Humour at a premium for Hannon as Royal Ascot looms

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Every race at Royal Ascot is like a Derby, says leading trainer Richard Hannon Junior

Every race at Royal Ascot is like a Derby, says leading trainer Richard Hannon Junior (AFP Photo/Adrian DENNIS)

Marlborough (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Leading English trainer Richard Hannon Junior is blessed with self-deprecatory humour, but that quality will be tested by how his horses run at Royal Ascot this week.

The 43-year-old -- who was crowned champion trainer after taking over from his legendary father Richard in 2014 -- says every race "is a Derby" at the prestigious meeting which boasts the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II.

Hannon Jr, whose father is still very much part of the team, tasted immediate success at the meeting when his first runner Toronado won the Queen Anne Stakes five years ago.

"There are a lot of big meetings, where they've got prestigious races or good prize money, but Ascot is by far and away above them all," Hannon told AFP at his impressive Herridge Racing Stables.

"Every race is a Derby. Everybody in racing who is ever going to be of any use to you is there and everybody will know you've had a winner. It's very important."

Hannon, who has had four winners at the meeting since Toronado triumphed, says you have to take disappointment in your stride even though it might stick in your craw.

"Ascot is a funny one because you get so many kicks in the balls along the way, and you have to go up to so many people and say, 'Well done'," he said.

"I mean it but don't think for one minute that I wouldn't rather it was me. That is life. You need a winner and if it doesn't happen, it's a long week.

"I remember when Toronado won the first race in 2014 then everything else got stuffed, everyone kept on coming up saying 'well done' as they did not realise the disasters that had come along afterwards."

- 'Champion fat trainer' -

Hannon, who has around 300 horses and recorded an impressive 172 winners last year, says it is not a case of unconditional love with Royal Ascot.

"Some say it is only a horse race, get over it," he says.

"Yes, there are wars and ill health, but in my world Royal Ascot is important. Okay I am not for a moment saying it is as important as those things but it is a massive thing.

"I don't always like Royal Ascot, wearing a path under that tunnel to welcome back unplaced horses becomes a pain in the arse."

Hannon's wife Jemima will be hoping the likes of classy two-year-old Threat and Anna Nerium produce the goods as it will dictate what sort of mood he is in for a short break after the meeting.

"Ascot affects everything in your life," he said.

"I'm not going if something doesn't win -— and if I do go, I'm not sure I'll be a very nice man."

"We are going to the South of France -- not the expensive part -- but a couple of days does me and in any case my yacht is being serviced," he added with a trademark cheeky grin.

Hannon, who jokes his father still takes most of the wages, said training was a natural habitat for him even though he admires those who work in the City.

"I never really thought about doing anything else, which is really sad," he said.

"My grandfather (Harry) was a trainer, my dad's a trainer, I've got f*** all imagination and I'm probably not very bright, so I ended up doing the same thing.

"That's what they say: if you've got a thick member of the family, put him in the family business."

Despite all his achievements, Hannon's exploits have yet to hit home with his seven-year-old daughter Eliza.

"I tell Eliza what I do.

"She goes in (to school) the next day and the kids say, 'My dad is a butcher; my dad is a banker; my dad is a doctor'. Eliza gets up and says, 'My dad is champion fat trainer'. Not Flat —- fat."