Toronado blows rivals away to record Queen Anne success
Toronado got Royal Ascot 2014 off to a flying start for favourite backers with an impressive display in the Queen Anne Stakes.
Despite making his first competitive appearance since August of last year, Richard Hannon's four-year-old was all the rage for the Group One contest as the 4-5 favourite and was ridden confidently by Richard Hughes.
Just for a moment he appeared in trouble as the response was not immediate once Hughes popped the question, but Toronado gradually found top gear in the final furlong and was ultimately well on top at the line.
Verrazano was three-quarters of a length away in second, with strong-travelling French raider Anodin back in third.
Toronado enjoyed an excellent three-year-old campaign, running well in defeat in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last year before clinching his first Group One in a thrilling Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
He disappointed on his final start of 2013 in York's Juddmonte International, but connections were bullish in the weeks leading up to his return and were proved right as Toronado showed off his superb turn of foot to seal victory.
Aidan O'Brien's American recruit Verrazano ran a creditable third behind Toronado's stable companion Olympic Glory in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month on his European debut and although he took another step forward, it was not quite enough.
Freddy Head's Anodin, carrying the colours of brilliant 2010 Queen Anne heroine Goldikova, travelled better than anything for much of the journey.
Although he could not match the finishing effort of the front two, he still justified the decision of his connections to supplement him for the race, picking up minor honours in third.
Harry Herbert, racing manager for Sheikh Joaan Al Thani's Al Shaqab Racing operation, said of the winner: "It's so exciting. I'm thrilled to bits for everyone involved. It's a great piece of training from Richard Hannon and his team.
"Hughesie loves this horse, the confidence going into the race was scary.
"If there was an issue it was he hadn't run for 300 days, which is a long time off in this sort of competition."
Hughes said: "I'm very pleased. He was so relaxed in the race, I felt him blow up but he had a bit of class to get him through.
"I think any horseman in the world looking at him today will believe he is a better horse this year. I've always had belief in him, he's a wonderful horse. He's had a few problems, but they are behind him. I can enjoy myself now, there's no pressure!"
Hannon said: "It's lovely to get the meeting off to a start like that, he did it very well and is settling much better this year. Hughesie rode him with all the confidence in the world.
"I was nervous this morning, I feel a bit better now. It's great to get a win.
"It's great for the Sheikh, he's put a lot of money in and it's nice to see him get his reward.
"We'll stick to a mile with him, the Sussex Stakes is highly likely, there's also the Marois but Olympic Glory will probably run in that and then later there's the QEII."
Sheikh Joaan, who has Arc winner Treve running in his colours in tomorrow's Prince of Wales's Stakes, said: "The team did well, Richard and the boys did well to get him back on the track. I hope it's the start of a great week.
"Tomorrow is going to be great and hopefully we have the luck again."
O'Brien plans to step Verrazano, who always just being nudged along by Joseph O'Brien, up in trip.
The Ballydoyle trainer said: "I'm delighted with him. That was a big run, I'd say an improvement from the Lockinge.
"He got warm, but he got warm before the Lockinge didn't he? I don't think it bothers him.
"He kept going well and will get a bit further so all those races like the Eclipse, Juddmonte and Irish Champion are open to him."
Head said of Anodin: "I'm very happy with him, those were two Group One horses in front of him. He's run a brilliant race, there's nothing more to say really. We'll look at the Sussex Stakes, but let's see how he is nearer to the time as he's had a hard race there."