Ward hopes his star can give a good Account in St Leger
Vincent Ward, the Meath-based restricted licence holder, was trying to remain upbeat yesterday as the inclement weather threatened to thwart his hopes of big-race glory with Fictional Account in Saturday's Irish St Leger at The Curragh.
A sheep farmer by trade, Ward trains just four horses at his Piercetown yard, yet sent out his six-year-old mare to conquer the devastating Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory when the pair clashed in the St Leger trial at headquarters last month.
That neck victory came on Fictional Account's favoured good ground, so Ward was understandably despondent as the rain continued to fall in the Leinster area yesterday. "The mare has had a good preparation," he said, "but I am just concerned about the ground, because it is officially soft at The Curragh.
"We'd an awful day yesterday and it's lashing here again now, so I'm praying conditions improve.
"She'll take her chance either way as the prize money is good; there won't be many runners in the race and she has nothing to lose at this stage."
This time last year, Fictional Account supplied Ward with a famous triumph in a Listed race at Ascot. However, on returning to the Berkshire venue for the royal meeting in June, she was eclipsed by Fame And Glory in the Gold Cup after rain eased the going considerably that morning.
By subsequently toppling the 2009 Irish Derby hero -- which had been sent off at odds of 1/3 -- Fictional Account earned herself free entry into Saturday's Group One. Nonetheless, Ward's stable star is 16/1 to confirm the trial placings in the St Leger, while Fame And Glory heads the market at 5/4. "It's the chance of a lifetime to even have a runner in a race like the St Leger," the handler confessed.
"It's disheartening to wake up and find it's pouring down again. It's like déjÃ vu, because she went over for the Gold Cup in great spirits too, but the ground changed, and that was that. Still, you have to stay positive, you never know what can happen."
One of the 13 contenders that is not expected to line out in the one-mile-six-furlong showpiece is the Dermot Weld-trained Sense Of Purpose. The Melbourne Cup entrant will instead tackle the Group Two Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster tomorrow.
In the Listed Blenheim Stakes on Saturday's card, John Oxx is set to give Born To Sea, a half-brother to both Sea The Stars and Galileo, his eagerly awaited debut.
"Born To Sea is ready to run," Oxx reported of the son of Invincible Spirit.
"Not too many horses are expected to win a Listed race first time out, but it's the most suitable race for him in the next three weeks. As with his brother (just fourth on his first start as a juvenile), it'll be a nice educational run. He won't be knocked about."
The Doncaster meeting gets under way today and while the Scarborough Stakes is the feature, the focus will centre on the Legends Classified Stakes in which Charlie Swan is hoping to emulate last year's success when he has the leg-up aboard Skyfire.
At the other end of the spectrum, Paul Nicholls has earmarked the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas for what is likely to be Denman's second last outing before retirement.
A comfortable winner of the Grade One in 2007, the 11-year-old, runner-up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup for a third successive time in March, is then likely to bow out after one last tilt at the Prestbury Park feature next year.
Nicholls also confirmed Kauto Star would re-appear in the Betfair Chase at Haydock next month. The dual Gold Cup winner got under way in effortless style at Down Royal last term, before chasing home Long Run and Denman in that epic Gold Cup, followed by an abject display at the Punchestown Festival. Nicholls stated Kauto Star will be retired "as soon he gives the slightest indication he's had enough."