Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Newmarket: Hannon eyes title

It seemed an apt summary of their relative momentum, heading into the final six weeks of the season.

For the first race at Newbury yesterday Richard Hannon had rolled out another three juvenile maidens, from the apparently endless conveyor belt at his successful Wiltshire stables.

Two of them finished first and third — but Richard Hughes, his son-in-law and stable jockey, had chosen to ride the one who trailed in tenth.

Hannon spread his hands apologetically. In the morning he had even rung the owner of the winner, Face Reality, and said: “Not today.”

Hannon could more or less seal the trainers' title at Newmarket later this week. Hughes, however, has been finding it tough going to eat into Paul Hanagan's lead in the jockeys' table.

To his credit, he has been giving it a proper crack, but really needed to exploit a hiatus in the northern calendar, which caused his rival to take a couple of days off.

As it was, Hughes was turned over on a 2-5 shot at Ffos Las on Monday, albeit later proceeding to ride his 100th winner for Hannon this year.

Here he had to wait until the gloaming to win the last of eight races on the hot favourite, and then only in a desperate finish, paring down Hanagan's advantage to 13.

Despite the abrupt retirement to stud of Zebedee, who duly misses the Prix de l'Abbaye, Hannon retains Group One ambitions in Paris on Sunday for King Torus in the Prix Lagadere, and Paco Boy against Goldikova in the Prix de la Foret.

“King Torus will run unless it gets really heavy,” he said.

“I left him in the Dewhurst this morning, as an option, but he has done well since Goodwood — he'll be fresh, and he's grown, too.”

It does seem, moreover, that Hannon is being persuaded into an intriguing volte-face over the Breeders' Cup.

Earlier in the summer Hannon was adamant that Canford Cliffs or Paco Boy would not go to Louisville in November.

He has not had a runner at the Breeders' Cup since 1993, the year after he lost Mr Brooks in Florida.

Now he appears to be reluctantly yielding to connections of Canford Cliffs, who missed Ascot on Saturday after scoping poorly.

“The owners seem keen to have another run, though there is nothing left for him in Europe,” Hannon said.

“So I suppose if he does go again they will be looking at the Breeders' Cup Mile, as well as Japan and Hong Kong.

“If they decide against travelling him this year, we'll pack him up until next season.”

He also acknowledged that Paco Boy's owners may be tempted “by one last roll of the dice at Churchill Downs”.

Even champion trainers must heed those who pay the bills, of course, though Hannon made little attempt to disguise his dismay that Zebedee is leaving after just one season.

“The only time he got beat was my fault,” he lamented.

“At Ascot I told Hughesie not to let that American horse get too far ahead, but he went like the blazes for three furlongs and then fell in a heap.”

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