn’t take a genius to work out the most likely candidate, yet another Richard Hannon inmate, Olympic Glory. Last season was very much a stop-start year for him. His workmanlike Greenham victory was followed by a tame effort in the French Guineas, albeit from a horror draw. This led him to be sent off a pretty unconsidered 18/1 in the hotly contested Prix Jacques Le Marois where, finishing like a train, he just failed to get past wonder-mare Moonlight Cloud, finishing a very decent second.
By the time the QEII came along on Champions’ Day he was again unfancied following a tame effort in France. He revelled in the soft conditions though, pulling right away and winning in the style of a star. Why, oh why it was next stop Breeders Cup then, for a horse with a clear love for a bit of cut I have no idea. He flopped there, drawing a line under a very in and out season.
Looking at the line-up he certainly stands out and, should he be able to dust off the cobwebs first time out he should run out a convincing winner. As has proved so often in the past though, horses may need their first run back. A very good horse though he is, I wouldn’t rank him alongside the yard’s former star Canford Cliffs, who was good enough to pop up in this and win comfortably. Although Olympic Glory is the most likely winner, I wouldn’t want to be a backer at odds of even money, especially with a dry forecast for the rest of the week.
Aidan O’Brien looks for further group one glory as he lines up new U.S. recruit Verrazano. Similarly to Declaration Of War last year, it appears he may be sent here as a Royal Ascot warm-up and he may well go down a similar path this season, eventually ending up at 10 furlongs, with quick ground a necessity. He’ll surely win some races down the line, although I’m not sure it’ll be this one.
The Bet365 Mile at Sandown is often a key pointer to this. The victor of that, Tullius, has made rapid steps this season, with the form of his second in the Lincoln growing in stature evermore. Ocean Tempest, the winner at Doncaster, was in receipt of 4lbs (would have been 7lbs but for Oisin Murphy claiming 3lbs) that day and has since gone from strength to strength.
Therefore, when a race-fit Tullius showed up at Sandown and gave a hiding to some good rivals it was considered a surprise, although hindsight has proved it less so. Whether there’s any more to come at this level from the 6 year old I’m not sure, although I’m certain there are still some winnable prizes for him down the line.
Top Notch Tonto, fourth in that race probably suffered from lack of race fitness, although he had conditions to suit. He’ll probably be up against it here though on drying ground.
One who is taken to come on from his return at Sandown is Montiridge. He was travelling like the best horse in the race in conditions he wouldn’t have liked until lacking the finishing kick when it mattered. The race was run at a time where most of Hannon’s yard were needing the run.
He’s a big, strapping colt who’s always been highly thought of at home and another year’s worth of growth could have done him the world of good. Given that the Hannon team have a line on the favourite at home, I can’t imagine for a minute that they’d send this lad here with only minor honours on their mind.
With a run under his belt and another season of progression in him I make him a cracking bet at double digits. This big, powerful traveller is sure to give you a good run for your money with Hughesie on board.
Earlier in the day at Newbury, in the Betfred London Gold Cup, the once-raced Satellite is taken to improve on his Ripon maiden success and continue his progression through the ranks.
Despite pulling hard early on he finished powerfully, with more than just a touch of class about him. If there’s a potential group horse masquerading as a handicapper in this field he’s it. He looks like one to stick on your ‘horses to follow’ lists in this writer’s humble opinion.
Meanwhile, over at Newmarket, I think that Roger Charlton’s half-brother of stablemate Mince, Stomp, looks a bit of a good thing in the sprint. He’s shown smart form in handicaps this season and still looks ahead of the handicapper. I have no doubts that we’ll be seeing him in group company by this time next year.
Newbury (3.15) Satellite
Newmarket (3.30) Stomp
Newbury (3.50) Montiridge