Unibet ambassador Richard Hannon talks us through his 2019 Royal Ascot team and he has high hopes of winning the Coventry Stakes.
The funny thing about Fox Champion is that he never wins by far. Every single run he has got significantly better and his last win was the German Guineas. He made all the running, stuck his head out and was very tough. He has got it all to do in the St James’s Palace Stakes, but it wouldn’t surprise me. He is very tough, he is improving and he is a very good horse. It’s the Jersey or the St James’s Palace Stakes. Whichever one he goes to will depend on what King Power want to do, where they have got their other horses going. It makes no difference to his build-up, so both are still options at the moment.
I have also got Urban Icon in the Jersey Stakes, who looks a very good horse. He was very unlucky not to win last time in the Surrey Stakes on Oaks day, he should be very competitive.
Anna Nerium is such a sweet filly. She is not impressive when you see her, she doesn’t fill the eye much, but she has got a heart like a lion and she is a daughter of probably the best stallion in the world (Dubawi). She was very tough to win the other day, she was unlucky at Goodwood, she had won two Group 3s before that, there is a big race in her. She doesn’t have to have soft ground, but it stops a lot of the others and she deals with it very well. She might win something like a Prix Rothschild. She will be very competitive at Royal Ascot, she got a lot of confidence from the other day and she is a very gutsy, sweet filly. If you are going to back her, she is trying hard and that’s all you can ask.
Billesdon Brook is owned by similar people to Anna Nerium - she might go to the Duke of Cambridge. I have been a bit concerned by her. Her last race was her best run for a while, she had a bit of her old zest and travelled very well. I have changed her to the other yard - I did that with Beat Le Bon - it just freshens them up. All of a sudden they start winning races, they are like a new man. We haven’t decided which horse to run in that race yet. They ran both of them in the Guineas (Anna Nerium and Billesdon Brook) so they might choose to do that again at Royal Ascot.
George Of Hearts
Richard Hughes got sick of George Of Hearts tearing away on the gallops like he is Frankel and not producing on the track. I have seen it myself - he brought him here to work one day. He sent him to the races, same thing happened again, he was on the bridle, let him down and he didn’t go anywhere. So, Richard has sent him here just to give him a bit of a change and to see if that can perk him up a bit. Don’t worry, if he starts running well I will be told to send him back! He is obviously a very talented horse.
What Richard was concerned would happen was that he would send him to the sales and – as he has come down the handicap - someone can come and get him and have the best part of him. Rather than do that, he thought it was better off sending him here and see if we can make that happen. I think that the Hunt Cup is an option.
War Glory is probably horse of the year for me so far - he has run some fantastic races. I thought he was unlucky not to win at Epsom last time and he won very well on Saturday. The owner is very keen to go to Royal Ascot. He is the sort of horse that is going to run well in any handicap, as long as he gets a bit of cover. He is blind in one eye, that’s why he kept getting beaten at Chelmsford as in his right eye he couldn’t see them coming on the outside. He is a lovely horse, a pleasure to have around and he will run well. He’ll run well whatever handicap he goes for and - if he is drawn on the right side and gets a bit of luck - he could be very competitive.
Walkinthesand ran a very good race at Newmarket at the Guineas meeting. I was disappointed he didn’t win but he couldn’t get passed the horse of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s, who is obviously a good horse. I was a little disappointed when we bought him back to a mile at Sandown. He has got a good race in him. He is a big, strong, good looking horse and he will get better as time goes on. I think this might be the right trip for him and hopefully he will run well at Royal Ascot. We don’t have to go there, because his owner Saeed Suhail is very keen that we just go steady and keep him for next year. He wants to take him to Dubai in time, so he is not certain to go, but he is good enough to go if we need him.
The mistake we made with Raymond Tusk against Crystal Ocean at Newbury last time was trying to win the race. If we had ridden him to be second he probably would have been second, but I think Jamie thought he was going so well. For a few strides it looked as though he was going to win, but he was beaten by a better horse on the day. We have pitched him in some pretty tough races and he has run well every time. The Gold Cup is a long way and he has got to take on a horse that beat us at Ascot in May but we gave him 5 lbs that day, which is a lot of weight over 2 miles. He is probably a 16-1 chance but he will run with credit, 66-1 shots do win Classics you know!
Beat Le Bon
He looked a very good horse when he won the other day and I think that represents more of what I see of him. Pat Dobbs got off him and said ‘all we’ve got to do is hold him up’. He said he’s a very good horse that gave him a lovely feel. Hold him up at Royal Ascot and we could have a massive chance. It’s slightly unfortunate as you don’t know if you’re drawn on the right side - and it changes every race. He will be very competitive. He’s just coming right at the right time to win a Britannia and he’s got the ability. He is a very good horse and he going there off the back of a very good win.
He has improved all year. He just gets to the front and wanders around a little bit, but that’s probably inexperience. Since he won at Ascot, the Britannia has been the plan. He is a good horse and we haven’t got to the bottom of him yet - hopefully the handicapper hasn’t either. Whilst he is still winning, I guess he is still well handicapped.
He won the Esher Cup, Ryan Moore got off him and said he could be a very good horse. He then went to Haydock and ran a funny race. He was on the outside, picked up for 100 yards and then just didn’t. He is better than that and will come back to Royal Ascot, where he will need to be better than that.
Yafta is one of my favourites. He’s a very sound horse and I was pleased with his last run. Halfway through the race I was thinking he’s going to run horrible, but going past the line he was third and I thought oh I’ll take that. It’s a very quick six furlongs up there (at York), the Royal Ascot six will suit him a lot more - they’ll go a lot quicker so he’ll be able to find a bit of cover. I’m hopeful he could run a big race, he’s a very good horse with a lot of ability. I have a feeling he might want seven furlongs after this - and the Diamond Jubilee’s not really a race you can pick up on the way to seven furlongs - but he’s a good horse over six furlongs who’s won two Group 3s. He’ll run a big race in the Diamond Jubilee.
It depends what the handicapper does with him. He is 87 now, he probably needs to be a bit higher than that to get in to the Wokingham. There is a chance he might get in, but if he doesn’t there are a lot of good handicaps around for him nowadays anyway.
I thought Threat would run well (at Newmarket), I wasn’t really sure what we were taking on and there weren’t many runners in the race, but his homework has been exceptional. I think he might just be one of the best 2yos we’ve had here for a while. I’m very hopeful, I love the horse and I think he is probably our best chance of the week.
He’s very big and mature - ahead of his days. He looks like a man among boys. He does it very easily, he has a lovely attitude and everyone who gets off him says the same thing. He’s looked pretty good in his work and he looked pretty good before he ran. For one of our horses to win first time, they’re pretty good, and he will have improved massively since. I’ve been very happy with his work and I could talk for days about this horse. I do think that he has got the scope to be a three-year-old and he has got the scope to get a trip. He dealt with the undulations at Newmarket no problem - Ascot is a very flat track so there is no question of him not dealing with it, I don’t think.
Temple Of Heaven
Temple Of Heaven is gutsy. He worked with Threat the other day, Rossa Ryan rode him and thought he was going every bit as well, which is great. He is in the Coventry, he might run there or go for the Windsor Castle. He is a very good horse - he was tough the other day and that’s what I like about him. He could come back to five furlongs no problem. I would prefer not to send my best two 2yos to the same race, but they belong to different people and if that has to happen it’s not a bad day, but it would just be nicer to see them take their chances in different races. He’s a very tough horse with a lot of ability and physically he’s done very well.
I took Kuwait Direction to Windsor and he was an embarrassment. I thought he was going to run well, but he flopped out the gates. He was like a slob, he hardly picked his feet up, so I got him out on the gallops the next morning to make sure I wasn’t mad. I sent him down the gallops, he came passed and looked lovely. I gave him a fair bit of welly between his first race and second race and it’s a good job I did because he still looks like he hasn’t had a race. He is alright, a lot better than you think, but you have to really get after him to get the best out of him. I am just delighted that he looked a nice horse at Doncaster, because after Windsor I was thinking how could I have got that so wrong? Luckily the owner understood it and he put his best foot forward next time.
I can’t believe Partridge got beaten first time at Salisbury. I thought she was definitely going there to win at least half a length and she got nailed on the line. She got bumped around a little bit that day - that won’t do her any harm - and last time at Haydock she bumped into a nice horse of Karl Burke’s. I thought she travelled there lovely - she was coming there to win and she just got tired. Every race she has run in she has been the only filly so far, so we are going to go back to one of these fillies’ races. She will be competitive in one of those Ascot races because she is very fast and they will all go very quick. She can sit-in, get a lead, hopefully the ones in front will stop and she will be there to pick up the pieces.
I was a little disappointed with Kemble first time at Newmarket, but that race has turned out very well. I think the winner is favourite for the Queen Mary and the second came out and won the Marygate Fillies' Stakes. That is very good form. When she went to Windsor she bolted up and she looked a good filly. I don’t know whether we are going to go five or six furlongs yet. Since Windsor, she has really matured, she looks great. She will deal with the Ascot pomp and ceremony very well and I would hope and that should stand her in good stead. She has got a lot of speed. The Ascot five furlongs is not a normal five furlongs - it’s a very tough five and it is very stiff. I haven’t decided whether to go five or six furlongs yet but hopefully she will run well in either.
She ran into a very good horse of Paul Cole’s that they are going to send to the Coventry. Second time she got no luck in that Marygate Fillies' Stakes, she would have run very well. Last time she was the best filly in the race and she won as I expected her to. She might be better over six, but an Ascot five might suit her. She’s a very disciplined filly, she deals with everything very well. I haven’t asked Sean which one he’d ride yet – Kemble or Separate – but we’ll see. He’d get it wrong anyway!
Here's an interesting two-year-old. I was disappointed with him first time at York but it has turned out to be one of the hottest two-year-old races of the year. He showed a good bit of mettle at Wolverhampton - he came from behind and was asked to go between horses. He got the trip very well. He could run well in the Chesham because it gives him a chance to get into the race, travel and enjoy it. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was competitive.