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Racing: Patriarch rules for Eddery

Pat Eddery reached a rare landmark with impeccable timing here yesterday as Silver Patriarch gave him the 4,000th domestic winner of his career in the 221st running of the St Leger. The ovation for the 45- year-old Irishman and the grey colt, made favourite after Stowaway's 11th- hour defection, arose as the pair joined battle with the French challenger Vertical Speed two furlongs out and reached noise levels that may well have been illegal as they strode three lengths clear inside the final furlong.

Another grey, The Fly, stayed on stoutly from the back of the field to take third place, a neck behind Vertical Speed, with the admirable filly Book At Bedtime, winner of the Park Hill Stakes four days previously, in fourth, a whisker in front of Windsor Castle.

The fact that Silver Patriarch, who missed Derby glory by just a short- head, became the first Epsom runner-up since Touching Wood in 1982 to take the St Leger is a sure sign that the world's oldest Classic is not merely a consolation prize. It imposes a different, and severe, test and with a strong headwind facing the runners as they turned for home, led by Haltarra, the long, unrelenting Doncaster straight is no place for the faint-hearted.

Eddery said: "It really hit you once you turned in and you needed a brave one under you, but my horse is just that and ran straight as a gun barrel. He's a real battler, and a really good colt, and once I'd taken the French horse a furlong down I knew that was it."

Sir Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott are the only previous members of the 4,000 club in Britain. Eddery, whose first success came on Alvaro at Epsom in 1969, added: "To win a Classic is always fantastic, but to reach this mark at the same time is just a dream."

Silver Patriarch gave Eddery his fourth St Leger, the trainer John Dunlop his second, and the owner Peter Winfield his first. Winfield, 70, also bred the son of Saddlers Hall, and paid tribute to his jockey's perspicacity. He said: "When Pat got off the horse after winning at Newmarket last November he said he would win the St Leger."

Dunlop would not be drawn on immediate plans for Silver Patriarch, but confirmed that he would race on next year. He said: "Let's just enjoy the moment. I am so thrilled for the owner. He is a true sportsman, and took the Derby defeat right on the chin."

The old adage that winter rides in on the tail of the last horse in the St Leger (in yesterday's case Besiege) was coined before the development of the era's rich autumn programme. And no sooner had Eddery weighed in than eyes were turned towards Leopardstown, where Pilsudski laid down his credentials for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the Irish Champion Stakes in emphatic style.

The five-year-old, runner-up in Paris last year, was cantering on the turn in and scored by an eased-down four and a half lengths from Desert King, who was in turn a street clear of Alhaarth.

And a new Arc favourite could emerge at Longchamp this afternoon when the French Derby winner, Peintre Celebre, reappears in the Prix Niel, one of the three traditional big-race trials to be screened live on BBC2 during Sunday Grandstand.

Peintre Celebre, trained by Andre Fabre for Daniel Wildenstein, is unbeaten in his three runs this season and has had a summer break in the the traditional French-style build-up to the big race, not having been seen in public since he landed the Grand Prix de Paris over 10 furlongs at Longchamp in June. He takes on only four rivals, including the lone British challenger Ivan Luis, in the Group Two race, won last year by the subsequent Arc winner Helissio. Defeat for the chestnut son of Nureyev would be a big shock; an impressive victory would surely propel Peintre Celebre ahead of Helissio to the head of the market.

The Group Three Prix Foy is an international affair, featuring Japan's 1996 horse of the year Sakura Laurel, making his European debut, and the Australian runner Nothin' Leica Dane, runner-up in the 1995 Melbourne Cup and being prepared for the Arc by John Hammond in Chantilly. The home side's defence will be lead by the progressive four-year-olds, Surgeon and Steward, and the John Gosden-trained 1995 Derby second Tamure represents Britain.

None of the three British raiders in the Prix Vermeille - John Dunlop's Dust Dancer and the Luca Cumani pair, the improving Kaliana and her pacemaker Ridaiyma - is yet entered in the Arc, although they could yet be supplemented. The best of the French are Gazelle Royale, runner-up in the Oaks at Epsom, and Mousse Glacee and Brilliance, both placed in the Prix de Diane (the French Oaks).

Racing results, page 19

How they finished

1. SILVER PATRIARCH Pat Eddery 5-4 fav

2. Vertical Speed O Peslier 7-2

3. The Fly M Hills 10-1

Also ran: 10-1 Besiege, Windsor Castle (5th), 12-1 Panama City (6th), 14-1 Book At Bedtime (4th), 16-1 Haltarra, 25-1 Poseidon, 33-1 Shaya.

10 ran. 3, nk, 11/2, sh-hd, 31/2. (Winner trained by J Dunlop at Arundel). Tote: pounds 2.20; pounds 1.40, pounds 2.40, pounds 2.20. DF: pounds 4.40. CSF: pounds 5.14. Trio: pounds 16.80. NR: Stowaway.