By Simon Jackson.
The Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot is the likely target for Night Of Thunder and Toormore who finished first and second in the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.
The Richard Hannon-trained Night Of Thunder raced close to the pace throughout the one mile contest and ran on gamely for James Doyle to repel his fast-finishing stablemate Toormore and prevail by a neck.
First and second now appear set to contest the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal meeting where Night Of Thunder is best priced at 6-1 with Paddy Power, but as short as 3-1 elsewhere. The same firm also offer top price for Toormore at 12-1.
Night Of Thunder’s victory at Newbury on Saturday gave his owners Godolphin a record sixth win in the £350,000 Lockinge Stakes. It was also the second successive win in the race for Hannon who won the Lockinge last year with Olympic Glory.
“We are delighted. Toormore has run a super race and Night Of Thunder looked to me that he was going to go and win very well and has probably just got tired after a long time off the track. I couldn’t be more pleased,” Hannon said.
“I think both horses will improve. Toormore has been a little bit heavy all this year – he doesn’t do much at home – and Night Of Thunder shows us a bit more at home but he too will also improve.
“Night Of Thunder doesn’t have anything to prove now. He has won a Guineas, he has won a Lockinge and he is obviously a very good horse who will make a very, very good stallion.
“These are the horses we get sent. I would love to train a Derby horse but we just don’t seem to get those horses. Both these horses today have speed and they get a trip – Toormore might get a mile and a quarter and we tried a mile and a quarter with Night Of Thunder – so nothing is impossible at this stage. Night Of Thunder will likely remain at a mile this year.
“They will probably both go to Ascot and go well in the Queen Anne. As the year goes on, the races open in Europe – after the Queen Anne there is the Moulin, the Jacques le Marois and lots of lovely races. They don’t have to go for the same races and it would be better for me personally if they didn’t but I am not the owners of these horses.
“Getting Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed involved in our stable is probably the ultimate compliment. Night Of Thunder has gone and done the business and we are delighted.”
Jono Mills of Godolphin confirmed that the Queen Anne Stakes is the immediate target: “The Queen Anne is the most logical next step for Night Of Thunder,” Mills said.
“We are absolutely thrilled that he has come out this year and won the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. He was a bit unlucky in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot at the end of last year.
“He has won a great renewal of the Lockinge Stakes and I am sure he will come on for this his first run of the season. Al Shaqab have done a great job of sponsoring the race and we are very grateful for their support.”
Doyle added: “This is just the start of Night Of Thunder’s campaign; he is a big type who went to win his race, had a puff and battled it out nicely. I am delighted with him, he has got a great attitude.”
Read ‘Horse Talk with Simon Jackson’ at London24 for the latest horse racing news.