Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Page 76

Starters Orders
Britain’s Hannon family has been
picking winning horses for three
decades. Current head of the
stables, Richard Hannon Jnr, tells
Colin Cameron about friends
with four legs and legacies
rom now until December,
Richard Hannon Jnr will
accumulate some £2 million
of personal debt, buying
yearlings “on spec” at
bloodstock sales from Newmarket
to Doncaster. He will then find owners
for them ahead of next year’s Flat Racing
season. Certainly gets you off your arse,
he laughs, perhaps only partly in jest.
The urgency is beyond money. There
is a family reputation at stake. Hannon
took over his father Richard’s Hampshire
stables in 2014 after 12 years as his
assistant, helping with anything from
driving the horsebox to everything else.
Richard Snr had saddled more than 4,000
winners over 60 years at Everleigh and
Herridge stables (formerly a stud), which
make up the operation today, and was
crowned champion trainer three times.
His own father was also at Everleigh.
Richard Snr also saddled a quartet of
British classic winners. His son matched
this benchmark in his first season as
licence holder with Night of Thunder’s
success in the 2000 Guineas. Then, in
2018, Billesdon Brook brought home the
1,000 Guineas. Ah, The Classics, sighs
Jnr. Those races wake you up in the
morning (as do huge overdrafts).
Rather than a nuanced approach to the
bloodstock market based on his ‘A’ Level
in Economics, Hannon’s strategy is to “be
brave, take a risk, and don’t be a fool”.
The overdrafts do weigh on his shoulders,
he says. “Clear by Christmas,” he hopes.
Hannon Snr will help. “Two heads are
better than one,” his son maintains. The
elder Hannon famously played drums for
The Troggs before accepting the family
calling. Today, his son is the beneficiary
of 45 years in the racing game. “The ethos
of the yard is the same,” Hannon Jnr says,
recalling successes such as Paco Boy and
Canford Cliffs at Royal Ascot. “Growing
up, I remember the owners would often
come to the yard on Sundays. Dad would
say, ‘Be polite. Talk to those who’ve made
the effort to come see their horses. Enjoy
any success. Always have fun.’”
His search at the sales is for what his
followers would immediately recognise
as a “Hannon type”. “You get a feel for
what a good horse should look like,”
Hannon confides. “We have a horse here
called Oh This Is Us. I want a statue of
him. Never sound. Even needs X-rays for
trips to the races so the stewards can see
there’s nothing wrong with him. A
double-figures winner. Brilliant.”
Hannon laughs – often. He recalls
following his father’s runners at school
on a transistor. His PE master would also
have his ear pressed up against the radio,
most memorably when Tirol won the
2,000 Guineas in 1990. An impromptu
lap of honour of the athletics track to
mark a hefty winning bet left bystanders
confused, as the school had a far-fromgold standard performance that day.
You might imagine Hannon to be
a punter. After all, in the play Jeffrey
Bernard is Unwell, the trainer who parks
his baby triplets on the sofa and takes
bets on which one is a girl is based on
him (and his siblings). He is actually not
much of a betting man. The game’s hard
enough as it is, he reasons. “After I’ve
saddled a loser, the last thing I want to do
is hand over five grand to a bookmaker.”
annon’s advice for the turf is
simple: Don’t look for clues that
aren’t there. Take the times when
his stable has two runners in a race at
different odds – like the 2000 Guineas in
2014, when Night of Thunder won at
odds of 40-1 and he had also saddled the
more fancied Toormore at 15/2, ridden by
the then-stable jockey, Richard Hughes.
“People can be too literal. They see who
we’ve booked as jockeys and think the
senior rider is the one we fancy to win,”
he says. “But arrangements can be based
on something as simple as the jockeys
riding for owners they have represented
before.” Sometimes there’s nothing to see.
A good bet would have been to wager
on any Hannon first. After all, his debut
runner as a trainer won in January 2014.
His first runner at Royal Ascot also won
that year, as did His first runner in a
Classic race. Hannon hopes to join us for
Boisdale’s Starter’s Orders Flat Season
preview supper next year. No overdraft
by then, all being well. If your own has
mounted, he might be able to help. Not
least with his winning habit.

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