Thunderbolts and lightning at Newmarket

Night Of Thunder surprise winner of 2000 Guineas

RICHARD HANNON may have expected to win a Classic in his first year since taking over the training licence from his father, he may even have expected success to come at the first time of asking in the 2,000 Guineas, but he probably felt his hopes rested with third-favourite Toormore rather than Night Of Thunder.

Kieren Fallon’s mount may have been the stable’s second string, but in a race where Hannon underlined his strength in depth by saddling three of the first seven home on his Classic debut it was the 40-1 shot who reversed Greenham form with 6-4 favourite Kingman. “You grow up at school reading the Racing Post, watching Channel 4 and think you might get there one day, so I am delighted,” said Hannon.  “I have to say I thought he would run very well. We were a little disappointed after Newbury and it is lovely to see him come back and turn the form round with Kingman.”

Hannon, who was also responsible for the fourth-placed Shifting Power and seventh-home Toormore, added: “Hughesie [Richard Hughes – stable jockey] said Toormore ran a bit flat and Shifting Power ran a super race. We will go up in trip with Shifting Power and might have a look at the French Derby. ”

The victory was a first in a British Classic for Fallon since his Oaks success on Alexandrova in 2006, but the winning margin was far narrower with just half a length separating Night Of Thunder and the runner-up at the line.  It was a five-length swing for the additional furlong to the Greenham trip and, if anything, it could be argued Night Of Thunder was value for further as he veered across the track inside the final half furlong.

Racing in the far-side group and side-by-side with the favourite Kingman through the early stages, Night Of Thunder was one of the first to get niggled along. Yet James Doyle travelled ominously well on John Gosden’s superstar and having cruised into contention, he made his move inside the final two furlongs and looked to have the race won – on the far-side at least.  Of those from the bigger group that traveled stands’ side it was the highly-touted Australia who emerged, surging clear and winning his race comfortably. Going into the final furlong it looked as though the big two in the betting, the first- and second-favourites, would fight out the finish – split by the width of the track. But Fallon is no stranger to being the one celebrating after a big race in which he got rocking and rolling before all others, and the manner in which his mount picked up when meeting the rising ground clearly left the six-time champion jockey believing he could spoil the party.

But three cracks of the whip, which was in his right hand, saw Night Of Thunder veer left, and looked to have cost the pair their chance. Yet Fallon, known for his strength, put his whip down and lifted his mount home.  Having come to challenge Kingman on the far side he finished alongside Australia on the stands’ rail and yet still managed to overhaul the two hype horses going into the 206th running of the season’s first Classic.

Reflecting the unlikely nature of his success, Night Of Thunder touched the maximum 999-1 in-running on Betfair for a small sum, while both Kingman and Australia traded heavily odds-on at 1-4 and 1-3 respectively.

On Kingman, Khalid Abdullah’s racing manager Teddy Grimthorpe said: “The split isn’t ideal but that’s racing and we accept that. He’s run out of skin and we have no complaints. It wasn’t to be.

“I don’t blame anything really. The winner won fair and square. We had a good run through and it was one of those things. It would have been nice to have been upsides and had no split but it probably doesn’t change anything.”

Immediately after the race thoughts turned to the Derby, with Paddy Power and BetVictor cutting Australia to 6-4 favourite (from 5-2 and 9-4 respectively), while Ladbrokes, William Hill and Betfred went 7-4 (from 2-1, 5-2 and 9-4 respectively). Betfred also cut Night Of Thunder to 16-1 (from 40).

Asked if Australia will head straight to Epsom, Aidan O’Brien said: “I think so. Obviously we’ll speak to the boys and they’ll decide. We always felt the Derby trip was never going to be a problem.”  Reflecting on his Guineas defeat, O’Brien added: “Obviously I’d have preferred them to stay together but he’s run a great race. Maybe he was racing a little earlier than ideal on this side to hold his position but Joseph was always going to follow the pace and it made no sense to go the other side. That’s racing and he ran a great race.”


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