Friday 13 December 2019

Stevens 'in awe' of brave Thunder

Trainer Olly Stevens is keeping his fingers crossed Lightning Thunder's day in the sun is not too far away after she filled the runner-up spot in Classic company for the second time in Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.

The Dutch Art filly ran a fantastic race to finish a neck behind Miss France in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket at the start of the month and despite doubts about the attritional conditions, she was favourite to go one better in Ireland.

Lightning Thunder looked likely to supply her fledgling trainer with a landmark victory when hitting the front inside the last two furlongs, but she was eventually mowed down by Marvellous.

Stevens said: "I think everyone in the yard is in awe of what a tough and genuine filly she is and we're extremely proud of her.

"I think we were pretty public about the fact we were worried about the ground, but the owners were very sporting and decided to let her take her chance.

"The ground didn't suit her on the day, but she still ran very well. I would say she ran a bigger race than she did at Newmarket, all things considered.

"She hit a flat spot at the furlong marker, but it is testament to how tough and game she is that she kept going to finish second.

"She can idle a bit in front. Harry (Bentley) did nothing wrong, she's just a filly who tends to take herself to the front.

"I think Harry is showing huge maturity in his riding this year, showing he is a big-race jockey. We were beaten fair and square by a very good filly on the day, who obviously relished the ground."

While the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot is now top of Lightning Thunder's agenda, Stevens has revealed a trip to America has also been discussed as a potential target, should conditions go against her in Berkshire.

The Surrey handler said: "The owners obviously arranged for her to go to Ireland by plane, so she actually ended up having a shorter day than she would have done if she'd ran at Nottingham or Doncaster. That should help her get over what was a tough race.

"Our primary target is the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. The stiff mile there should suit her perfectly and you'd like to think she'd get her favoured fast ground.

"If for some reason it poured down with rain, we have the back-up option of the Belmont Oaks in New York on July 5.

"That is over 10 furlongs, they'd go a good gallop and I think the race would suit her, but Ascot is something pretty special and that's where we'd like to go, ideally.

"We're keen to stick to Group One level as I think she's shown she deserves to win one now.

"There are some nice races later on in the year like the Falmouth Stakes and the Prix Jean Prat, so hopefully she'll have her day.

"If she doesn't do it on her next start, we might just drop her in class for her next run to try and get her head in front.

"She wouldn't even carry a penalty in a Listed race."

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