Toronado held off Verrazano to win the 2014 Queen Anne Stakes.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Toronado held off Verrazano to win the 2014 Queen Anne Stakes.
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Mathea Kelley

Toronado Opens Season With Queen Anne Victory

While Verrazano places in a group I race in England for a second straight time.

Toronado proved up to the challenge of facing top competition in his seasonal debut when the 4-year-old held off a late challenge from Verrazano  to secure a three-quarter-length victory in the $637,500 Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-I) June 17 at Royal Ascot.

Competing at the straight mile for Al Shaqab Racing (Sheikh Joaan Al Thani), Toronado allowed Anodin to move first with about three furlongs remaining but jockey Richard Hughes and Toronado quickly engaged that rival and sailed past him to take command approaching the final furlong. Making just his second start in Europe, Verrazano rolled with Toronado but could not get past the winner, who completed the race in 1:37.73 on good turf.

The victory in the 2014 season debut of Irish-bred Toronado comes one year after the High Chaparral colt came up just a nose short in the St. James's Palace Stakes (Eng-I), where he finished second to Dawn Approach. Tuesday's group I score gives Toronado five group stakes wins in England, including last year's QIPCO Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) in July.

Toronado is the first Royal Ascot starter for Richard Hannon Jr., who took over for his father this season.

"It's lovely to get the meeting off to a start like that, he did it very well and is settling much better this year. Hughesie rode him with all the confidence in the world," Hannon told Sporting Life. "I was nervous this morning, I feel a bit better now. It's great to get a win. It's great for the Sheikh, he's put a lot of money in and it's nice to see him get his reward."

Verrazano, who secured a pair of grade I victories racing on dirt in the U.S. last year when he took the William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes and Wood Memorial Stakes while trained by Todd Pletcher, has fared well in his European campaign. After finishing third in the JLT Lockinge Stakes (Eng-I) May 17, the More Than Ready  colt earned a second European group I-placing in the Queen Anne.

Verrazano is campaigned by owners associated with John Magnier's Coolmore operation, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. When it was announced in February that Verrazano would remain in training, he was moved to the Ireland-based Ballydoyle Stables of trainer Aidan O'Brien.

The versatile Verrazano boasts two grade I wins in the U.S., and he has placed in three other group/grade I races.

Wertheimer and Frere's Anodin, who has twice placed in group I races in France, held third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Verrazano, to earn his first English group I placing.

In U.S. pari-mutuel pools, Toronado was sent off as the 4-5 favorite and returned $3.60 to win and $2.40 to place-show. Verrazano paid $3.60 to place-show. Third-place finisher Anodin returned $4.60.