Tuesday 26 September 2017

Gosden's dream Leger double

IAN McCLEAN

Most people remember 9/11. John Gosden will remember 9/10 as the day he trained two St Leger winners within an hour on either side of the Irish Sea. He won the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster on his own with Masked Marvel, but was made to share the Irish Field bounty on The Curragh as his Duncan was deemed inseparable from rival Jukebox Jury at the end of a gruelling mile and three-quarters.

The final UK classic on Town Moor seemed an above average renewal in spite of the absence of King George winner Nathaniel, which had been earmarked favourite for the race after his deeply impressive King Edward success at Royal Ascot. You could hear the clunk of dropping jaws back in mid-June when John Gosden declared that the freshly installed ante-post favourite would not be taking up his engagement in the Doncaster feature in early September. And yesterday we discovered why.

By that stage, Masked Marvel had finished a nondescript eighth in the Epsom Derby, a track said by his trainer to have rendered his colt "confused". However, there was nothing confused about his victory yesterday as William Buick manoeuvered his partner to take up the running from the flattering Seville late in the straight to power clear of his rivals for a comprehensive win.

Asked when the Leger plan was hatched for the son of Montjeu, Gosden replied: "From the day I saw him in the sales ring at Deauville -- he was such a strong little fellow".

In lowering the course record off a brutal gallop Masked Marvel was also providing Gosden with his fourth win in the race. Moreover, in following up the victory of the yard's Arctic Cosmos last year, the trainer and jockey became the first combination to achieve back-to-back Legers since Fulke Johnson-Houghton and Lester Piggott delivered with Ribocco and Ribero in the late 1960s.

Favourite Sea Moon had a fairly stop-start journey under saddle-for-hire Olivier Peslier who was afforded little liberty at a crucial stage by Kieren Fallon (who finished second on Brown Panther). Sea Moon stayed on well to grab third when the race was over and Lord Grimthorpe was at best philosophical with his summary that things "didn't go particularly well".

Another favourite for whom things didn't go particularly well was the Aidan O'Brien-trained 8/13 shot Fame And Glory, which was a spent force fully half a mile from home in our domestic St Leger that featured a 1-2-3 finish for the English invaders. As Fame And Glory toiled, Jukebox Jury and Duncan were settling into a confrontation as compelling as it was unrelenting. In the conditions it would have been cruel to have to declare a loser and so it proved as the photo matched them down to the last pixel. The subsequent handshaking between winning jockeys Johnny Murtagh and Eddie Ahern betrayed a camaraderie more often associated with the winter code. As did the conditions. "We were racing from a long way out and it turned out pretty much a slog. It was a great battle and in the end I was glad of a dead heat," said Johnny Murtagh of a situation (dead heat) which has not arisen in an Irish Classic since Diminuendo and Melodist shared an Oaks in 1988.

The other Group One on the Curragh card came courtesy of the two-year-olds in the Goffs National Stakes. It was won in gritty fashion by the Aidan O'Brien-trained Power which lived up to his name by adding a fourth victory from five starts so far in his short career.

He can be considered a little unlucky not to already have captured the Group One Phoenix Stakes last time when just mugged on the line but, according to Seamus Heffernan, he "felt I rode him wrong that day". His ride yesterday, by contrast, was judged to perfection to overhaul pacemaking stablemate David Livingston with enough still in reserve to repel Dragon's Pulse.

Heffernan recorded his first ever Group One in this race 11 years ago and Power was providing him with his fifth Group One of this campaign -- and his second in a week following So You Think last Saturday. All good things to those who wait.

On that note, the last word goes to Philippa Cooper who promised that if her horse Duncan ever won a Group One she would retire him. As the result was a dead heat, I wonder will he get off on a technicality?

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