After weeks of build up, the world’s biggest flat meeting is now upon us. In the last four years since Richard Hannon Junior took over the helm, the team has continued to win on racing’s biggest stage with wins by Barney Roy in the St James’s Palace Stakes in 2017 and Toronado in the Queen Anne Stakes back in Richard’s first year as trainer in 2014.
Royal Ascot has always been a successful hunting ground for Team Hannon, with Richard Hannon Senior having trained several winners over the years including Sky Lantern to win the Coronation Stakes in 2013, Canford Cliffs to win the St James’s Palace Stakes in 2010 and the Queen Anne Stakes in 2011, Paco Boy to win the Queen Anne Stakes in 2009 and Indian Ink to win the Coronation Stakes in 2007.
Fresh off the back of the stable’s recent hot form, Team Hannon heads into the week with several top chances including a two-pronged attack on the Group 2 Coventry Stakes. Hannon most recently trained Mehmas to second place in the 2016 edition of the Coventry Stakes, before training on to score two Group 2 wins and two Group 1 placings in the colt’s next four starts. With a scintillating win on debut at Newmarket on 2000 Guineas Day back in May, Threat looks right in the mix here at Ascot. A son of undefeated juvenile Footstepsinthesand, Threat was extremely impressive when dominating the small field at headquarters when recording the win in quick time. Purchased for 100,000 guineas as a foal from the Tattersalls December Sale in 2017, Threat is owned by Cheveley Park who won this race back in 2004 with Iceman.
“I thought he’d run well. I wasn’t really sure what we were taking on and there weren’t many runners in the race, but he’s home work has been exceptional. I think he might just be one of the best two-year-olds we’ve had here for a while. I’m very hopeful, I love the horse and I think he is probably our best chance the week. You could see quite plainly, very early on, that he’s a very big, mature and ahead of his days. He looks like a man amongst boys some days and he does it very easy. He has a lovely attitude and everyone that gets off him says the same thing. He has looked pretty good in his work, he looked pretty good before he ran and for one of our horses to win first time there, he must be pretty good. And he will have improved massively since. I’ve been happy with his work since. I could talk for days about this horse.”
“I think we’ll see next week and that will answer all of our questions. I do think he’s got the scope to be a three-year-old, most definitely, and he’s got the scope to get a trip. However, he won over five (furlongs) while I wanted to wait for six, but he was going that well at home I thought we could let him have a go and it seemed a nice place to start. And he dealt with the undulations at Newmarket no problem - Ascot is a very flat track, so there’s no question of him not dealing with it, I don’t think.”
Team Hannon, which has accumulated 386 juvenile wins in the UK since 2014, will also saddled 50/1 chance Kuwait Direction to contest the seventeen horse Coventry event. The son of Kodiac repaid Hannon’s faith in the juvenile when improving on his debut performance with a narrow defeat at Doncaster on the 1st of June. A £120,000 Goffs UK Premier yearling purchase, Kuwait Direction is owned by Sheikh Abdullah Almalek Alsabah.
“I took Kuwait Direction to Windsor and he was an embarrassment. I thought he was going to run well, but he flopped out the gates. He was like a slob, he hardly picked his feet up, so I got him out on the gallops the next morning to make sure I wasn’t mad. I sent him down the gallops, he came passed and looked lovely. I gave him a fair bit of welly between his first race and second race and it’s a good job I did because he still looks like he hasn’t had a race. He is alright, a lot better than you think, but you have to really get after him to get the best out of him. I am just delighted that he looked a nice horse at Doncaster, because after Windsor I was thinking how could I have got that so wrong? Luckily the owner understood it and he put his best foot forward next time.”
The final runner for Team Hannon on Day One of Royal Ascot is Fox Champion. The St James’s Palace Stakes has been an excellent race for Hannon in recent years with a win by Barney Roy in 2017 and a close up second by the last start G1 2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder in 2014. This year’s challenger, Fox Champion comes into the race off four straight successes including a last start win in the Group 2 German Guineas in May. With his sole career defeat coming on debut back in June 2018 when beaten a nose at Doncaster over six and a half furlongs, the son of Kodiac has gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months. A 420,000 guineas Tattersalls Craven Breeze-up purchase, the colt is owned by King Power Racing.
“The funny thing about him is he never really wins by far. He’ll win by half a length and when you look at his runs, with every single run he has got significantly better. His last win was the Group 2 German Guineas in which he made all the running, stuck his head out and was very tough. He’s got it all to do in the St James’s Palace Stakes but it wouldn’t surprise me. He is very tough. He’s improving. And he’s a very good horse. But whether he is good enough for them or not, we’ll find out.”
Day Two of Royal Ascot will have five runners representing Team Hannon including last start winners Anna Nerium, Temple Of Heaven and Kemble among those entered.