For Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer, whose St Leger disappointments include saddling the "certainty" Shergar to finish fourth in 1981, that was the first obstacle overcome. The trainer's own form has looked a greater barrier to Classic success, however, as before yesterday he had gone 20 days and 37 runners without a winner.
That unfortunate sequence ended when Leading Role romped home in a maiden race at Lingfield and, significantly, provided a first winner for Kieren Fallon on board a Stoute horse this season. The pair had earlier teamed up for 18 losers, 15 of them since Fallon departed from Henry Cecil's stable and linked up with his Newmarket neighbour.
Fallon went on to record a 158-1 five-timer with wins aboard Travelling Lite, Iftiraas, One Dinar and Pulau Pinang and also had the embarrassment of being run away with on the way to the start. Milton Bradley's Lucky Archer took a fierce hold and Fallon, the strongest of jockeys, could do nothing to restrain the gelding. The partnership did two circuits before being withdrawn.
Fallon, of course, will again be a bystander when Iscan lines up on Saturday, as he has time to serve in the sin bin. John Reid takes over in an attempt to win the Classic for a second successive year.
Iscan's success in proving that he can be trusted to behave - he stood calmly in a stall for a minute before it was opened and he ambled out, apparently without a care in the world - did not please everybody. The Jockey Club waived their rule that stipulates that a horse must wait 14 days after committing an offence in the stalls before taking a test that will allow him back on to the racecourse to give the horse the chance to run in the Classic.
Cecil, the trainer of the St Leger favourite, Ramruma, said: "Rules are rules and I don't really want to get involved in this. But I wonder how many other people during the season have had problems and got away with it?"
Another trainer, Pat Murphy, said: "If I had one to run in a seller on Saturday do you think they would have bent the rules for me? They say it's good for racing but what I do know is that it's certainly good for Michael Stoute and his owners. Every day we have to stick by the rules but all of a sudden this seems to be a flexible one."
Barry Hills, hoping to saddle Elmutabaki in the Leger, said: "I'm happy enough with what's been done. I hope that if the same thing happened to someone else they'd do the same."
The trainer gave an optimistic bulletin on Elmutabaki whose participation has been in doubt due to a foot problem. "He worked all right today and he should be there on Saturday."
Cecil saddled a filly that may follow in the hoofprints of Ramruma when High Walden won at Leicester yesterday. She is now second favourite with William Hill, at 16-1, for next year's 1,000 Guineas behind the Andre Fabre triple winner Morning Pride. Next stop for Khalid Abdullah's daughter of El Gran Senor is the Ascot Fillies' Mile.
Before that, though, there is the four-day festival of Doncaster's St Leger meeting to savour, with the fillies' equivalent of the Classic, the Park Hill Stakes, providing today's highlight. Although the season's top two staying fillies, Ramruma and Noushkey, have bypassed the race for Saturday's main event, Ajhiba, representing Godolphin, can prove a worthy winner and take Saeed bin Suroor a step closer to the trainers' title for which he is 2-7 with Ladbrokes. Cecil, his only possible rival, is 5-2.
The prospect of Cecil's Royal Anthem facing Montjeu in Saturday's Irish Champion Stakes increased yesterday when the latter was declared for the race at Leopardstown, where the yielding ground would suit the French- trained colt.
CHAMPION STAKES (Leopardstown, Saturday): Confirmations: Daylami, Dream Well, Lord Of Men, Make No Mistake, Royal Anthem, Sunshine Street, Montjeu, Dazzling Park, Sunspangled.
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