Saturday, 17 June 2017


These are pivotal times for Richard Hannon junior. Next week may well determine how the rest of his year will play out. He will be striving to set a marker with high standards and expectations.  

As a side issue, he likewise has to once and for all shake off  the image of being the grinning, playboyish all been too easy for him category of trainer.

He took over at the helm of the Wiltshire set up after his father had enjoyed a terrific final few years with his name on the licence. You could once pigeonhole Hannon senior as a trainer with a scattergun modus operandi  who excelled with his two year olds and gave his apprentices and in-house riders more opportunities than most.

He was also the trainer of three 2,000 Guineas winners, with not as many good middle distance performers. The equine intake always did lean more towards speed orientated pedigrees.

The three Guineas winners had not been purchased from the top end of the market; he was never fortunate enough to have the type of owners with the resources available to bid for potential sales toppers. In most years his representatives in the Guineas trials who were deep down not considered talented enough to win the big one would be fully tuned up to take advantage of a good opportunity of early season Group race success.

In the last five years of his career he was given a better class of animal more often than ever before and was fortunate to have the likes of Canford Cliffs, Sky Lantern, Paco Boy, Olympic Glory, and Toronado, horses that he handled with aplomb.

In racing most sons step into their father's shoes when the situation is flagging, or at the very least winding down when compared with past times. Tim Easterby took over from his dad long after the heady days at Great Habton but at least not much was broke. Nicky Richards took over the leadership at Greystoke after the operation had downsized.Tim Fitzgerald did not have a chance running a set up that had collapsed fortune and numbers wise and even David Pipe inherited his position at a time when Paul Nicholls was establishing himself as the new number one.

It was the opposite with Hannon junior. When he stepped in from the assistant role he was gifted a yard with ready made top level performers and an exciting intake of juveniles. For all the many years the yard had been churning out the winners it would not be an exaggeration to state that it had never been in better shape. 

To put it mildly Hannon was on a hiding to nothing.

It could not have started better with a  2,000 Guineas success through Night of Thunder, and more top level successes with Olympic Glory, Toronado and Tiggy Wiggy. Given the healthy state the yard was in this more than satisfactory first season was entirely predictable.

2015 started with two bona fide classic hopefuls in Ivawood and Estidhkaar. Both made the Newmarket Guineas, Ivawood finished third but Estidhkaar despite starting the most fancied of the two disappointed. Despite Group 1 successes with Night of Thunder in the Lockinge and Pether's Moon in the Coronation Cup, the season could be considered only just about acceptable and some way short of what it had initially promised.

The same cannot be said for last year with just a sole success at the highest level and that coming with Ventura Storm in a Group 1 in name only at the San Siro. The overall winning tally of 173 was not alarmingly down on the 206 and 195 of the previous two years but the overall prize money earned had fallen significantly and there were more ordinary performers stabled in the yard than there had been for a number of years.

This was extra disappointing when taking into account that there had been a recent variation in strategy whereby they had begun to take things a wee more steadily with more of the juveniles than ever before, not wanting to risk emptying the tank and compromise their three year old careers.

Of course with a horse like Mehmas this was not going to be possible but for the yard overall this does not seem to be reaping benefits. Indeed, considering the numbers involved they began this year with top class three year old prospects surprisingly thin on the ground.

Royal Ascot week is going to be a very important one for Richard Hannon junior. It is not inconceivable that  Barney Roy could improve enough to end the season as the best miler around. But on Tuesday he needs to win or at the very least run Churchill very close in the St James Palace. If not then Barney Roy's hopes will have to be reigned in and revised.

The yard is predictably strongly represented in the two year old events and more than one of these youngsters is going to have to come out of the week promising top level success in the future.Later on in the season a handful of his slower developing juveniles will be expected to put in a claim as serious potential contenders for the big events in 2018.

It's not easy for anyone trying to compete with Ballydoyle but there are plenty of candidates for being best of the rest. Hannon junior presently sits a little way off the top of this mini table and he has to find a way to restore the yard to a strength similar to when he took over from his father.

There is no crisis, not even a real slump just yet but a good year is needed again soon if he is to make himself his own man and not take the yard in the wrong direction.

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