Eighth as the 5-2 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) in November at Santa Anita Park after winning the Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I) in October at the Curragh, Sky Lantern improved off a runner-up finish in her 2013 season debut in the Nell Gwyn Stakes (Eng-III) April 17 at Newmarket. Sent off at 9-1 odds in the Guineas, she provided veteran jockey Richard Hughes with his first British classic victory.
After a steady early pace set by Masarah, a three-way battle ensued a quarter-mile out between Just The Judge, Sky Lantern, and Winning Express down the center of the Rowley Mile course. Sky Lantern had stamina to spare and surged the final 50 yards for the win.
Winning Express started to back out of it as the finish line approached, and Joseph O'Brien seized the opportunity with Curragh maiden winner Moth. She drove between horses a furlong out and grabbed third, 1 1/2 lengths back, and just a nose in front of Winning Express.
Previously unbeaten Hot Snap, the 5-2 favorite, raced in touch early but had nothing extra a quarter-mile out. Just The Judge led inside the final furlong but could not hold on to his advantage in the fighting finish.
Owned by Hong Kong businessman Ben Keswick, Sky Lantern finished second to Hot Snap in the Nell Gwyn after conceding three pounds to the winner courtesy of her victory in the 2012 Moyglare Stud Stakes. The gray filly would not be denied in the Guineas.
"They didn't go over fast; it was all about giving her plenty of cover," Hughes told England's Press Association. "She was tough to see it out to the line.
"I believed in this filly. I knew I gave her a bad ride (in the Nell Gwyn), but she's a good filly and loves that fast ground. It's thoroughly deserved."
Trained by Hughes' father-in-law, Richard Hannon, Sky Lantern covered the straight one mile in 1:36.38. Sky Lantern improved to four wins and three seconds from eight career starts.
In addition to her Moyglare Stud Stakes win, her record includes a victory in the Coolmore Stud Naas Juvenile Fillies Sprint last June. That came before finishing second to eventual European champion 2-year-old filly Certify in the German Thoroughbred.com Sweet Solera Stakes (Eng-III) Aug. 11 at Newmarket, and second to One Thousand Guineas 12th-place finisher Ollie Olga in the Whiteley Clinic Prestige Stakes (Eng-II) two weeks later at Goodwood. She earned an automatic starting sport in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with her 2 1/2 length win in the Moyglare Stud Stakes as the race was part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series.
Qatari Sheikh Fahad al Thani's Just The Judge, who is raced in partnership with the Sangster family, was making her season debut after capping a perfect 3-for-3 juvenile campaign in Vision.ae Rockfel Stakes (Eng-II) Oct. 13 at Newmarket for trainer Charlie Hills.
Sheikh Fahad praised his filly's effort.
"She came there to win, she got to the front and looked like the winner from a long way out, but Hughesie has also ridden a great race.
"Sky Lantern has had a run (this season) and we haven't. I'm still pretty confident we can change it around later in the season."
Bred by Tally Ho Stud out of the Shareef Dancer mare Shawanni, Sky Lantern is a half sister to three stakes winners, including English group winners Shanty Star and Arctic. Her grandam is English champion 2-year-old filly Negligent, who finished third in the 1990 One Thousand Guineas. Shareef Dancer is a half sister to French group III winner Songlark and United Arab Emirates group III winner Blatant, who was group I-placed in England and Italy.
Sky Lantern is from the second crop of European champion sprinter Red Clubs, who died in 2011 after being injured in a breeding shed accident. She is his top offspring among five stakes winners, including four group winners.