Reigning champion jockey Richard Hughes has accumulated a host of top-flight European races during his career but finally corrected one glaring omission as Sky Lantern provided his first British Classic in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Riding with greater confidence and competence than any other jockey at present, the 40-year-old believed his wait would end 24 hours earlier in the 2,000 Guineas, but Toronado finished in a tame fourth place.
But Hughes steadied himself for another white-knuckle ride on hold-up filly Sky Lantern (9-1), who charged through late to deprive the sponsors’ runner Just The Judge by half a length.
A Group 1 winner in last year’s Moyglare, Sky Lantern, Hughes and trainer Richard Hannon shared subsequent disappointments, such as when she was stuck in traffic during the Breeders’ Cup and when collared by Hot Snap in last month’s Nell Gwyn Stakes.
Sir Henry Cecil’s Hot Snap, the 5-2 favourite, was a faded version of her former self yesterday and never got involved, eventually finishing ninth.
Just The Judge, part-owned by Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar Racing operation, performed far better than her drifting odds of 7-1 might have suggested. Ridden by Jamie Spencer, Charlie Hills’ filly appeared set to maintain her unbeaten record as she passed Winning Express (eventually fourth) with a furlong to go, but Hughes once again timed his challenge to perfection and darted through to lead just before the line.
“About bloody time,” said Hughes. “I think my wife was more upset than I was [after Toronado]. I remember telling her it was only a horse race and there were more important things. She said, ‘I know it’s only a horse race, but you never seem to win the big ones’.
“I’ve won plenty of Classics everywhere else and I was pretty sure one day I’d get the horse but it’s a monkey off my back. For the last ten years Aidan O’Brien has been dominating but Richard has been stepping up the quality.”
Hannon, who had already saddled three winners of the 2,000 Guineas, instead decided to visit his local track at Salisbury, and was represented by his son and assistant, Richard jnr. He said: “We were pretty low after yesterday. It was a very disappointing, but she deserved a bit of luck, this filly. She went to America [Breeders’ Cup] and didn’t get any luck and then she bumped into a very good filly [Hot Snap] who didn’t run her race today.
“I’m delighted for Hughesie. He’s one of the best jockeys ever and I’m just delighted he’s done it on one of ours. We’ll look at the Irish Guineas but she might well go further. I’d say a mile and a quarter would be as far as she’d go.”
Spencer was given a three-day ban (19-21 May) for using his whip on Just The Judge without allowing sufficient time to respond.
Sheikh Fahad was gracious in defeat. He said: “She ran a fabulous race. She came there to win, she got to the front and looked like the winner from a long way out, but Hughesie has also ridden a great race.”
Moth had been supplemented for £30,000 after landing a Curragh maiden and overcame apparent inexperience for third.
Twenty-four hours earlier at Newmarket, Dawn Approach extended his unbeaten run to seven with an emphatic five-length success in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas. Even more exciting is the fact that an assault on the Investec Derby at Epsom now looks increasingly likely.
He was supplemented for Epsom at the second entry stage and, as long as Sheikh Mohammed gives Jim Bolger the nod, the chestnut colt will bid to emulate his sire, New Approach, who won the Derby in 2008.
Kevin Manning and Dawn Approach were soon in an unstoppable position and it was 150-1 shot Glory Awaits who held on to second place with the Hannon pair of Van Der Neer and Toronado third and fourth.
Bolger said: “I felt if he ran up to his best form, he would win the race but I wasn’t prepared for what he did. I was very impressed. I don’t know about the Derby. Sheikh Mohammed and myself said we would sleep on it and take it from there. He he can only improve.”