Toronado (right) drives clear of Verrazano (left) in the Queen AnnePICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Toronado blows away rivals in Queen Anne
Report: Royal Ascot, Tuesday
Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) 1m, 4yo+
TORONADO swept to victory in the opening race at Royal Ascot 2014, staying on strongly under champion rider Richard Hughes to see off the challenges of Verrazano and Anodin.
Hughes had promised Toronado would "take the breath away" on the first run of his four-year-old season and the colt delivered in style, accelerating steadily from near the back of the field to clinch victory within the final furlong.
"That was like switching a light on," said Hughes. "He was so relaxed and lazy in the race.
"I think any horseman in the world would believe he is a great horse that could win this before the race."
It was a second Group 1 for Toronado, who took the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last season by finally defeating his great rival, the 2013 2,000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach, on the third of their meetings.
Toronado, trained by Richard Hannon, returned the 4-5 favourite after support for his main market rivals Verrazano and Soft Falling Rain appeared to dwindle in the run-up to the race.
US import Verrazano, a Grade 1 winner on dirt across the Atlantic, had made a decent British debut when third in the Lockinge at Newbury and was expected to improve for this, but ominously was one of the first off the bridle.
However, the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt stayed on well from the rear to join Toronado and French colt Anodin in a line of three at the front of the field with about a furlong still to run.
Yet it was Hughes's Toronado who stayed on stoutest, forging three-quarters of a length clear by the line.
Hannon said: "It is great - wonderful to get the meeting off to a start like that. Toronado did it very well. He is settling much better this year and Hughesie rode him with all the confidence in the world.
"I was nervous this morning and am starting to feel a bit better now. Royal Ascot is such a great place and it is brilliant for the owner - he is sending plenty of horses our way.
"It was a pretty smooth success - he is a nice horse. He probably needed that and got tired approaching the line. He was awesome today and will come on for the race - he had not run for a long time. It was important to get him back and winning.
"We will talk to [owner] Sheikh Joaan and [racing manager] Harry Herbert, but I would have thought we would be going for the Prix Jacques Le Marois or the Qipco Sussex Stakes. Then maybe the Prix Moulin, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and the Breeders' Cup, but we will see."
The win was a first of the meeting for Sheikh Joaan, who said: "The team did well. Richard and the guys put the horse back on the track and it's a good start for a great week, hopefully. Hopefully it will keep on going and tomorrow will also be a big race with Treve. We have this luck, let's hope it continues."
Sheikh Joaan did not have long to wait to return to the winning enclosure - his The Wow Signal triumphed in the following race, the Coventry Stakes.
O'Brien said of Verrazano: "That was a lovely run and I’d say it’s a step up from Newbury.
"He was warm before the start but he did that before the Lockinge and I don’t think that bothers him.
"He tried hard today and kept going, he looks like he’ll get further. The lads will decide but the Eclipse, Juddmonte and Irish Champion are all open to him."