Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
Patience, patience and more patience. After three days of waiting, victory finally came for Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes as Sky Lantern lit up the Group 1 Cornonation Stakes with an unbeatable display of dominance.
For days the yard of Richard Hannon have waited patiently as their string of exceptional horses continued to knock on the doors of victory with no reply. Second place finishes in some of the best races of the week, including Toronado's agonising defeat at the hands of Dawn Approach, had given the best possible indication of the well being of Hannnon's string but three days had passed without victory.
Day Four would be the day; a race between Classic victors, newcomers and old foes, the Group 1 Coronation Stakes was billed as a brilliant match up between highly touted fillies and it did not disappoint.
Victorious in the English 1,000 Guineas, Sky Lantern would renew her rivalry with Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Just The Judge whom stood tall in the colours of Qatar Racing.
Sky Lantern's victory in the English 1,000 Guineas was one that had prompted surprising doubts on her ability from many corners of the British media. The question as to whether she had benefited from her main rivals surging towards the head of affairs too soon was one which had been bellowed with increasing regularity. A tough draw in stall sixteen in this Group 1 contest did little to install confidence either, yet the British public whom had seen her progress from the Group 3 Nell Gwynn to the English 1,000 Guineas notably kept the faith as the runners cantered to the start, betting the filly down to be the joint 9-2 favourite for the contest.
Hughes opted to take a hold of his filly in the opening stages from the wide stall and angled behind the main body of the pack, a decision that Jamie Spencer tried to mirror aboard Just The Judge, but whilst Hughes managed to get cover for his mount Spencer was trapped four wide for the early stages an seemingly unable to get into the pack behind the Godolphin waned leader, Lovely Pass.
As the runners headed around the bend, with Just The Judge still relatively wide, Spencer urged his mount to go and win her race with the daughter of Lawman picking them off one by one, but tracked all the while by Hughes aboard Sky Lantern it looked as though the crowds would be treated to a battle to the line once more.
They would be disappointed. Just The Judge continued to go exceptionally well on the front end but Hughes was in no mood to finish out of the winners circle anymore this week. With a minimum of urging Hughes burst to the front aboard Sky Lantern and the filly continued to pull away with considerable ease.
"When I saw the draw I asked Hughsie if there was any point in running," said Richard Hannon, Jr. "It was going to be a very tough task for her from there and I wondered whether it was worth running with the Falmouth two weeks away. She had everything against her today so to win like that means she must be a very special filly."
"She's a pleasure to deal with. She eats, sleeps and goes about her business with the minimum of fuss. She's bigger and stronger than she's ever been and I think she'll keep on improving."
Defeated in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last season, Hannon Jr. told a packed press room that Hughes was adamant after that defeat that the three year old daughter of Red Clubs would win the 1,000 Guineas the following year. Whilst Hannon Jr. is honest that he did not believe him at the time, Sky Lantern is now continuing to blossom and improve with each run and the Hannon team have dreams of even greater success at the tail end of the year.
"Races like the Falmouth Stakes have to come into consideration now but I'd like to step her up in trip and Hughesie thinks she'll stay a mile and a half. If that's the case, then we would seriously think about the Arc. She's definitely got the ability to cope with a race like that."
Paddy Power installed Sky Lantern as a 16-1 shot for the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe.