Saturday 16 December 2017

Night Of Thunder gives Kieren Fallon further Classic success

Night of Thunder (left) ridden by Kieren Fallon wins the Qipco 2000 Guineas stakes at Newmarket
Night of Thunder (left) ridden by Kieren Fallon wins the Qipco 2000 Guineas stakes at Newmarket

Tom Peacock

Silence fell upon Newmarket as 40-1 chance Night Of Thunder came between the two horses most people believed would be winning the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

Two separate races were taking place across the wide expanse of the Rowley Mile, with 6-4 favourite Kingman ending with clear superiority on the far rail, while Aidan O'Brien's Australia, next best in the betting at 5-2, finished purposefully close to the stands.

Night Of Thunder actually began challenging next to Kingman and ended up on Australia's shoulder as he swerved dramatically across the track but was still able to hand Richard Hannon a fairly unexpected Classic at his first attempt, and end a far longer wait for renowned jockey Kieren Fallon.

Even Hannon, who took over the licence from his champion trainer father at the start of the year, fielded a legitimately stronger candidate in the shape of 2013 champion juvenile Toormore, who led the stands' side pack under stable number one Richard Hughes.

Toormore faded at around the same time as the Spanish colt Noozhoh Canarias, who had been on front-running duties for the smaller group on the opposite rail until the final furlong, there having been a brief moment of indecision for those in the middle when it became apparent the 14 runners were not going to stick together.

Kingman offered a more-than-respectable defence of his unbeaten record, but the matter was out of jockey James Doyle's hands as although the wayward Night Of Thunder had been soundly beaten by his mount in the Greenham Stakes, he had clearly shown considerable improvement and had half a length in hand by the line.

"It's the stuff of dreams," said Hannon.

"I thought he'd run very well and we were a bit disappointed after Newbury. But all our horses generally need a trial and it's a tribute to him that he has come back and turned the form around with Kingman."

Hannon, who also saddled fourth-placed Shifting Power, went on: "It is a shame Dad couldn't be here but he left this morning for Goodwood.

"I think Dad's clever, I think he has a feeling when something is going to happen, he did it with me with Sky Lantern (last year's 1000 Guineas winner) as well.

"I can't say winning the Guineas was in the air, and we wouldn't have been too worried if it didn't happen, but they are three very good horses. But it makes a big difference to everyone at home and it's nice to have a 2000 Guineas winner.

"Toormore ran a little bit flat and Shifting Power ran a super race. We'll have a look at the French Derby for him.

"We'll have to talk to Bruce Raymond (racing manager for Night Of Thunder's owner Saeed Manana) but I'd imagine it will be either the Irish Guineas or the St James's Palace at Royal Ascot."

Fallon appeared to be in the twilight of his career and was clinching a first Classic since the 2006 Oaks - the same season he won his fourth 2000 Guineas.

"It's a great race to win and a great start - it kick-starts our confidence for the year," said the 49-year-old.

"I wanted to go wherever the speed was because I wanted to switch him off, he was a bit gassy at Newbury.

"I thought I was going to go and win easily but when I went up half a length, he stopped with me. He was still good enough to win. That was a serious performance."

Kingman was potentially in trouble as soon as it was announced he was drawn in stall one and Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner Khalid Abdullah, said: "The field splitting was not ideal, but that's racing and we accept that.

"He has won his side if you look at it and we'll have bigger disappointments than finishing second in a Classic. The ground was fine and the winner's the winner, he won it fair and square.

"I imagine it will be the St James's Palace, although Ireland's not out of the question."

Australia, who is by a Derby winner and out of an Oaks winner, finished and not surprisingly hardened as ante-post favourite for Epsom.

"Obviously I'd have preferred for the field to stay together and we maybe had to get racing a little earlier than we would have liked to, but he ran a great race," said Aidan O'Brien.

"He's still a baby and the Derby trip should not be a problem. On pedigree, you'd say he was a Derby horse, but he was working like a Guineas horse."

Joseph O'Brien had left before a planned stewards' inquiry into whip use, while jockey Christophe Soumillon felt that Noozhoh Canarias did not stay and he may return for the July Cup.

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