Leading Light illuminates O'Brien St Leger chances


Ruler of the World and Trading Leather, the English and Irish Derby winners, were conspicuous by their absence at today’s entry stage for the St Leger, connections opting  instead to go the Irish Champion Stakes route and a drop back in distance. However, a profusion of  prospective late-bloomers stood their ground for the Doncaster classic,  including no fewer than 12 from Aidan O’Brien’s powerful stable.

Leading Light, game winner of the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot last month, would appear the most likely to provide the trainer with his fourth St Leger triumph and has been  installed as the 5-1 joint favourite with Galileo Rock, who was placed in both the English and Irish Derbies.

But others from Ballydoyle jump off the list, too, not least the one-eyed Eye of the Storm, who might well  enhance his already fair claims in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York next month.

O’Brien sees the St Leger as the  natural autumn target for Leading Light, while Galileo Rock’s trainer, David Wachman, is confident that his colt is both still improving and liable to benefit further from a step up in trip.

As vets fought to save O’Brien’s St Nicholas Abbey in Tipperary, Corine Barande-Barbe, trainer of Cirrus des Aigles, now the hot favourite for Saturday’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, yesterday delivered a strikingly upbeat bulletin from her Chantilly base.

Many were left underwhelmed by the seven-year-old’s comeback effort after injury at Saint-Cloud last month when he plodded home in fifth place behind the German-trained colt, Novellist, who takes him on again this weekend.

But Mme Barande-Barbe insisted that Cirrus des Aigles was no more than 60 per cent fit then and will be a vastly different proposition for the rematch. “I am sure he as good now as he has ever been,” she said.

This week’s storms have missed Ascot and the ground looks like remaining on the quick side of good, which is more of a concern for Barande-Barbe than his fitness, but not, she said, crucial to his chances: “This horse knows how to swim and is happy on deep ground, but it was fast when he won in Dubai, so he doesn’t mind that either.”

Black Caviar, the recently retired Australian phenomenon, is to be mated with top stallion Exceed and Excel, who stands at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud.

The “Wonder From Down Under” won all of her 25 starts, almost exclusively over sprint distances, while Exceed and Excel could shift a bit as well, winning Grade One events over six furlongs before embarking on his successful stud career. Australian race fans cannot wait for the new  offspring. They might even start betting on its name.

Turf Account

Chris McGrath's nap

  Qawaasem  (3.05 Sandown)

No surprise when she won at Newmarket this month after such a promising debut run and expected to take this step up in grade in her stride.

Next best

Go Nani Go  (6.35 Epsom)

Back to his best and gave the impression there is more to come when scoring at Salisbury last time.

One to watch

Gallic Breeze (John Quinn) gave an odds-on favourite a real scare on his introduction at Musselburgh on Tuesday.

Where the money's going

Hillstar was supplemented this week for £75,000 for Saturday’s King George VI, and the Royal Ascot winner is now in to 7-1.