Cosmos gifts Buick debut Classic glory
The buzz in the crowd after Frankie Dettori won the opening race here at Doncaster continued right up to the off in the St Leger, a reminder of the electrifying qualities racing will lose when the Italian retires. But the Leger itself offered a glimpse of life after Frankie too, as William Buick secured the first Classic of his career with a typically unflustered performance on Arctic Cosmos.
Buick may never match Dettori for theatrics -- few jockeys ever could but at a time when there are plenty of sportsmen on the front pages for the wrong reasons, Buick is accomplished, dedicated and articulate. The first Classic is often the most difficult to win, and this, surely, will be the first of many.
The best jockeys are the ones who make fewest mistakes, and get from A to B as efficiently as possible. Bold runs through packed fields are sometimes unavoidable, but the ideal in a big race is a ride like Buick's yesterday. He broke well, got Arctic Cosmos balanced and into a rhythm, kept in touch with the pace, asked for a final effort two out and trusted that his horse was good enough.
Midas Touch made some ground in the final furlong, but was never going to bridge the gap. He finished a few lengths behind the winner, and a nose ahead of Corsica, who had set a strong early pace. Snow Fairy, the Oaks winner, did not get home though her class took her into fourth place, while Rewilding, the evens favourite, was never travelling like a hotshot and faded into sixth.
John Gosden -- whose wife Rachel Hood is the co-owner of the winner -- was generous in his praise for his stable jockey. "He's a very talented young man," he said.
"I've watched him from when he was a little kid. Great balance, beautiful hands, good judgment and he came up in the best academy possible at Kingsclere. You could see a lot of equilibrium [in him], and two leading jockeys, one of them Dettori and one unnamed, told me this is the young man in the weighing room.
"He's a delight to work with. He's very mature for a young man, he's very level-headed. We are living in a world of celebrity froth that can be very destructive to young athletes. He's knocked off the Group One here, and we've just got to build on it. He's not going to lose his head, he's not that type."
Dettori's disappointment was clear as he left the paddock, with hopes of running Rewilding in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe apparently in tatters.
It was noticeable after his victory on Saamidd in the first race, the Group Two Champagne Stakes, that he did not perform a flying dismount, perhaps because he was confident that he would be leaping off a Leger winner before too long.
Instead, hopes for the end of the season now shift to Saamidd, who was far too good for his five opponents, including the Gimcrack Stakes winner, Approve, and will now head for the Dewhurst Stakes, frequently the contest that decides the champion juvenile.
"From the first day I set my eyes on him, he has been such a beautiful individual," Dettori said. "He is calm and he has got everything. He was nicknamed Pegasus in the yard and they were right. I knew he was special and I was actually more worried about riding him today than Rewilding in the big one because this horse is my future."
A busy afternoon at the Curragh saw Pathfork emerge as another possible contender for champion juvenile with a head defeat of Casamento in the Group One National Stakes, while Sans Frontieres, trained in Newmarket by Jeremy Noseda, beat Profound Beauty in the Irish St Leger. Sans Frontieres could now head a long way south, to run in the Melbourne Cup in early November.
Midday leads the British challenge in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp this afternoon, when the Group One event is the feature race on Arc trials day. She has been better than ever this year, but faces a different calibre of opponent in Sarafina (2.40), the French Oaks winner, who remains unbeaten in three starts, including two Group Ones. She could make the most of the nine pounds she gets.
Behkabad, who took the Grand Prix de Paris over course and distance in July, is favourite for the Arc in some lists, but Planteur (3.15) could advance his own claims in the Prix Niel. Byword (3.45) is a tentative selection for the Prix Foy, as his price will be short and his stamina is untested at the trip, but this race is frequently run at little more than a walk for the first couple of furlongs. He should have just enough class to see off the Japanese challenger Nakayama Festa.