Hannon overcome as 'old favourite' Boy comes of age
Forty years of early starts have given Richard Hannon a craggy, weathered face that is not really designed for tears, but he could not fight them off as Paco Boy returned to the winner's enclosure after the Lockinge Stakes here. "After all this time, I should know better," he mumbled at one point, then off he went again.
Hannon has nearly 200 horses in his yard near Marlborough, and has prepared many thousands since taking out a licence in 1970, but Paco Boy has touched him like no other. The colt's Group One success, the third of his career, hinted at the reasons why.
You could sense the enthusiasm and pent-up energy in Paco Boy as Richard Hughes held him up several lengths off the pace, and also the jockey's delight as he unleashed his finishing kick with just under a furlong to run. Paco Boy started favourite at 8/11 and there was hardly a stride anywhere on Newbury's straight mile when he looked anything but a certain winner.
"He's such an old favourite of ours," Hannon said once his composure had been regained. "He cost nothing, he's come through the ranks and every time he comes to the races he's brilliant. He just needs a good, honest gallop, then he comes good two out and away he goes.
"He's different. I train 200 horses and it's very rare to find one like him, that gives you such pleasure when you watch him in the morning. He's such a lovely horse to deal with. He's grown into a great old favourite and he'll be a very hard horse to forget. I've got pictures of him all over the house.
"He's a horse with everything. He's got a cruising speed and then, when you get him into the race, he's got a turn of foot, which is what shows how good he is."
The bare form of yesterday's race is nothing special by Group One standards.
Ouqba, beaten three-quarters of a length into second, had finished ninth and 11th in his two previous outings at the highest level, while the second-favourite, Zacinto, trailed home last for the second race running.
But the manner of it was impossible to resist. Paco Boy has been confounding expectations ever since he was sold as a two-year-old for just 30,000gns, having failed to reach a reserve of €21,000 on his first visit to the ring as a yearling, and in his next race he might well do so again.
Paco Boy may not even start favourite for the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot next month, when his possible opponents include Rip Van Winkle and Goldikova, but he was the second-favourite when he won the same race last season. It makes you wonder if Ascot is ready for the sight of a 65-year-old man in a morning suit, blubbing like a lovesick teenager in front of the Queen.
The Aston Park Stakes resulted in a one-two for the Godolphin operation, though not in the order that the market suggested, as Claremont, trained by new recruit Mahmood Al Zarooni, beat his better-fancied opponent Sabotage, saddled by Saeed bin Suroor, Godolphin's long-standing lead trainer.
Claremont looked like a horse with deep-seated attitude problems in his previous race at Newmarket, but a first-time visor kept his mind on the business in hand and he ran on strongly for William Buick to win by a length and a quarter. He is 25/1 with Paddy Power for the Gold Cup at Ascot, though his win pays a significant compliment to Manifest, Friday's Yorkshire Cup winner, who was ahead of him in the John Porter Stakes earlier in the season.
Klammer heads for the Coventry Stakes after maintaining his 100 per cent record with victory in the 32RedPoker.com Novice Stakes at Newmarket.
The Jane Chapple-Hyam-trained colt will go to Royal Ascot next month on the back of a neck success from My Son Max. Chapple-Hyam's 6/4 favourite travelled in touch as Alfraamsey led them, with My Son Max handy on the far rail.
But Klammer, ridden by Shane Kelly, edged to the front over one furlong out, and battled bravely to see off trainer Hannon's charge.
The Classic cycle moves to Longchamp this afternoon, when Special Duty, who took the 1,000 Guineas in the stewards' room at Newmarket, attempts to follow up in the French equivalent.
She will be a short price to do so, but the form looks horribly compromised by the uneven going across the Rowley Mile, which left several leading fancies in a hopeless position. She is worth opposing with the Prix Marcel Boussac winner Rosanara (1.35), while Siyouni (2.45) can complete a double for the Aga Khan and his new jockey, Christophe Lemaire, in the French 2,000 Guineas.