Racing / Doncaster St Leger Meeting: Trigger on hold for the final Classic: Northern hope misses a gallop, favourite's trainer waits for rain

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The Independent Online
WITH THE St Leger 72 hours away, there were prayers here yesterday from two trainers represented in the Classic, Henry Cecil and Mark Johnston. Prayers for rain and a miracle respectively.

Cecil's Red Route was cut in the betting by Ladbrokes and is now 2-1 favourite with them, but the cut the trainer would prefer is in the Yorkshire turf on Saturday afternoon.

'The horse is very well and worked this morning with King's Theatre,' the Newmarket man said. 'It's just a case of the more rain the better. The more rain we get, the more chance we've got.

'It's a tough race and he's got to beat two horses which have beaten him already, even though they're making him favourite.'

Cecil and Red Route's rider, Willie Ryan, showed they are in the right sort of form for the Leger when combining to win the fillies' equivalent, the Park Hill Stakes, with Coigach.

Johnston's Double Trigger was scheduled to limber up as well yesterday, but the latch on his box remained untouched as his trainer decided to rest the horse's limbs.

Double Trigger started the season as a Derby aspirant, but persistent, small injuries have limited him to just one outing. With the world's oldest Classic now so close and with their runner's sick bed still warm, connections are keen to limit the threat of further problems. 'He missed a gallop this morning because we were frightened of aggravating his shin,' Johnston reported. 'But he should still run.'

Barry Hills's Moonax has been confirmed as a runner and will be partnered by Pat Eddery, but the participation of Party Season is still in doubt.

Of the more fancied runners, there remains quiet confidence about Midnight Legend, whom Luca Cumani will send out on a spin this morning, and Michael Stoute's Sacrament.

Walter Swinburn, who rides the latter, believes that if the St Leger comes down to a test of will, he has the steeliest competitor in his corner. 'The great quality this horse has, apart from his obvious ability, is that he's a fighter,' he said yesterday.

'Suplizi came at him three or four times at Haydock (in June) in the final furlong and a half, and each time he stuck his head out. I'm not bothered if they go slow or fast because he's got that terrific combination of class and guts.'

In terms of endurance, Sacrament has some way to go to match Jack O'Donoghue. Britain's oldest trainer at 87, the Reigate man yesterday added the Portland Handicap to a portfolio which includes Nickel Coin, the 1951 Grand National winner. Old Jack was not at the racecourse to welcome Hello Mister and telephone calls to his yard provided little illumination. Questions were asked once, a second time in a louder voice and then the conversation terminated.

The veteran of the jockeys' room also made a mark earlier in the day. Lester Piggott won the opener on The Jotter and returned to a victorious trainer who stopped just short of dropping to his knees and beating the lawn with his palms in ecstasy. 'I've been training for 10 years, but this means an awful lot to me, to give Lester a winning ride,' Willie Jarvis, the Newmarket-based handler, said. 'It's a great thrill, an emotional day.' Piggott has known Jarvis since the trainer was being trained himself, to use the potty. 'Maureen (the jockey's elder daughter) and I grew up together,' Jarvis said. 'We used to go to children's parties and Lester used to play board games with us.' If the game was Monopoly, the kids would have had no chance.

ST LEGER (Doncaster, Saturday): Coral: 9-4 Red Route, 3-1 Sacrament, 7-2 Midnight Legend, 11-2 Broadway Flyer, 8-1 Ionio, 10-1 Double Trigger, 33-1 Moonax & Party Season; Ladbrokes: 2-1 Red Route, 3-1 Midnight Legend, 7-2 Sacrament, 6-1 Broadway Flyer, 10-1 Double Trigger & Ionio, 40-1 Moonax & Party Season; William Hill: 9-4 Red Route, 100-30 Midnight Legend & Sacrament, 6-1 Broadway Flyer, 8-1 Double Trigger, 10-1 Ionio, 40-1 Moonax, 50-1 Party Season.

(Photograph omitted)