/ Racing

Lantern faces three in Falmouth Stakes

Updated: Friday, 12 Jul 2013 09:56 | Comments

Sky Lantern can be backed at even money for Friday's contest at Newmarket
Sky Lantern can be backed at even money for Friday's contest at Newmarket

Richard Hannon jnr is confident 1000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes heroine Sky Lantern remains at the peak of her powers as she prepares to test her mettle against her elders in the Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket.

A Group One-winning juvenile but beaten on her three-year-old debut in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, the grey filly made a huge step forward to give jockey Richard Hughes his first taste of British Classic glory on the Rowley Mile in early May.

She was even more impressive at Royal Ascot, showing breathtaking acceleration to come from last to first and win going away by upwards of four lengths.

Now she has proven herself the best of her generation, she faces two talented older fillies in Giofra and Elusive Kate, first and second respectively in last year's Falmouth.

Hannon jnr, son and assistant to his father, said: "She seems in great form. It's always very difficult when horses go and win races like that in the fashion she did. You don't really have an idea what it has taken out of her until you take her to the races.

"Her weight is very good and we've been happy with her work since.

"I must admit I hoped she'd win (at Ascot) but I never thought she'd win like that from that draw.

"We were lucky the race went very nicely for her and the wide draw turned out to our advantage.

"She's taking on the older mares on Friday, so we're not sure how it's going to go.

"Physically she's done extremely well. I haven't known a filly do so well from two to three at our place ever. She's continued to thrive since the Guineas."

Sky Lantern was seen at her potent best when attacking a strong pace in the Coronation Stakes against 16 opponents, but it could be a different scenario as she faces just three rivals on the July course.

"You can't have it both ways. You can't have 16 in the Coronation and then moan when a race cuts up to four runners. If she's good enough she'll win," Hannon jnr told At The Races.

"If things don't go her way it will be unfortunate.

"I'll leave tactics up to Hughesie (jockey Richard Hughes). We've got her there for the race in good form. He'll take over and do his job."

Looking beyond her next assignment, Hannon jnr is excited about the prospect of seeing Sky Lantern tackle middle distances before the season is out.

He said: "I think a mile and a quarter is within her compass. She'll probably have a rest after the Falmouth. We'll enter her in the Nassau and the Matron and races like that.

"We're taking it race by race and what we might is look at the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and work back from there."

Hughes is not concerned about the prospect of a messy race, and suggests Sky Lantern could even make the running if needs be.

"I don't mind. I'll just have to play tactics. I'll ride her handy if I have to and let her up go upsides in front," said the jockey.

"At Ascot I'd no option but to drop in from where I was drawn. I knew they would go pretty quick with a big field and it played into my hands.

"I actually went to make the running in the Moyglare (last year), but they went so fast I ended up sitting near towards the back.

"I'll jump pretty handy and if one wants to go quicker let her go."

After being narrowly denied by Giofra in this race a year ago, the John Gosden-trained Elusive Kate went on to claim Group One honours in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville before running three more sound races in defeat.

Now a four-year-old, the filly made a pleasing reappearance when fourth in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and while Gosden expects his charge to be sharper for this latest test, he does fear the threat posed by Sky Lantern.

Gosden told www.newmarketracecourses.co.uk: "It's an exciting race and as tight an elite field as you would see. I'm happy at this stage, she needed the race a little bit in the Queen Anne but that's no surprise as it was her first run since October.

"She has done fine since Royal Ascot. Obviously that was a strong race and she was against the colts.

"You'd have to say Sky Lantern produced an exceptional performance at Royal Ascot, and tactically it's going to be interesting."

William Buick takes the ride on Elusive Kate and he, too, is excited about seeing her clash with Sky Lantern.

Buick said: "She always runs a good race, she's never run a bad race in her life.

"It's a small field but a very tough race this year. There's the Coronation winner Sky Lantern in there so it's a solid race.

"She ran very well in the Queen Anne and she was always going to come on for the race, she's fitter now and she's ready."

Elusive Kate and Giofra will encounter far quicker conditions than a year ago, which may not be in Giofra's favour.

Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre hints his five-year-old may even be withdrawn if conditions are deemed unsuitable.

Royer-Dupre said: "The filly is very well and we are looking forward to the race.

"I hope the ground is not too firm. If we are happy with the ground she will run, if it is too firm, we have a decision to make.

"I am very happy with the filly, so I hope to run."

The field is completed by William Muir's stable star Purr Along.

The three-year-old was almost 10 lengths behind Sky Lantern in the Coronation Stakes but Muir expects his charge to improve for that first run of the season.

He said: "When she went to Ascot I did say to everybody it was her first run of the year.

"I had to press her quite hard and she's come back and flourished from Ascot and she's done well. With four runners, she's Group One-placed as long as she crosses the line.

"That's a good thing but she's in great shape. It will be a funny, tactical race and we will see who's the one on top at the end."

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