WILTSHIRE trainer Richard Hannon admitted to a palpable sense of relief after Toronado lived up to every possible expectation in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Despite having not seen a racecourse for 300 days, much was demanded of the High Chaparral colt, whose connections could hardly have been more ebullient in the build-up to the meeting’s curtain-raiser.
Be that as it may, the burden of expectation must have been oppressive for the West Isley handler, who was having his first Royal runner after his father, Richard Hannon snr, passed on the baton to become his son’s assistant.
The Hannons need not have worried. Toronado was outstanding.
“That’s taken the pressure off massively,” said Hannon.
“It’s lovely to get the meeting off to a start like that.
“The car’s parked outside and I might go now and leave the rest of it up to my assistant.”
It will have become apparent to Hannon from an early stage of the Queen Anne that Richard Hughes’ companion was in a most combative frame of mind.
The 4-5 favourite nonchalantly tracked pacemaker Mull Of Killough and a clutch of other horses from some way off the pace, and did not show any discernible traits of keenness which have occasionally blotted an otherwise fine copybook.
French challenger Anodin was the first of the protagonists to make a decisive move a furlong and a half from home, at which stage he was joined in unison by eventual runner-up Verrazano.
The landscape of the Group One soon shifted markedly, though, as Toronado ghosted clear on the outside of that duo, stretching three-quarters of a length clear without Hughes ever having to get too serious in the saddle.
Next up for the Al Shaqab Racing-owned four-year-old is an attempt at winning back-to-back renewals of the Sussex Stakes on July 30.
Worryingly for his rivals at Goodwood, Hannon believes Toronado will have made even more progress by next month.
He said: “I thought he blew up 100 yards towards the line, but he got the job done well.
“He will have needed that run and will improve a fair bit for it.
“We’ll stick to a mile with him. The Sussex Stakes is highly likely, there’s also the Marois, but Olympic Glory will probably run in that, and then later there’s the QEII.
“He’s always looked superhuman. He’s a gorgeous-looking horse.”
Verrazano, an import from the United States, appears set for a step up in trip.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “I’m delighted with him. That was a big run, I’d say an improvement from the Lockinge.
“He got warm, but he got warm before the Lockinge, didn’t he?
“I don’t think it bothers him.
“He kept going well and will get a bit further so all those races like the Eclipse, Juddmonte and Irish Champion are open to him.”
Anodin could renew rivalry with Toronado at Goodwood, with trainer Freddy Head saying: “We’ll see how he is nearer the time.
“He just lack a bit of acceleration, but he is a good horse nonetheless.”