Richard Hannon watched the last colt snorting up the gallop, and turned round with a grin. “Easy, isn't it?” he said. “Now let's go and have a drink.”
And there, if you weren't careful, is where he might lead you astray. Not so much in what you will dependably be offered, once reaching his kitchen, as in the illusion that the leading stable in the land could more or less run itself. Because that, for too many people, is Hannon in a nutshell: a very successful formula, but a formula just the same.
An eye for the right type of yearling, industrial efficiencies of scale and — win, lose or draw — plenty of entertainment for the owners. Perhaps only now, four decades after he saddled his first winner (over hurdles, at Chepstow) are people finally beginning to comprehend that something so “easy” can only be done with a touch of genius.
The 65-year-old almost seems to relish the impression that it all happens haphazardly, artlessly, just another benediction among the swelling Wiltshire landscape.
Yes, there was his son, namesake and assistant, very much in evidence, their mutual responsibilities candidly apparent. But their partnership is palpably a matter of evolution, not revolution, and the results — almost entirely from middle-market bloodstock — are surpassing even Hannon's one championship year, in 1992. The focus is next week's big meeting at Goodwood, at which Hannon has saddled 47 of his 195 course winners. Canford Cliffs is scheduled to contest the Sussex Stakes, a week today.
“He's improved beyond recognition,” Hannon said of the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner. “And he's still getting better, I'm sure he is.”
Ideally, Hannon would like to keep Canford Cliffs apart from Dick Turpin, after three meetings already this season. Both will stay in training as four-year-olds.
“I don't want to keep banging their heads together,” he said. “But they've got different owners, and if we were to get a drop of rain I could see Dick Turpin running in the Sussex as well.”
Hannon's strength in depth will be apparent across all juvenile races at Goodwood — whether maidens, nurseries or Group races like the Tanqueray Richmond Stakes, won last year by Dick Turpin and this time targeted with the recent July Stakes winner, Libranno.
“He's just come out of the blue,” Hannon admitted. “We've got some lovely unraced ones for the maidens. Big Issue, for instance, he's a nice colt by Dubawi. And Sir Alex Ferguson has one by Kyllachy, called Pausanius.”
Even with this next wave to come, Hannon has already run over 200 horses. They are divided between two yards, four miles apart, and it seems impossible that any trainer could have an intimate grasp of their each and every nuance. However, the system works. The next will be its 100th individual winner of the campaign.
Hannon's son-in-law and stable jockey, Richard Hughes, sacrificed any prospect of the riders' title by taking last week off, specifically to avoid any bans that might cut into the meeting.
“The other day he was done for intimidation, never even touched the other horse. They should get lanes. It's bloody horse racing, isn't it? They're two-year-olds, they're green. They don't run in straight lines.”
But that's the point about Hannon, really. All these hundreds of horses in his care, apparently going round in circles. And almost all of them, somehow, end up on the straight and narrow.
l ARMAGH trainer Jim Lambe had a double, with Vivaldi and Yachvili, at Ballinrobe last night.