Richard Hannon's extraordinary record in the Weatherbys Super Sprint continued here yesterday when Monsieur Chevalier became the magnificent seventh success for his East Eversleigh yard in 18 runnings of the valuable juvenile contest.
The trainer, who fielded four others in a field of 20, played down the achievement – "If you throw enough muck at a wall some will stick", he shrugged modestly – but such a harvest cannot be random.
The Super Sprint, with a prize fund of £200,000, is confined to animals auctioned for 48,000 guineas or less as yearlings, decidedly the basement end of bloodstock dealing. Monsieur Chevalier, who runs for a syndicate of small-time owners, cost 17,000gns and picked up £98,000 for his cosy half-length defeat of Shamandar.
With the 2-1 favourite at the back of the pack half way through the five furlongs, the views of his trainer and jockey were in marked contrast. Hannon, watching, had given up hope; Richard Hughes, knowing what he had under his saddle, had not. "I was perfectly happy," said the rider. "There was a strong headwind and I wanted plenty of cover. The ones in front started to drop away and he was able to come through at a run and catch the leader 50 yards from the line."
It was a fifth success in six outings for Monsieur Chevalier, whose sole failure came when he was buffeted around in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. "He was too close to the pace then, and Richard told me he'd restrain him today," said Hannon, "but I have to say he was so far back I was thinking, 'Oh shit'. He's obviously a very good horse."
The son of Chevalier will now move back into prestige company, with the Group Two Richmond Stakes pencilled in. "He's quick and tough," said Hannon, "just the sort we try to buy without having to spend too much."
The little colt brought the haul over the years by Hannon inmates in the Super Sprint to some £775,000. "Just as well, as we'll all be skint next year," said the trainer drily, referring to the recent announcement of a £6m shortfall in future prize funding. "This race shows what can be done and provides incentive to buyers, but a cut in prize money is not what you want to hear with the yearling sales coming up."
The focus of the afternoon was largely on speed and before Monsieur Chevalier revealed himself as one of the fastest of the youngest generation, High Standing continued his upward mobility through the ranks of senior sprinters.
The exciting four-year-old made it four from four for the campaign in the Shadwell Stakes, a comfortable success which signalled an end to his days as a handicapper. The gelding, who carries the colours of professional punter Harry Findlay, was a well-backed winner of last month's Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot, a performance which propelled him to the head of the betting for the Stewards' Cup 13 days hence, but his trainer William Haggas confirmed that his ante-post supporters had done their dough.
"It was either this or Goodwood," he said, "and we felt he was due a step up in class. We very nearly didn't run after the ground went soft after the rain but when I walked the course this morning it wasn't as bad as I'd feared. He started the season on a mark of 85 and is a horse very much going in the right direction."
Under a cool ride from Ryan Moore, High Standing readily took the step up to Group Three company in his powerful stride, cutting down Prime Defender, Doncaster Rover and War Artist inside the final furlong. The Haydock Sprint Cup in September is his first top-level target.
Though clearly talented and progressive, he is not straightforward in his mind; before the Wokingham he had to be blindfolded before he deigned to complete his journey to the start and Haggas stressed the skills of the man who deals with such quirks on a day-to-day basis, Pierre Cazautets. "The horse is difficult," he said. "He has to go out for exercise with just a pony for company, at 5.15 in the morning. Keeping him on the rails is very much a team effort, of which I am only a small part."