Olympic is Britain's lone source of Glory
Richard Hannon claims third trainers' title on thin Champion's Day for home team
Sunday 20 October 2013
The one undisputed British champion to emerge from yesterday's eponymous fixture was Richard Hannon, who secured a fourth trainers' title, and a third in four years, when Olympic Glory took the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. And it was a bold decision made during the week, behind the scenes, that not only proved key to the three-year-old's success but also provided an insight into why Hannon and his team are so consistently good. Olympic Glory wore blinkers for the first time and under their galvanising influence, and with his favourite soft underfoot conditions, he zipped clear of his rivals to take the £600,000 first prize.
It was a first top-level success for Olympic Glory, an 11-2 shot, since his juvenile days. But he had shown himself very smart in his own right when narrowly failing against Moonlight Cloud in August before disappointing back in France last month. "It was a bit of a shout putting blinkers on a good horse like him," said Hannon's son, also Richard, "but he certainly didn't do his best in Paris last time. He lost concentration, which was disappointing after his very good run before. We decided that some headgear would just sharpen him up a bit."
The blinkers did, to the effect that Olympic Glory, who burst into the lead more than a furlong out, came home three and a quarter lengths clear of another mudlark, Top Notch Tonto, and Kingsbarns. The 2-1 favourite Dawn Approach came in fourth, rather anchored by the testing ground in the closing stages. "We always believed in this horse," Richard Hughes, the winning rider, said. "He's not ungenuine, but we felt the blinkers would help him focus and to travel, because in these Group 1 races you don't get an inch. And from two out he was always going to win."
Olympic Glory was a second top-level prize in two weeks for his Qatari owner, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, after Treve's magnificent tour de force in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. And it was a second day of maximum frustration for his newly retained rider Frankie Dettori, who would have ridden both horses but for injury. The Italian was present yesterday on crutches, helping to fly the team flag, though with fairly mixed emotions. "Of course I'm delighted when I see them win," he said, "but I'm just as delighted they'll both be in training again next year, when I'll be riding them."
Sheikh Joaan, whose family sponsored yesterday's £3.4 million extravaganza, styled British Champions Day and the richest day in the domestic calendar, through their Qipco investment company, earned £2.2 million for Treve's victory at Longchamp, and £600,000 yesterday, and in between spent more than £10 million on yearlings in Newmarket, including a world record-priced filly at £5,250,000.
Such other-worldly figures are out of Brian Ellison's orbit, but the Yorkshire trainer's judgement in laying out £70,000 to supplement the improving Top Notch Tonto to his first Group 1 fray was fully justified as the gelding earned £228,000 for his runner-up spot. "I've never been so glad to finish second," Ellison said.
Whether Olympic Glory is judged any sort of champion remains to be seen until the end-of-season ratings, but he is probably not even the best miler in his stable – which also houses Toronado and Sky Lantern – let alone any other. "He put the race to bed nicely," Hannon jr added, "but he's always shown his best only on soft ground."
With only one Group 1 prize left in the domestic season, Saturday's Racing Post Trophy, the 68-year-old Hannon – who is likely to cede his licence to his son by next year – now has an unassailable lead in the table. But Aidan O'Brien, who is in the runner-up spot, can take comfort with a view to next year in the performance of not only Kingsbarns, making only his second appearance in public since looking a top prospect in last year's Racing Post Trophy, but also Ruler Of The World, a close third in the Champion Stakes after a rough passage down the field in the Arc.
It took two top-class horses to lower the Derby winner's colours, Farhh and Cirrus Des Aigles. In seeing off the French raider by a neck for the £737,000 winner's purse in the ten-furlong contest, Farhh produced at least one high spot for the Godolphin team at the end of what has been a well-documented annus horribilis for Sheikh Mohammed's elite operation and another example of what separates the good trainer from the bad.
Farhh is as fragile as he is talented, but has been nursed with the utmost skill by Saeed Bin Suroor, who has held the Godolphin tiller rock-steady during the operation's turbulent summer. The five-year-old has raced only 10 times in his career, most recently before yesterday when he won the Lockinge Stakes back in May. Compare that with the record of Cirrus Des Aigles, whose 52 races include his Champion Stakes success two years ago. Incidentally, both he and Farhh were regular punchbags for Frankel.
Like his fellow colour-bearer Dawn Approach, Farhh will now leave the track to begin duties as a stallion next spring. "This horse is a great fighter," Bin Suroor said. "But though he has had physical problems every year he is all heart and wants to race. And he has now shown what he is."
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