Donn's Articles » Two Legers, one question

Two Legers, one question

Early start for David Wachman tomorrow. Galileo Rock’s trainer reportedly has an appointment with Doncaster’s clerk of the course Roderick Duncan on Town Moor at 5.20am, just when you are putting the baby back to bed. It is unlikely that the trainer will be staying up to watch the end of The Late Late Show this evening.

It would be a real shame if the soft ground de-railed Galileo Rock’s Ladbrokes St Leger plan. The last 10 renewals of the oldest Classic have been run on ground that has been officially described as (respectively, oldest first) good, good to firm, heavy, good, good to firm, soft, good to firm, good, good to firm and good, so Wachman was well within his rights to expect the ground to come up either good or fast. On 10-year-trends, that eventuality was value at 2/7.

Not so now, with good to soft already on the board, spits at Doncaster this evening and 4mm predicted overnight, and that is frustrating for the Galileo Rock camp. The Galileo colt won his maiden on his racecourse debut as a juvenile at Leopardstown last August on soft ground, but he is at his best on good flat racing ground, as he demonstrated when he finished third in the Epsom Derby and again when he chased home Trading Leather in the Irish Derby.

The Epsom form has taken a few knocks since, but the form of the Irish race is rock solid. Trading Leather finished second to the current Arc favourite in the fastest King George ever run on his next outing, while the fourth-placed horse was Cap O’Rushes, who won the Gordon Stakes on his next run, beating the (admittedly a little unlucky) Leger favourite Excess Knowledge into second place.

Even if Galileo Rock is re-routed from Doncaster, however, there is still a strong Irish challenge, headed up by the Ballydoyle duo Leading Light and Foundry. Leading Light has proven his stamina for the Leger trip by winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot over two miles. That isn’t always a positive in the context of the Leger, in that, they say, if you know they stay the trip, they are probably too slow to win the race. That gem is also rolled out perennially for the Derby, mind you, and it was turned on its head this year by Ruler Of The World, the only horse in the Epsom line-up who was proven over the distance.

On top of that, Leading Light won the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes over 10 furlongs on his penultimate run. He is not devoid of pace.

The fact that Joseph O’Brien rides Leading Light and not Foundry is obviously significant, but it had to have been a marginal call. Also, Joseph has never ridden Foundry in a race. He was on Breeders’ Cup duty when the Galileo colt won his maiden at Leopardstown under Seamie Heffernan in November, and the 8st 12lb of the Great Voltigeur is just lighter than Joseph tends to go these days. On top of that, you are never going to complain when Ryan Moore is the deputy.

Foundry is probably the most interesting horse in the Leger line-up. He didn’t make it to the racecourse until last November, when he stayed on resolutely to win a back-end maiden over seven furlongs at Leopardstown on soft ground, sparking tentative Derby talk in the process.

It took him a while to make it into public view this term as well, but it is significant that Aidan O’Brien started him off in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes, a race that is right up there with the Gordon Stakes as a Leger trial. He ran a cracker that day as well to get to within a length and a quarter of Telescope, with three of the Gordon Stakes protagonists Secret Number, Spillway and Cap O’Rushes, behind him.

It is probable that Foundry will improve for that experience, his seasonal debut and just the second run of his life. His stamina is not guaranteed, but he stayed a mile and a half well in the Great Voltiguer and, by stamina influence Galileo from the family of Bien Bien, a Grade 1 winner over a mile and six furlongs, he has every chance of getting the trip.

Doncaster’s loss could literally be The Curragh’s gain. If Galileo Rock is re-routed to the (Gain) Irish St Leger at HQ on Sunday, he would be the only three-year-old in the line-up in a race which – somewhat curiously for a Classic – has not been won by a member of the Classic generation since Vinnie Roe won the first of his four in 2001.

Even if the youngster is absent, it is an intriguing contest. Last year’s winner Royal Diamond – Antipodean plans on hold for now – is back for more. Andrew Tinkler’s horse is now seven, but he is in the form of his life. The performance that he put up to win the Irish St Leger Trial over Sunday’s course and distance was up there with the best of his career, and this is his time of year.

The Johnny Murtagh-trained gelding had Ernest Hemingway five lengths behind him in third when he landed the trial race, but he was the beneficiary of an astute front-running ride from his trainer that day. Also, it is probable that that was not the Ballydoyle horse’s true running.

Ernest Hemingway had beaten Royal Diamond by a half a length in the Ballyroan Stakes, and he had beaten him by five lengths in the Curragh Cup. He looked like a real Irish Leger horse that day, possibly a Cup horse for next year. Sent off as favourite for the Dante last year on the back of a 10-length maiden win at Dundalk, the Galileo colt has run just eight times in his life, and he has significant scope for progression. He would not want the ground to get too soft at The Curragh but, on genuinely good ground, he has a massive chance.

Both Dermot Weld fillies have real chances in a race that the trainer has won six times with two horses. Pale Mimosa has run just five times in her life, and she looked good in beating subsequent Galway Hurdle heroine and Monday’s Listed race winner Missunited in the Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown in July on her only run this term to date, while Voleuse De Coeurs looked good in beating the same Missunited in a listed race at Navan in May, and has very little to find with Royal Diamond and Ernest Hemingway on the book. Pat Smullen rides Pale Mimosa, and that could be significant.

Red Cadeaux is a player if the rains arrive, and you would never have believed at the start of the season that Saddler’s Rock would be a 20/1 shot for the Irish St Leger. If the rains stay away, a return to last year’s Goodwood Cup form would give John Oxx’s horse a favourite’s chance.

Still all about the rains so.

©, 13th September 2013