First-time owners feeling the love as Happy Romance flies home

Happy Romance breaks away from the field in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury on Saturday
Happy Romance breaks away from the field in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury on SaturdayCredit: Mark Cranham

The world has become a very different place in 2020, but if ever there was a sign normality was on its way back it might be seeing the Hannon name attached to the winner of the Super Sprint and the stable was celebrating its tenth triumph in the race after Happy Romance's impressive performance.

Richard Hannon snr became synonymous with the contest, which is for horses bought at certain sales for less than £63,000, and won it seven times, a tradition that has continued with his son Richard now at the helm.

A daughter of Dandy Man ridden by Sean Levey, Happy Romance came well under budget for the prize when bought by the yard's transfer gurus Ross and Peter Doyle for £25,000 last year and it was money well spent as she quickened to a decisive victory as the 100-30 favourite.

Beaten under five lengths when fifth in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot, the juvenile is the first horse owned by the Basingstoke-based McMurray family and is named with husband and wife Ray and Claire's 30th wedding anniversary this year in mind.

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"This is our first horse and it's the first time we've been able to come racing to see her," said Ray, deflecting most of the credit for getting involved to son Oliver – an "encyclopedia of racing" according to Hannon.

"We can't believe it. Oliver helped choose the horse and dragged me along. Richard has been fantastic, great to us, while Richard snr has some fantastic stories – he's a great raconteur. We're living the dream."

Oliver McMurray's smile matched his father's.

"I like my horse racing and went through quite a few horses before we came to this one," he said. "I looked around at a lot of trainers, but you need a bit of luck and it's all come together with her.

"Dad was actually on holiday and I knew his details and email, so I registered his interest in the horse. He then rang me up from Italy and said, 'Why the bloody hell have I just had a call from Richard Hannon about a horse?!'

"Two weeks later we left the yard having bought this lovely little filly and the rest is history."

Foot perfect: Happy Romance was bought for just £25,000 by first-time owners the McMurray family
Foot perfect: Happy Romance was bought for just £25,000 by first-time owners the McMurray familyCredit: Mark Cranham

Hannon is looking firmly forward with Happy Romance and believes there are other big days in her, but he was keen to underline the importance of the Super Sprint, which, at £150,000, was worth £100,000 less than its original pre-coronavirus total.

"This is their first horse," he explained before exclaiming: "That's ridiculous – they don't know how hard it is to find one like this, but we need new people coming into this sport and that's what this race is about.

"It's so important for racing and for them to get such a good prize in a race on ITV on what's normally a big day."

The trainer, whose Super Sprints came via Tiggy Wiggy in 2014 and two years ago with Ginger Nut, added: "Happy Romance doesn't look like a two-year-old, the sort who come here for what is their Derby day. I feel this filly is going to improve and is a filly for next year."

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James BurnLambourn correspondent