Millenary shows a sense of occasion

Two colts, Millenary here and Giant's Causeway at Leopardstown, achieved landmark victories yesterday with roots two centuries apart. Millenary, named for the occasion, won the 2000 St Leger, the 224th edition of the venerable race. Half an hour later Giant's Causeway became the first horse in the 30 years of the European Pattern to win five successive Group One races in the same season as he inched home in the Irish Champion Stakes.

Two colts, Millenary here and Giant's Causeway at Leopardstown, achieved landmark victories yesterday with roots two centuries apart. Millenary, named for the occasion, won the 2000 St Leger, the 224th edition of the venerable race. Half an hour later Giant's Causeway became the first horse in the 30 years of the European Pattern to win five successive Group One races in the same season as he inched home in the Irish Champion Stakes.

The duel between the 11-4 favourite Millenary and Air Marshall (3-1) that resolved the St Leger and the three-year-old stayers' championship was a fitting celebration for the new Millennium of the oldest, longest and toughest Classic. In the face of a pedestrian early pace Dalampour, with proven stamina, was allowed by Pat Eddery to bowl into the lead up Rose Hill and still held the call, indeed quickened again, as he and his ten rivals turned to face the uncompromising Town Moor straight, nearly five furlongs long.

But a quarter of a mile out Millenary, always running close to the pace, ranged alongside and past and as Richard Quinn sent his partner, who had never tackled further than a mile and a half, on into uncharted territory Air Marshall, with John Reid in drive position, sluiced past Dalampour in his slipstream and battle was joined. Air Marshall inched ahead gamely, but it was Millenary who dug deepest to pass the searching examination of class, stamina, resolution and competitiveness that the St Leger provides.

The contest between the pair, the bay and the chestnut, was a stirring re-run of their meeting at Goodwood last month. Then, Millenary had swooped from behind to win in the last stride. Yesterday, on 3lb better terms but with the disadvantage of being the target, he stuck his head out and confirmed his superiority by three-quarters of a length. The Irish-trained 40-1 outsider Chimes At Midnight justified the decision to supplement him by staying on dourly for third, only a length adrift but without ever really threatening the first two. His compatriot Media Puzzle came home fourth as Dalampour faded.

It was a third St Leger for the trainer John Dunlop, after Moon Madness in 1986 and Silver Patriarch two years ago. And so near, again, for Sir Michael Stoute, now responsible for his third runner-up and yet to win a St Leger in 15attempts.

Quinn, after a copybook race, was donning the famous oversized St Leger cap in the winner's circle for the second time. He won 10 years ago on Snurge; on that occasion, too, he beat a horse trained by Stoute in the colours of Lord Weinstock, the filly Hellenic. "I was in front much sooner than I ideally wanted," he said, "Millenary was not really racing then, but when Air Marshall came up to us and headed us he grabbed hold of the bit, and was going away in the last 100 yards. He had a bit in reserve."

Dunlop has had one Classic near-miss this year, when Sakhee ran second to Sinndar in the Derby. "When the other horse came to us I thought oh no, Epsom again," he said. "But he fought back really well, like the brave horse he is. Apart from when he got bogged down on that very soft ground in the French Derby he has done nothing wrong as he has progressed through the season. Today was a fantastic contest. Long live the Leger."

Millenary, a son of Rainbow Quest owned and bred by the Welsh-born, Washington State-based businessman Neil Jones, will stay in training next season and may drop back to middle distances. His son Matthew, representing him here, said: "He wanted to call the horse Millennium to celebrate the year, but the name was copyrighted. So we called him Millenary, a 1,000th anniversary, instead."

When Allabaculia won the first St Leger in 1776, it was the reign of George III, Wordsworth and Beethoven were both six years old and Jethro Tull was inventing seed drills. In 1971, with the mad king's four-greats grand-daughter on the throne and the agricultural reformer a rock band, the European Pattern, the classification of élite races and the platform for the modern industry, was created.

The magnitude of Giant's Causeway's achievement in adding yesterday's contest to the St James Palace, Eclipse and Sussex Stakes and the York International can be gauged by the fact that only one horse, Mill Reef, has won six Group One races - the Derby, the Eclipse, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the Prix Ganay and the Coronation Cup - in a row, and it took him two seasons.

But the only other horse to have won five in a season even non-consecutively at the top level in Europe has been Triptych, who took the Prix Ganay, Coronation Cup, York International, Irish Champion and Champion Stakes as a five-year-old in 1987. In her time she was known as the Iron Mare; it is fitting that Giant's Causeway's sobriquet is the Iron Horse.

The chestnut, trained by Aidan O'Brien, showed all his trademark durability to see off a gallant try by Best Of The Bests to get past him in the straight and repel the late flash of Greek Dance, another second for Stoute and Lord Weinstock, by half a length. Giant's Causeway's long-term target is the Breeders' Cup Classic in Kentucky in November; before that he will have Mill Reef's record in his sights in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot in 13 days' time.

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