St Leger: Watering ban threatens to keep Kingston Hill out of Doncaster Classic


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St Leger favourite Kingston Hill is doubtful for the final Classic of the season on Saturday after clerk of the course Roderick Duncan ruled out watering the drying Doncaster ground.

Trainer Roger Varian, growing more concerned on another warm, sunny afternoon and with no rain in the forecast, today made his feelings clear: “If they don’t water, they are risking the non-participation of the Leger favourite. We’ll see what the ground is like on Saturday, but if they don’t water, it’s unlikely he’ll turn up.”

Kingston Hill has already been pulled out late from two major races this season because of unsuitable going, but Duncan was adamant: “We have never watered at this meeting and we won’t be starting now.”

Andrea Atzeni, due to partner the Derby runner-up, also sounded a warning after his runaway victory aboard Silk Sari in the Park Hill Stakes. He felt that today’s ground was perfect for Kingston Hill, but added that he would not welcome another dry 48 hours.

Kiyoshi, campaigned by Charlie Hills in the best company since winning the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot last year, took full advantage of a drop in grade when winning the Sceptre Stakes under a typically confident ride from Jamie Spencer.

Hills is another who will miss Spencer when he retires at the end of the season and the rider, pressed on the possibility of a change of heart, made it abundantly clear that he is not for turning.

It is the right time and the right place for Times Up, who tomorrow afternoon bids to become the first horse since 1842 to win the Doncaster Cup three times in a row.

One of John Dunlop’s last winners before the master trainer retired at the end of 2012 and then successful for his son, Ed, 12 months ago, this tough old campaigner invariably seems to find his feet at this time of year.

Times Up (2.40, Doncaster) has a bit to find with Estimate on their running at York last month and jockey Ryan Moore is apparently bullish about the Queen’s top stayer confirming that superiority over this longer distance. But that was Times Up’s first run for three months; significant improvement might be expected from this evergreen veteran in normal circumstances, let alone on a stage where he comes alive.

Eddie Lynam has already enjoyed a wonderful year, thanks to the exploits of top sprinters Sole Power and Slade Power, and there’s younger talent coming through at his Co Meath stables, too, including Agnes Stewart (3.15, Doncaster) a filly with the pace and stamina to overcome a largely uninspiring home contingent in the May Hill Stakes.

The Irish also have a potential juvenile ace in the speedy Ainippe (1.40, Doncaster), bought by Qatar Racing after impressing on her debut and then shaping like something a bit special when following up in a better contest at the Curragh.

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