Sky Lantern: Coronation Stakes winner takes on Moonlight CloudPICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Lantern out to give Hannon last hurrah
Preview: Hong Kong, Sunday 7.50am GMT (live on ATR)
Sha Tin: Longines Hong Kong Mile (Group 1) 1m, turf, 3yo+
SKY LANTERN, the last big-race runner of Richard Hannon's illustrious training career, will in Sunday's Mile attempt to overcome a troubled arrival in Hong Kong and the presence of French megastar Moonlight Cloud to give her trainer a glorious send-off at Sha Tin.
The 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes winner has been an object of intense curiosity in her public workouts at Sha Tin this week after it was reported she was initially subdued after arriving in the Far East. There were mixed impressions of her earlier in the week but in Friday's work under the warm winter sun she was looking in far better shape.
"She was a bit quiet when she arrived but she's fine now and she's good to go," said Richard Hannon jnr, who is to take over the reins from his father on January 1. "She'll be his last runner in a big race, so hopefully she'll make him proud. She's done that so far."
If Sky Lantern is to give her trainer a triumphant finish to his 43-year training career she will likely need to be at her very best to overcome the outstanding Moonlight Cloud, who is on a three-race Group 1 winning spree.
"Moonlight Cloud is a worthy favourite but we relish a challenge and our filly is very good on her day too," said Hannon. "We'd like to see some speed, which would play to Sky Lantern's strengths, but if not she can be handier. I'm sure she's in top form."
The only chink in Moonlight Cloud's armour appears to be her eighth-placed finish on her only long-haul international appearance to date, in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita last year. Indeed, she has never won outside France.
"She looks well but you never know, she ran poorly at Santa Anita last year so that is a question mark," admitted trainer Freddy Head. However, he added: "I think she's a better mare now. She's great and she was very impressive this year in all her runs."
The Mile has not fallen to an overseas raider since 2005. The home contingent's leading hope of prolonging that run appears to be Irish import Gold-Fun, who has rapidly risen to the top of the miling division in Hong Kong and is unbeaten in his last three runs at Sha Tin.