Racing: Tchaikovsky for Classic climax

St Leger: Aidan O'Brien cast-off can thwart Ramruma, the favourite, at Doncaster for new trainer Gerard Butler
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The Independent Online
IT IS a measure of Henry Cecil the racehorse trainer that he goes for his fourth Classic of the season at Doncaster today during perhaps the most turbulent year of his personal life.

While the bombs have been exploding at Warren Place this summer, Cecil has managed to ringfence the horses from the stress that is all too evident in his own features. If Ramruma wins the St Leger today, as the market suggests she must, only the neck which separated Island Sands and Enrique in the 2,000 Guineas will have denied him a clean sweep. He might, however, swap all of that for harmony at home.

Cecil will be on Town Moor today (rather than supervising Royal Anthem in Ireland) with Ramruma, who has already delivered proof of his training eloquence. The filly has collected five straight victories during the campaign, including three Group Ones, in order of importance at Epsom, the Curragh and York.

User Friendly also won those races in 1992 before taking the St Leger and Cecil, who has won the race four times, has previously sent out another filly, Oh So Sharp in 1985, to collect the final Classic.

Like User Friendly, Ramruma is a galloper, an animal which crushes the life out of her opponents with a relentless tempo. She has not spared herself this season. She has hurt a lot of horses but, for the first occasion, on the Knavesmire last time she also appeared to be hurting herself.

If Ramruma can grind it out once again in one of the toughest contests in the calendar, it will be a performance of some merit. The St Leger cannot be won easily. The stayers have to commit early, the good horses have to be left alone, their jockeys motionless luggage hoping that no sign of distress comes from the partner beneath them. A coward cannot succeed.

Iscan, another Newmarket contestant, cannot be accused of being spineless but he definitely possesses a kink in his character. He has never been out of the frame, but rarely in the winners' enclosure either. A darker consistency has been his tantrums at the stalls and he runs here only after passing a stalls test on Tuesday.

There is routinely drama at the climax of the Leger, but this year there will be immediate interest at the start. Will there be a whiff of cigar smoke and the strains of Bach, or will Iscan emerge with sporting intent?

All The Way has the name for a St Leger winner, and the firm going he requires, but probably not the requisite ability. A more plausible case can be made for Mutafaweq, who represents the Godolphin team successful twice in the last four years. He looked useful in beating Iscan in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Yet there have been soft defeats since, notably in the Irish Derby won by the three-year-old of the season, France's Montjeu. Beat All, the Epsom Derby third, was fourth that day, a length and a half behind Tchaikovsky, who was having his final outing for Aidan O'Brien.

Tchaikovsky is now in the care of Gerard Butler. He has been supplemented for this race at a cost of pounds 20,000. He has never run on ground as firm as this, but is regarded as a late-maturing type. Whatever his qualifications, it is ridiculous to think of him as a 28-1 shot.

Ramruma will win if she shows the form of which she is capable, but even Cecil himself admits the buffers are coming up fast. If she does not deliver, it will be a shock of sorts and the Leger is notorious for producing big ones. At the odds it is worth speculating that TCHAIKOVSKY (nap 3.35) will add to the catalogue.

It is a comment on the weekend that the St Leger does not stand out as a jewel but is rather one pearl on a lengthy string. Cecil's Royal Anthem is reunited with Gary Stevens in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. He looked quite outstanding in the International Stakes at York, yet this is by no means a flypast. The fresh set of challengers include Dream Well, the dual Derby winner, and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Daylami. The winner will be able, quite legitimately, to claim the title of the best older horse in Europe.

The best one of the lot though could well be the animal which competes in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe trial meeting at Longchamp tomorrow. Good horses will emerge from the Prix Foy and the Prix Vermeille. The keenest interest, however, will be on the Prix Niel and the display of the flying Arc favourite, Montjeu.

RICHARD EDMONDSON

Nap: Tchaikovsky

(Doncaster 3.35)

NB: Will Iveson

(Doncaster 5.20)

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