10/29/2012 2:24PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf: Sky Lantern can turn things around for hard-luck Hannon


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sky Lantern, who might be favored in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf on Friday, shipped to Santa Anita from England this past weekend. By all accounts her flight went fine, and Sky Lantern was scheduled for her first North American training session Tuesday morning. So far, so good. But her trainer, Richard Hannon, surely won’t rest easy until Sky Lantern has come through her race without incident.

To date, Hannon and American racing have mixed poorly. The 67-year-old, a three-time champion trainer in England, has run 13 horses in the United States, and none has won. His Breeders’ Cup luck has been even worse. His first starter, Showbrook, was eased in the 1991 Juvenile. The next year, Mr Brooks fatally broke down in the Sprint, a race in which Surprise Offer finished 10th in 1993.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]

Hannon didn’t return to the Breeders’ Cup until 2010, when Paco Boy turned in a decent performance coming home fourth in the Mile (Tale Untold was 11th in the Juvenile Fillies Turf), but even that time there was an issue, when Hannon’s groom’s name popped up on the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list. And last year, days before Strong Suit finished 10th in the Mile, Hannon’s son, Richard Jr., was one of several overseas trainers involved in a standoff with Churchill Downs officials when Churchill, reacting to a moderate rain shower, closed its turf course for training moments before the Euros were scheduled to work over it. Richard Hannon Jr. said that morning the decision “ruined our chances” in the Mile.

In Sky Lantern, though, the Hannon stable sends a formidable entrant for the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Sky Lantern won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes on Sept. 9 at the Curragh, earning a fees-paid berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program, and that very afternoon her connections expressed interest in shipping to Santa Anita.
“She’s the best chance we’ve had in a Breeders’ Cup race by a long way,” Richard Jr., assistant to his father, said Monday.

Sky Lantern, a gray filly by Red Clubs, has raced five times on four different courses, with three wins and two seconds. She has run her race every time out while racing on a wide variety of course conditions, and Richard Jr. said the fast-playing turf at Santa Anita should be to the filly’s liking.

All Sky Lantern needs now is a little Breeders’ Cup luck – something for which her human connections are long overdue.