Like father, uncannily like son. Just as his father did 41 years ago, Richard Hannon won the 2,000 Guineas with his first runner in a Classic, and a rank outsider at that. Then, it was 50-1 shot Mon Fils; here yesterday Night of Thunder at 40-1. Hannon junior is the third generation of his family to hold a training licence, having taken over from senior – also Richard – at the end of last season. The name and modus operandi are the same and the baton, it seems, is in safe hands.
Night Of Thunder prevailed by just half a length – it might have been more but for a marked left-handed drift across the track in the closing stages, in the course of which the experienced hands and cool head of Kieren Fallon kept him going as determinedly forwards as sideways – and he took a couple of notable scalps. The pair who followed him in, split by a head, were the first two favourites, Kingman (6-4) and Australia (5-2).
The winner was virtually ignored in the betting on two counts; not only had he a much better fancied stablemate in last year's top-rated juvenile Toormore, but also he had been trounced by Kingman last month in their warm-up at Newbury. But, with that run under his girth and helped by the step up to a mile for the first time, it was the son of Dubawi's day. "It's the stuff of dreams," Hannon Jnr said. "As a schoolboy you read about it and watch it all and wonder if you'll get there. We were a bit disappointed after his run last month, and it's a tribute to him that he's come back and turned the form around."
The race, though, was messy and slightly unsatisfactory, in that the field split into two groups as the 14 runners raced up the wide-open Rowley Mile, as often happens when the starting stalls are set in the centre of the track. Night Of Thunder actually managed to race in both; he started in the far side pack, led by the Spanish raider Noozhoh Canarias until Kingman took over a furlong out, and by the time he hit the line he was closer to the stands side, where Australia was well clear of another Hannon longshot, Shifting Power (50-1). Toormore, who led that group for much of the race, faded to seventh, a place behind Noozhoh Canarias and just in front of Kingston Hill and War Command.
"I thought I was going to go and win easily," said Fallon, on his fifth 2,000 Guineas hero, "but when I went half a length up half a furlong out, he started stopping with me. But he was still good enough to win.
"I wanted to switch him off early, because he was a bit gassy with me at Newbury. That was his first run this year and he needed to get it out of his system. I was able to go where the speed was early, he switched off completely today and I was able to use his turn of foot."
The defeat at Newbury was Night Of Thunder's first; he had won both his starts as a juvenile, though not in top company. But the colt, who runs for the Dubai businessman Saeed Manana, a Maktoum family associate, had been showing enough this spring to be added to the Derby field last month as a late entry.
Hannon Snr, on duty at Goodwood, missed the Wiltshire stable's fourth 2,000 Guineas winner (Don't Forget Me and Tirol were the others). "It's the same outfit, the same team at home," said the man now with his hands on the licence, "and he'll be just as delighted."
It is the fillies' turn on the Rowley mile today in the 1,000 Guineas, with Rizeena the hot favourite and Hannon, whose family stable sent out last year's winner, Sky Lantern, represented by 66-1 shot Manderley.