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Monday, September 5, 2011



Trainer Sir Michael Stoute was today hopeful that Sea Moon, an eight-length winner of last month’s Group Two Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, could put up a bold show in Saturday’s Group One Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.


Khalid Abdulla’s home-bred is 11/8 favourite with sponsor Ladbrokes for the final Classic, worth £540,050 and staged at 3.10pm on Saturday, after today’s five-day confirmation stage, in which 10 entries remained and Godolphin’s Rumh was supplemented at a cost of £45,000.


Sea Moon, whose dam Eva Luna won the Group Two Park Hill Stakes over the Ladbrokes St Leger trip at Doncaster, had won a handicap at York in July on his only other outing this season.


Speaking at the Ladbrokes St Leger Lunch at London’s Landmark Hotel today, Stoute said: “Sea Moon is a horse that we’ve always enjoyed and rated and we went to York hopeful for the Great Voltigeur Stakes but didn’t expect him to win in the manner that he did.


“He had won a York handicap off a mark of 92 on his previous start and had progressed very nicely in his preparation for the Voltigeur, which he needed to do. He’d gone forward, but we weren’t expecting him to do what he did.


“He loved the conditions at York, it was a bit moist and dead, and we’d love the same ground at Doncaster although we are not guaranteed to get that.


“The vibes are good with him but it’s the most competitive Ladbrokes St Leger we’ve had for many years. He’s got a proper Leger pedigree, his three-parts brother (Brian Boru) won the race so you’d be hopeful that stamina wouldn’t be a problem.”


Godolphin’s colours have been carried to victory in the Ladbrokes St Leger five times since 1995 and the owner’s Blue Bunting is set to bid for a rare Classic treble on Saturday, having already won the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas and Irish Oaks this season. She heads to Doncaster on the back on another Group One success, in the Yorkshire Oaks at York.


Godolphin will also be represented by supplementary Rumh and Genius Beast.


Simon Crisford, Godolphin’s racing manager, said: “Rumh was supplemented this morning and will act as a pacemaker.


"We have not decided on jockeys yet for her and Genius Beast, who is an interesting horse. He does need to improve 6lb-8lb to get into the mix. His dam, Shawanda, was very special and won the Irish Oaks.


"Genius Beast is a nice horse, a Group Three winner who we do think will stay quite well. He definitely deserves to take his chance and will give a good account of himself.


"Ever since Blue Bunting was competitive as a two-year-old, when winning a Listed race at Newmarket very well, we knew she was a very good filly. She had a small flake taken out of an ankle after that which was why she stayed in Newmarket over the winter. Leading up to the Guineas, we felt then that a longer trip than a mile would suit her much better but she was brilliant that day on fast ground.


"That sent us straight to Epsom and she has done nothing but please us through this whole campaign. She is super tough and very resolute - she gives everything she has though she wins her races by a narrow margin. She has been such a revelation because she is quite an odd filly to look at - she is not a supermodel on the catwalk but very correct. Half her tail was eaten away by her siblings when she was a yearling. So she is not a queen to look at but absolutely she is a queen on the racetrack.


"She is similar to Kazzia but her constitution is better. Blue Bunting has held on to her condition throughout a tough and busy campaign.


"Looking at her now, she is as robust and healthy as she was back in May which is why she is going for the Ladbrokes St Leger. We thought we must let her take her chance against the colts while she was in such great form.


"Obviously, her sex allowance will be incredibly important and hopefully will give her every chance of beating the colts.


"Her work is always very straightforward - she works on her own and she is reasonably lazy - she just does what she wants to do.


"When she worked on Saturday, Sheikh Mohammed watched her and he was pleased to see that she was just her usual self. Sheikh Mohammed has been lucky in the St Leger, winning the race many times.


"As long as she seems to be enjoying her racing and training, there is every chance Blue Bunting will stay in training.


"The Ladbrokes St Leger is the oldest Classic in the world and a fantastic race - you have to have a very good horse to win it."




Actress Liz Hurley is among the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing ownership syndicate who will be cheering on the Richard Hannon-trained Census, winner of the Group Three Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last month.


Hannon commented: “He’s a pretty good horse, he’s worked his way through the ranks and deserves to take his chance. He’s a fine, big horse who works well and we took him to Salisbury the other day for a gallop when he worked very well over a mile.


“He came to hand at the backend of last season and has just got better and better, he’s not been out of the first two on his last six starts. As long as the ground is good he’ll be fine and if it’s softer it won’t hamper him.


“We’ve had a few stayers over the years and the last horse we had for the Leger was Assessor (sixth in 1992) and he went on to earn a fortune. Census would be the same type of horse but with a little more speed. He’d going to be a really nice Cup horse over two or two and a half miles in the future as he’s getting a mile and six at three.”


Aidan O’Brien has won the Ladbrokes St Leger three times before (2001 Milan, 2003 Brian Boru and 2005 Scorpion) and this year he has three remaining entries in Freedom, the filly Wonder Of Wonders and Seville.


But although he still has to finalise plans, it is currently likely that Irish Derby runner-up Seville, who finished third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes on his most recent start, could be his only runner.


Speaking by telephone, O’Brien told the lunch: “Seville is our most likely runner. The filly (Wonder Of Wonders) ran a good race at York but wants better ground than she experienced there and at the Curragh (when a close third to Blue Bunting in the Irish Oaks) and has the option of dropping back to a mile and a quarter at Longchamp. She takes a lot of work and has been in good form since York but it’s only a possibility that she could run at Doncaster.


“It’s by no means certain that she or Freedom would run. With Freedom we were seeing what way the race was made up and if it looked like there was going to be much pace he could have made a nice pace for everyone. But it looks like there will be plenty of pace in which case he might not go.


“Seville ran very well in the Dante at York in May but then was slowly away and got a long way back at Epsom. He then found it strange going down the hill and it all may have happened a bit too quick for him that day.


“He worked well after that and then ran a good race at the Curragh, he then had a tough race in the Grand Prix de Paris but came out of it well.


“We always had one eye on the St Leger after that and wanted to slot in one race beforehand.  We were very easy on him before York and we thought if we were thinking of the Leger then we could lean on him a bit more. He ran well at York, he might have disappointed some people but the pace was a bit in and out and we were always looking towards the Leger.”


Footballer Michael Owen saw his home-bred Brown Panther win the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot and the colt was reported to be in great shape ahead of Saturday’s race by trainer Tom Dascombe.


Kieren Fallon, bidding for his first Ladbrokes St Leger success, is set to take over the ride from Dascombe’s stable jockey Richard Kingscote.


Dascombe said: “On the whole he ran a fine race when he was second in the German Derby, it was a big step up from winning a handicap to running in a Group One. The ground was softer than we’d anticipated and he had a good draw, the plan was to drop him in and unfortunately we ended up in front.


“The form has worked out and he had a hard race that day. We gave him a rest, then he ran a nice race behind Census at Newbury and if we are still improving then we’ve got a solid chance at Doncaster.


“In April he got beat in handicap off a mark of 73 which was fantastic training performance given he’s now rated 115! He’s gone up in the handicap after every run so you’ve got to say he’s still improving. Good ground would be perfect for him at Doncaster, just not extremes.”


Explaining the jockey change, Dascombe said: “I’ve spoken to Michael (Owen) at length and it was a very tough, hard decision but it was decided on this occasion to go with a more experienced jockey. Obviously I’ve thought about it an awful lot and it was not easy but the decision we’ve come to was to use Kieren Fallon.


“Richard (Kingscote) has always done a very good job for me but you don’t get too many chances to win a Classic and I felt that it was a decision I had to make and time will tell. It hasn’t been easy.”


John Gosden has sent out three Ladbrokes St Leger winners (1996 Shantou, 2007 Lucarno and 2010 Shantou) from his last four runners in the Classic and he relies on Masked Marvel and likely pacemaker Buthelezi to add to that excellent record this year.


Masked Marvel has not run since beating Census by a head in the Group Three Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket on July 7.


Gosden, successful in last year’s race with Arctic Cosmos, said: “The Ladbrokes St Leger is a great race, it’s run at a wonderful fair track and there are no hiding places. By the time they’ve run over a mile, six furlongs and 132 yards, usually the best horse has won.


“I get sent a lot of staying types of horse but the idea that a plodder can win this race is a myth. They have to have shown you a lot at two if they are going to be good enough and if they don’t have a turn of foot they will end up finishing mid-division or out the back.




“Masked Marvel kicked on a long way out in the Bahrain Trophy and beat Census. They are both really nice horses that deserve to be at Doncaster. The filly (Blue Bunting) is the only Group One winner in the race but it’s a proper Leger with some high-class horses in there.


“Our horse is training exceptionally well, he’s been freshened up for the race and will stay well.


“It’s looking like we might be over-run with pace but Buthelezi will bowl along, he’ll stay all day and it will be a pretty good pacemaker to be out in front.”


Latest Ladbrokes betting after today’s five-day confirmation and supplementary entry stage:

11/8 Sea Moon, 4/1 Blue Bunting, 5/1 Census, 8/1 Masked Marvel, 8/1 Seville, 10/1 Brown Panther, 33/1 Wonder Of Wonders, 66/1 Genius Beast, 100/1 Buthelezi, 150/1 Freedom, 200/1 Rumh.




Ladbrokes today announced a new deal in principle with Doncaster to sponsor the Ladbrokes St Leger for another three years after the 2011 running on Saturday.


Ladbrokes started sponsorship of the final British Classic of the season in 2005, boosting the prize money significantly, and the latest agreement will take the bookmaker’s support through to 2014 - the 10th year of backing.





Jon Pullin, Doncaster’s Clerk of the Course, said today: "The going is Good to Firm. We had a half a millimetre of rain yesterday and there have been showers today, amounting to one and a half millimetres.


"There is a more significant band of rain forecast for tomorrow, Tuesday, and we could see five to six millimetres then.


"A few days ago we were forecast over 10 millimetres of rain on Tuesday but that has been revised down.


"If we get the forecast rain, then I would expect the opening day of the Ladbrokes St Leger meeting on Wednesday will start with ground on the easy side of good.


"There could be showers on Wednesday and Thursday but nothing too significant. We have previously railed out on the round course for the first two days to have fresh ground to use later for the last two days but this year we are doing things differently.


"The inside six yards on the round course have not been raced on since June. This ground is in really good order and will stand four days of racing."




Opinion Poll could seek a hat-trick at Doncaster on Friday, September 9, with Godolphin’s charge featuring among the 10 entries for the £100,000 Stobart Doncaster Cup (2.25pm) over two and a quarter miles, the fifth long distance contest of the QIPCO British Champions Series.


The five-year-old has already annexed the two previous long distance races in the QIPCO British Champions Series - the  Group Two Artemis Goodwood Cup over two miles at Glorious Goodwood on July 28 and  the Group Two Weatherbys Insurance Lonsdale Cup over two miles at York on August 20.


Prior to those victories, finished a fine second behind Fame And Glory in the Group One Ascot Gold Cup over two and a half miles at Royal Ascot in June.


A fantastic entry for the Stobart Doncaster Cup also includes the classy French raider Kasbah Bliss. The Francois Doumen-trained gelding was runner-up behind Jukebox Jury on his most recent start in the Group Two Darley Prix Kergorlay at Deauville  on August 21.


Sir Mark Prescott won the Stobart Doncaster Cup in 2001 with Alleluia and has engaged another smart filly this time in Motrice. The Motivator four-year-old, third in the 2010 Doncaster Cup, stayed on strongly over 14 furlongs at Goodwood on August 27, when an easy winner of the Listed March Stakes on her latest appearance.


The Queen’s Tactician, trained by Michael Bell, followed a Listed success at York in July with second place at the same venue in the Betfred Ebor on August 20, a race in which the Mark Johnston-trained Duke Of Edinburgh Handicap winner Fox Hunt was sixth. Johnston took the prize with the great Double Trigger in 1995, 1996 and 1998.


The David O’Meara-trained Blue Bajan landed the Group Two Henry II Stakes over two miles at Sandown in May, while Tastahil, trained by Charlie Hills, was runner-up to Samuel in the 2010 Stobart Doncaster Cup and then saw off Motrice to win the Group Three Jockey Club Cup at Newmarket the following month.


The Gary Moore-trained Bergo was third to Opinion Poll in the Lonsdale Cup at York, while the Lydia Pearce-trained Dayia scored in Listed company at Saint-Cloud in November.


Saddler’s Rock is the Irish challenger among the entries. The John Oxx-trained three-year-old followed a pair of wins with third place behind Fictional Account in the Listed  Irish Field St Leger Trial Stakes at the Curragh on August 20.


Friday, September 9, is the third day of the four-day Ladbrokes St Leger Festival and a fantastic seven-race card also features a pair of Group Two races for juveniles, the £70,000 Group Two Polypipe Flying Childers (1.25pm) over five furlongs and the £70,000 Group Two Barrett Steel May Hill Stakes (3.00pm) for fillies over a mile.



Also on the card is the popular £40,000 Ladbrokes Mallard Handicap (1.55pm) over the Ladbrokes St Leger distance of an extended mile and three quarters.


The historic Stobart Doncaster Cup was first staged in 1801, making it the oldest of the major Cup races.




Ladbrokes St Leger Day opens with the Group Two £75,000 One Call Insurance Champagne Stakes (2.05pm).


The seven-furlong contest, run over seven furlongs for two-year-old colts and geldings, has attracted 13 five-day confirmations.


Aidan O’Brien, who landed the contest in 2008 with Westphalia, accounts for five of the remaining entries including Power, successful in the Group Two Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot, as well as the maiden winners Crusade, Daddy Long Legs, Reply and Vault.


Richard Hannon has two entries going forward in Bronterre, successful on his only outing at Salisbury and Trumpet Major.


Red Duke could represent Yorkshire handler John Quinn. The Hard Spun colt landed the Group Two Superlative Stakes over seven furlongs at Newmarket in July before finishing an unlucky-looking third in the Group Two Vintage Stakes over the same distance at Goodwood later in the month.


Owner Hamdan Al Maktoum has two exciting prospects going forward with the William Haggas-trained Entifaadha, who has won both his starts to date including a Group Three contest at York last time out and Ektihaam, who won on his debut at Newbury for trainer Roger Varian.


Jeremy Noseda could represented by Talwar, who was an impressive winner of the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown last month while the potential field is completed by Abshir Zain and Al Khan.




Ladbrokes St Leger Day also features the £100,000 Group Two APC Industrial Services Park Stakes (3.40pm), a seven-furlong contest for three-year-olds and upwards.


The seven remaining entries include Balthazaar’s Gift and Premio Loco, who filled the first two places in the 2010 renewal, as well as Duff, who won the race in 2009.


Zoffany is the one three-year-old in the race and represents Aidan O’Brien. The son of Dansili was a Group One winner as a two-year-old and has finished runner-up on three of his four starts this year, including when getting to within three-quarters of a length to the mighty Frankel in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.


An interesting contender if the William Haggas-trained Dafeef, who made an eye-catching reappearance following an absence of close to a year when fifth in a Listed contest at York on August 20.


The possible line-up is completed by Eton Forever, successful in the William Hill Sprint Mile at Doncaster in March and The Cheka, a Group Three winner at Haydock Park in May who is part-owned by comedian Mel Smith.


The four-day Ladbrokes St Leger Festival runs from Wednesday, September 7, through to Saturday, September 10, inclusive.


For further information and to book tickets, please go to www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk      


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