Doncaster: St Leger Holding Out For A Hero

Gregory is one of nine colts in the St Leger on Saturday | Megan Ridgwell


   It would be brave to call the winner of Saturday's G1 Betfred St Leger and at this stage difficult to even decide what will start favourite for a wide-open renewal of the Doncaster Classic. There is very little separating the obvious trio of Continuous (Jpn) (Heart's Cry {Jpn}), Arrest (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and Gregory (GB) (Golden Horn {GB}), while even Desert Hero (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) could yet threaten for pole position in the market given his Royal status. Each one has yet to prove themselves at this level, with Continuous and Arrest well-beaten when contesting the European Classics this summer before staging their comebacks in their preps. Doncaster's unforgiving final Classic of the season will stretch the elastic and only one will truly stay the course.

Ballydoyle know what it takes to win this and the number one is Continuous, who comes from the race's premier trial, York's G2 Great Voltigeur S. While the race was set up perfectly for his hold-up style, there was much to like about the fluency with which he dealt with Gregory and co. and Ryan Moore was never going to ride anything else.

“People talk about the tactics that day, but just focus on the fact that he won the best trial for this Classic by nearly four lengths, with Gregory back in third, and he was very strong at the line,” he stated. “Of course, you never know they stay until you try and maybe quicker ground may have been ideal with stamina in mind, but he won on soft ground in France at two and he has very strong credentials.”

Gregory was carrying a three-pound penalty returning from a break in the Voltigeur, having won Royal Ascot's G2 Queen's Vase, and probably set off too fast on the Knavesmire but that performance has obviously failed to keep Frankie interested. This is a big day for the soon-to-be-retired figurehead of the sport, so it is significant that he opts instead for Juddmonte's Arrest.

Siding with Arrest is a gamble, given he was beating probably a substandard field in the G3 Geoffrey Freer S. at Newbury last month, but if it gets softer there is the memory of his heavy defeat of Adelaide River (Ire) (Australia {GB}) in the G3 Chester Vase on testing ground in May. Juddmonte's European racing manager Barry Mahon is aware of the gravitas surrounding Frankie's decision. “It would be special and it's a hot race, it's certainly hard to dismiss much in the race. They are all of a similar level and it's definitely quality over quantity,” he said.

“In fairness to the horse, his record is pretty solid and we made two bad calls with the horse running him on good-to-firm ground at Epsom and [Royal] Ascot. We know he likes an ease in the ground and if you forget those two runs, then his record is pretty outstanding. Over a mile and five and a half at Newbury he looked comfortable enough, so we just have to be hopeful he gets the extra furlong.”

Arrest's trainer John Gosden also has Gregory and Qatar Racing's Melrose H. winner Middle Earth (GB) (Roaring Lion) and he started with Wathnan Racing's representative. “He's got a great mind and he is a pretty laid-back character,” he said. “I trained both the mother and father and he's inherited all the good traits of their mental attitude towards racing. We gave him all the time he required and he's done nothing but shine this year. I think he'll enjoy the distance, although we are perfectly aware it looks like being a vintage St Leger.”

Of Middle Earth, he added, “He's proven he stays the trip and the long straight here tests the tactical speed and the stamina, so he looks like he should be able to answer those two calls. If you'd won a handicap in the style he did at York, that was a tougher race than some of the trials. If you've got the right horse at the right time and he handles the ground, then he has every right to be there.”

The King & The Queen's G3 Gordon S.-winning TDN Rising Star Desert Hero would be the first winner in the Royal colours in this since Dunfermline in 1977, so it would be some landmark. Trainer William Haggas told QIPCO British Champions Series, “I think it would mean the world to everyone in our industry. We have been fortunate for so long to have such stoic Royal patronage, and anything that can enhance that will be good. He won on soft ground at Goodwood and on faster ground at Ascot, so I don't think the ground is a worry. Soft ground will put more emphasis on stamina, but if he relaxes he should stay.”


Rosallion Kicks Off Action In The Champagne

Doncaster's action starts with the G2 Betfred Champagne S., where Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum's impressive Listed Pat Eddery S. winner Rosallion (Ire) (Blue Point {Ire}) has command on all known form. His four-length defeat of Al Musmak (Ire) (Night Of Thunder {Ire}) looks even better now that the runner-up has won the Listed Ascendant S. and we could be dealing with one of Britain's leading 2000 Guineas hopes. Teme Valley and Ballylinch Stud's G2 Vintage S. runner-up Iberian (Ire) (Lope De Vega {Ire}) is the main threat, having finished ahead of Ballydoyle's Mountain Bear (Ire) (No Nay Never) in that Goodwood contest, but anything other than a convincing win for the Richard Hannon trainee will be an anti-climax.

Hannon said of Rosallion, “We were delighted with his run at Ascot and he's come forward a good bit since then. Al Musmak won very well at Haydock and he looks a nice horse, so that was very pleasing. We've won it with Threat, Chindit and Estidhkaar. It's a nice race and it comes at a good time for the big races in the autumn and hopefully this is a nice race on the way to the Dewhurst.”

Charlie Hills said of Iberian, “He ran a good race at Goodwood, but second time out round that track from a bad draw, a combination of track, inexperience and ground caught him out that day. He was a bit on and off the bridle. I was really pleased with how he finished up the straight and I've always liked him. His work has been really good leading up to this race and I would say this racecourse is going to suit him better. He is a very straightforward horse to train at home and his temperament and everything about him is really good.”



Cachet Confirmed For Sceptre Return

Sunday's card at Doncaster has been boosted by the first sighting of last year's G1 1000 Guineas heroine Cachet (Ire) (Aclaim {Ire}) in the seven-furlong G3 Japan Racing Association Sceptre Fillies' S. Highclere Thoroughbred Racing's star has been off since finishing fifth in the G1 Coronation S. last June and trainer George Boughey is happy to get her back on the track. “She's in as good a form as I could have her considering the lay-off she's had,” he said. “She's been away to Chelmsford and we worked her at Kempton on Thursday morning. She's worked in between on fast ground at home in Newmarket.”

Also on Sunday, Frankie Dettori continue his farewell tour as he takes to Bro Park to partner the defending G3 Stockholm Cup International winner Hard One To Please (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}) in his defence of the feature contest.

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