Patriarch can have the final word

ST LEGER: The Derby runner up is taken to reverse Great Voltigeur Stakes placings with Stowaway in the world's oldest Classic
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Such has been the Arab domination in the recent history of the St Leger that it would be no surprise if the traditional baggy cap awarded to the winning jockey is replaced by a fez after today's 221st running of the world's oldest Classic.

If there is sand in the bottom of the old trophy it will be because it has been an adornment in Sheikh Mohammed's home for the last three years. Shantou and Moonax have scored in his personal maroon and white colours, sandwiching Classic Cliche's victory for the Godolphin enterprise. Now there may be another for the Royal blues in the shape of Stowaway.

The colt's latest success in the Great Voltigeur Stakes appears to be the key exhibit in the Leger case. Godolphin assess the evidence as proving that their horse will again finish in front of Silver Patriarch, whom he beat half a length that day. The grey's camp offer a different analysis.

"He can definitely overturn the Great Voltigeur form because I had a hold-up in his work before that race," John Dunlop, Silver Patriarch's trainer, said yesterday. "The horse came and won the race and then just got tired. He was a gallop short and in need of the race and I have every hope of turning the tables tomorrow."

Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager, might refer to that dissection as tosh. "Silver Patriarch is a silver shadow that's always there, but we haven't got to the bottom of Stowaway by any means, and he is such a progressive horse that we are very hopeful," he said. "We believe he has a first-rate chance of confirming the placings with Silver Patriarch."

Godolphin have denied that their Haltarra is a pacemaker, though if there is a dawdle he will make the running, which means he is a pacemaker. Whatever the method, he will not win. Indeed, there are several old tugs in the field who have little chance. This corps seems to include Shaya, a final Classic runner for the incomparable Dick Hern, who has won six Legers.

One who does carry prospects is Vertical Speed, who was supplemented for pounds 18,000, which is about what his owner, Daniel Wildenstein, pays for an easel. The Parisian art dealer won the 200th running of this race with Crow and has another chance now with an unbeaten colt who provides Olivier Peslier with his first ride in the Classic.

Vertical Speed is not guaranteed to perform to his best on today's good to firm ground, and a line through Book At Bedtime makes him barely a better horse than Windsor Castle, who is thus the best each-way shot.

It is difficult to look outside the big two for the winner. It was this race two years ago which provided Frankie Dettori, Stowaway's rider, with his 1,000th domestic winner and by a statistical caprice it may be that it now gives Pat Eddery his 4,000th. For those of us who want to believe in the Derby form it would be pleasant to witness the Irishman steaming up the straight on SILVER PATRIARCH (nap 3.40).

If the St Leger is the day's focus it can hardly be argued that its field contains the best horse. That honour belongs to Leopardstown's Champion Stakes, in which Pilsudski takes on Desert King, one of three Aidan O'Brien entries. Victory for the former will mean he has won Group One races in four countries following successes in Germany, Canada and England.

France hardly suffers by comparison either this weekend, with its medley of Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe trials at Longchamp tomorrow. Helissio warmed up before winning last year's Arc in the Prix Niel, a race which now features a strong contestant for next month's honours in Peintre Celebre. Michael Bell saddles Ivan Luis, who should at least get close to the favourite in the parade ring.

There is a considerable British entry for the Prix Vermeille, in which John Dunlop is represented by Dust Dancer and Luca Cumani sends out Kaliana and Ridaiyma, but they will have a job coping with fillies who were placed in the French Oaks. Tamure carries the standard for John Gosden in a Prix Foy of some cosmopolitan merit. Among his rivals are Japan's Sakura Laurel and a horse who must certainly have been named after a day with the tinnies by the side of a billabong, the ex-Australian Nothin' Leica Dane.