Leger wake-up call for Alexius

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The Independent Online

The length of his handsome neck separated Alexius from Demophilos at the end of the Gordon Stakes here yesterday, but this was a race in which the first strides mattered far more than the last. When the stalls snapped open and the rest of the runners got to work, Alexius pressed snooze, and by the time he hauled himself into a gallop, he had given a talented field a 10-length start. That he could still win, and win with something in hand, suggested to many that they had just seen a Classic winner.

The length of his handsome neck separated Alexius from Demophilos at the end of the Gordon Stakes here yesterday, but this was a race in which the first strides mattered far more than the last. When the stalls snapped open and the rest of the runners got to work, Alexius pressed snooze, and by the time he hauled himself into a gallop, he had given a talented field a 10-length start. That he could still win, and win with something in hand, suggested to many that they had just seen a Classic winner.

Twelve months ago, Millenary won the Gordon on his way to success in the St Leger, and it is unlikely that there will be a more impressive trial for the final Classic between now and mid-September. In the paddock, Alexius has the splayed-out walk of John Wayne on the way to a showdown, but at racing speed he has a fluid gallop which stands no argument. He reeled in most of the field with three furlongs still to run, and then set off after Demophilos, who had kicked a couple of lengths clear. He caught him at the furlong pole, and when the runner-up found a little more, Alexius called and raised. The form book will insist that he won by a neck, but it could have been half a dozen lengths.

It was no surprise to find him cut to 3-1 for the St Leger, the one British Classic which both Sir Michael Stoute and Kieren Fallon have yet to win, before he was halfway back to the winners' enclosure. Coral offer just 5-2 (from 10-1).

Fallon appeared to be losing half a pound a minute in sweat as he talked over the race afterwards, but it was his coolness under pressure which kept Alexius in the race. "When that happens you've got to put them to sleep behind the field," he said, "and if they're good enough, they'll find a way through. If you chase them along early you burn them up and you've nothing to finish with. Luckily he was good enough to overcome all the obstacles today, and he's a horse with a lot of improvement in him. Every time I asked him, he dug deep and gave it to me. He's such a genuine horse."

Another colt with a future is Mister Cosmi, who won the Richmond Stakes and now goes to York for the Gimcrack, although Mark Johnston, his trainer, believes that he has at least one, and possibly two, better juveniles at home. One, Scottish River, was due to be the yard's Richmond runner until suffering a minor accident at home on Monday, while Leo's Luckyman runs in the Vintage Stakes this afternoon.

"I thought I had come here with a very strong team of two-year-olds," Johnston said, "and I was pretty sure he would go close. He looks as if he will stay seven furlongs, but he has so much natural speed that he can certainly stay at six for now."

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