St Leger countdown: Richard Hannon banking on Raymond Tusk

Thu 13 Sep 2018

Richard Hannon will seek to dispel the notion in some quarters he is simply a trainer of milers when he saddles Raymond Tusk in the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.

With Classic success in the 1000 and 2000 Guineas on his CV, along with further Group One glory over that trip with the likes of Toronado and Olympic Glory, the Marlborough trainer has little to prove.

But when it comes to fighting it out in championship contests over middle distances, Hannon’s record, despite saddling Pether’s Moon to glory in the 2015 Coronation Cup, is not quite so impressive.

Watch the closing stages of the Geffrey Freer Stakes in which Raymond Tusk was second

Hannon said: “It is frustrating when you do get pigeon-holed, but it is nice to be good at something!

“I’ve trained a Group One winner over a mile and a half, which proves we can do it. We are in as good a position as anybody with our facilities to train a horse over any trip.

“If we get horses that want a mile and a half and more, we can do as well with them as anyone else. We can get the best out of whatever we are sent.”

Not only would victory in the world’s oldest Classic be well received by Hannon, it would also be welcomed by owners Middleham Park Racing and help ease the agony of the pair coming within three-quarters of a length of claiming the 2016 renewal with Ventura Storm.

Hannon said: “I was so gutted that day. I couldn’t talk to anyone for 40 minutes.

“Some of them were crying and they were amazed, as they had the day of their lives, he had gone so close. He didn’t win and often nobody remembers those that finish second, but it was a great day.

“The horse did us proud and I was delighted, but it would now be nice to win one.”

Ventura Storm, right, is narrowly beaten by Harbour Law in the 2016 St Leger
Ventura Storm, right, is narrowly beaten by Harbour Law in the 2016 St Leger

He went on: “It would be great for them. As a syndicate, they try very hard.

“There are a lot of people involved in him and Middleham Park enable them to buy small pieces in horses like this. We’ve had a lot of good horses with them and the management have nicknamed me the ‘golden goose’, as I keep laying golden eggs!

“Hopefully that can continue. They will go there with a chance and ride the wave and if he doesn’t finish among them we will have to deal with it, but he is a horse we’ve got for next year to look forward to.”

Not disgraced when sixth in the Coral-Eclipse, Raymond Tusk was a staying-on second in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last time out and Hannon is optimistic the extended one-mile-six-furlong trip should be well within his capabilities.

He said: “He has been great and has run with a lot of credit and got better all year. We left him with a little bit (of condition) on, as he lost a little bit of weight after the Glasgow Stakes.

“I didn’t want to do a lot with him and he went to Newbury, as it is just up the road and it’s a nice track. I was delighted with his run. He looks great and is a horse we’ve always thought a lot of. I think he has a big chance.

“I think he is a better horse than Ventura Storm. He has got more gears and is by the right stallion (High Chaparral). I think the trip is what he wants, but he will have to settle and if he doesn’t settle he won’t win anything.

“He has got lots of speed and I know if he is there or thereabouts and is going well two furlongs out he will beat pretty much all horses over that trip for speed. Without being bullish, I do think he has a good chance of running a massive race.”

Raymond Tusk on his way to winning at Newbury earlier this year
Raymond Tusk on his way to winning at Newbury earlier this year

Despite having trained more than 100 winners in every season since taking over from his father, Richard Hannon senior, in 2014, the former champion trainer is well aware it is in races like this on the big stage how his career will be defined.

He said: “We’ve had a 1000 and 2000 Guineas winner and I’ve been second in the Leger before. I would love to get a Classic winner over this sort of trip.

“They are the horses you are defined by, your Classic winners.

“It will be a very good race, but this is a big chance for us. He looks great and is a horse we’ve always thought a lot of and I think he has a big chance in the Leger.”

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