Lethal Force (grey) beat Strong Suit in the Betfred Hungerford StakesPICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
Lethal Kirby forces rivals to race for second
Report: Newbury, Saturday
Betfred Hungerford Stakes (Group 2) 7f, 3yo+
A LOT was expected of the Hungerford Stakes, with many envisaging a return to form for Richard Hannon's Strong Suit and an authoritative display, but he was forced to play second fiddle to a fantastic ride by Adam Kirby.
It was sheer opportunism from the talented Kirby, who has been threatening to break into the weighing room's elite ever since winning this last year on Excelebration.
It was yet another reminder of his ability in the saddle, getting the better of his eight opponents on the little-fancied three-year-old and leaving several of his colleagues red-faced.
Strong Suit, who travelled strongly under Ryan Moore, emerged best of those to race some way behind Lethal Force. He was the only one to close the gap inside the final furlong, eventually wearing down the longtime leader and forcing a photo-finish close home. Alanza took third, with Soul, who was supported into favouritism, a disappointing sixth.
Lethal Force was Clive Cox's third runner in the Hungerford in the last ten years, and he improved the Lambourn-based trainer's record in the race to two firsts and a second.
An ebullient Cox said: "We thought we'd fit the blinkers and change the tactics - and it worked! We've always rated him and knew he was capable of a performance like that.
"After he was fourth at Royal Ascot the owners turned down a big offer from overseas and thank goodness they did. He may run in the Park Stakes."