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Lusail edges thrilling July Stakes

Lusail took his career record to three wins from four outings in the Tattersalls July Stakes at Newmarket.

Richard Hannon’s two-year-old broke smartly for Pat Dobbs and led the main group down the centre, but Graham Lee was keen to get the rail on Project Dante.

When that rival began to weaken a furlong and a half from home, Lusail was left in front – but the race was just beginning in earnest.

Tom Dascombe’s Sam Maximus, Alan King’s previously unbeaten Asymmetric and Hugo Palmer’s Ebro River all came to throw down a challenge – with the four in line at one point.

Ebro River was first to crack, not for the first time hanging badly, and Sam Maximus then began to tire.

There was not much in it as they crossed the line. But Lusail, who was emulating his sire Mehmas as a winner of this race, held off Asymmetric by a head – with the same back to Sam Maximus.

Hannon was confident, as Lusail passed the line, that he was in front.

“I did think he’d won, actually,” he said.

“A trainer usually knows, and I think I’ve only got it wrong a couple of times.

“I thought he deserved to win – he ran around a bit going to the line.”

Lusail was vindicating Hannon’s judgement in reverting to this trip, after winning over a furlong further at Newmarket last month.

“It was a big shout to bring him back to six furlongs, but he’s done it very well,” the Marlborough trainer added.

“He’s come back in trip – he’s extremely relaxed, and I think we’ll take him to Goodwood.

“Whether we go there for the six (Richmond Stakes) or the seven-furlong race (Vintage Stakes), we’ll talk to the (owners) Al Shaqab team and see.

“He was just working okay in the spring. When I took him to York he hadn’t really come in his coat, and I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing, but he went there and won.

“He still looks like that now, but he’s just like his sire Mehmas in that he’s very honest and chilled out – and he will get further.

“I don’t think he’s just a two-year-old.”

King was delighted with the effort of runner-up Asymmetric.

He said: “He ran a huge race and it was a big step up. He had won his two and he had to step up and we were proved right.

“He is a lovely colt. Martin (Harley) has always felt that he would be better on quicker ground, but he goes on the soft and slower ground. He would be the sharpest two-year-old we have had.”

Asked about future targets, King added: “I don’t know where we go yet. He is in the Gimcrack – we put him in that the other day. Whether we stick at six or go up I don’t know as I’ve not really had a chance to talk to Martin.

“I would think we would probably stick at six, but he is so relaxed you could possibly go further.”

Guineas hope Chindit has ‘gears’

Richard Hannon believes Chindit has the required gears to provide him with another victory in the Qipco 2000 Guineas.

Hannon was previously successful in the opening Classic of the season with Night Of Thunder in 2014, and Chindit tuned up for Newmarket on Saturday by winning the Greenham at Newbury a fortnight ago.

In what looks a good crop of three-year-olds this season and, with Godolphin and Coolmore well represented as well as the likes of Thunder Moon and the supplemented Mutasaabeq holding claims, Chindit will need to be at the peak of his powers.

“He took a long time to win the race at Newbury – which says to me he needed that, and it will have sharpened him up,” said Hannon.

“Our Guineas horses tend to really need their first race. Night Of Thunder got beaten in his trial and won the Guineas; Sky Lantern (winner of the 1000 Guineas in 2013) was beaten in her trial too, so they need it.

“Once they’ve had that, it’s just a case of ticking along. He did a bit on Tuesday morning, (Pat ) Dobbsy rode him and he was happy. I couldn’t be happier with him – but it does look quite a smart race, certainly hotter than the trial was.

“A trial is not a Derby, it’s not their focus. Generally we start working horses at Christmas, but just routine work. This year we couldn’t get on the grass for a month or six weeks – and that probably made a big difference, because he’s been on the all-weather the whole spring.”

Many smart juveniles show up well in their very first gallop, but Hannon says that was not the case with Chindit, winner of four of his five races. His sole defeat did come at Newmarket in the Dewhurst, but the Wiltshire trainer felt that was due to the soft ground.

“He was one of those horses who didn’t show too much before his debut but won nicely,” Hannon added.

“It was when he won the Listed race at Ascot we began to think we had a nice one. The Champagne Stakes was a very good race, and he did the same thing. He likes passing horses.

“The times the day at Newmarket suggested the ground was heavy. It didn’t suit him or (stablemate) Etonian. I am concerned about the track, though, and I hope Newmarket misses the heavy showers.

“He’s done all his winning on flat tracks like Ascot, Newbury and Doncaster – and this is vastly different. I don’t know if he enjoyed the Dewhurst, but I’m fairly sure that was down to the ground.

Richard Hannon and Pat Dobbs go back a long way
Richard Hannon and Pat Dobbs go back a long way (Bill Selwyn/PA)

“He’s a neat little horse – but he’s got gears, he’s very tough and he’s quite lightly-raced. There is more to come.

“All our Guineas winners were different in their own way, but they were all immensely talented. To win a Guineas is a huge thing. Whether Chindit is one of those or not? I’d like to think so, but we won’t know until they are a furlong and a half down.”

Assessing the dangers, despite Ireland holding a strong hand, Hannon feels the biggest may be closer to home.

He added: “I think Charlie Hills’ horse (Mutasaabeq) is one of the main dangers – he’s got a very good pedigree, and it would probably be right if this year Sheikh Hamdan had a Guineas winner. I for one would love to see that.

“That looked a warm race, but he handled the track no problem. He’s a danger. He looked quite a big horse – there might be more to come and he might be improving. He would be a very fitting winner.”

Despite being attached to the yard for most of his career, Dobbs has just one Group One to his name on Pether’s Moon in the Coronation Cup – so Hannon would love to present a key cog in the wheel with a Guineas win.

“We call him ‘Mr Grumpy’. I’d love to provide him with a Classic as he’s one of our guys – but I still don’t think you’d see him smile!” joked Hannon.

“Pat has been here for years – he’s a lovely bloke to work with and has seen it all. Sometimes he might win on a horse and then someone might not want him next time out, but it doesn’t ruffle his feathers. Nothing flusters him.

“He’s an extremely good jockey – and yes, he’s unsung. He’s very popular among the other jockeys, which is a very good sign. He’s one of the best riders I know and he’s a good bloke.”