Stoute ends Leger drought
Conduit defies stable jockey's view to land final Classic and O'Brien cleans up in Ireland
Sunday 14 September 2008
Those misguided folk who are trying to foist a structure on to the Flat racing year by artificially linking championship contests into a meaningless points series should consider the events of yesterday.
Two captivating narratives reached a conclusion within 20 minutes as Conduit gave Sir Michael Stoute his first St Leger and Septimus completed an unprecedented Classic grand slam for Aidan O'Brien in the Irish version. Neither thread needed manufacturing; both were as natural as seamless silk.
Stoute has won four Derbys, five 2,000 Guineas and a pair each of the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks. But the St Leger, the oldest, longest and toughest of the Classics, had proved elusive. His 25 runners since 1974 produced five runners-up, and even the mighty Shergar failed.
At 8-1, Conduit was his second string, rejected by his stable jockey, Ryan Moore, but if the trainer did not hitherto have the St Leger knack, the man who picked up the ride certainly did.
The 232nd edition of the contest gave Frankie Dettori his fifth victory. With his willing partner travelling sweetly down the long straight, Dettori took the initiative almost two furlongs out and, despite a wobbly stride or two, the chestnut had three lengths to spare over Irish raider Unsung Heroine, with the other filly in the race, Look Here, a similar distance third.
"He was going so well, I just had to press the button," said Dettori. "I said let's go, let the others come and get us. He got a bit lost on his own in front, but it was a great run."
Stoute's first reaction wasrelief, and his first thoughts were for Moore, who came in eighth of 14 on the non-staying Doctor Fremantle. "It's great to do it at last," he said. "I have to say it was looking good from a long way out. But I feel sorry for Ryan, as he has done so much work with Conduit at home, bringing him along. He could have ridden him, but he was a bit worried the ground might have been too soft."
Conduit, who will stay in training next year, made up for St Leger second places in the same pale-blue Ballymacoll Stud colours by Hellenic, Hard Top and Air Marshall. The colt, a son of Dalakhani, has a poignant background: his dam, Well Head, died foaling him and he was brought up by a piebald cart mare foster-mother.
The best of the O'Brien quintet in the St Leger proved pacemaker Hindu Kush, who held on to fourth, with his stablemate Frozen Fire, the 9-4 favourite, sixth. But there was almost instant compensation when the five-year-old Septimus turned the Irish St Leger at the Curragh into a procession, winning by13 lengths.
It made O'Brien the first since Jack Rogers in 1935 to train all five of his local Classics in a year, but the first to succeed with five different horses. Septimus, now the Melbourne Cup favourite, followed Henrythenavigator, Halfway To Heaven, Frozen Fire and Moonstone into the record books. O'Brien said: "To do something like this is massive for the whole team. There are so many people involved and for me it's a privilege to be part of it."
O'Brien's harvesting of Group One contests this year has been remarkable. Although empty-handed in the two here on Town Moor – the rearranged Sprint Cup went to the French challenger African Rose – his tally is 19, thanks to Septimus, and today at the Curragh he fields five of the eight juveniles in the National Stakes, headed by Mastercraftsman, and a trio of fillies in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp, where the seasonaltapestry continues to unfold, again without any reference to the contests singled out for the ill-founded Sovereign Series.
In the Vermeille, the first of today's three trials for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Zarkava defends her position as favourite for Europe's richest race. In the Prix Niel, French Derby winner Vision d'Etat tries 12 furlongs for the first time, and in the Prix Foy, last year's German star Schia-parelli will try to brighten Godolphin's below-par campaign with his first run in the blue colours.
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