Monday 22 January 2018

Duke aiming for York reign


Aidan O'Brien is hoping Granddukeoftuscany can stake his claim for a place in next month's Ladbrokes St Leger with a bold display in Wednesday's Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.

The Galileo colt was only sixth on his debut at the Curragh in early June, but improved immeasurably from his first run to his second. Reappearing just over a fortnight later at Tipperary, he bolted up by an incredible 19 lengths and is trading at around 12-1 for the Doncaster Classic. However, there are three horses in the betting for the Classic at shorter odds also running in this Group Two.

"Granddukeoftuscany had a nice run at the Curragh first time. He obviously improved and then he won his maiden very easily. He is a horse that got a mile and a half well the last time, so you would think and hope that he would probably get further in time," said O'Brien.

Asked whether Granddukeoftuscany would come under consideration for next month's St Leger, O'Brien said: "We take one race at a time, but it is a race that could suit him. It is a big step up from a maiden to a Group Two, so we'll see how he gets on and discuss plans after that. But obviously we would be hoping he might turn into that type of horse."

O'Brien also runs Indian Maharaja, who won both his starts as a juvenile but was well beaten in a Guineas trial and has not been seen since after a slight setback.

"Indian Maharaja is a horse that won two from two last year. First time out this year in bad ground in Leopardstown, he just pulled a muscle in his back, but he is back ready to run. He has only run at a mile, so this will be new territory for him," said O'Brien.

St Leger favourite Kingston Hill puts his own Classic credentials on the line in the Voltigeur. Trainer Roger Varian is not yet fully committing his stable star to Doncaster, but admits a strong performance in the Group Two, which has in recent years produced several Leger winners, is likely to put another trip north on the agenda.

Runner-up in the Derby behind Australia, he possibly found the trip too sharp and the ground too fast at Sandown in the Eclipse last time out. With Varian's stable jockey Andrea Atzeni required to ride Postponed for his retained owner, Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, Ryan Moore comes in for the ride.

"It is genuine good ground so we have no worries in that regard, and a nice, galloping track like York should suit him, you would think. He's going back up in trip and the ground won't be as quick as it was in the Eclipse," said Varian.

"Ryan hasn't been to sit on him but he's a very straightforward horse that takes no knowing. Ryan sits on plenty of horses cold and Ryan is Ryan, I don't expect that to be an issue.

"He wouldn't be 100 per cent certain to run in the St Leger if he did go and win at York, but we have talked about it enough for it to be on the agenda without it being set in stone. I think it would be fair to say if it all went well and the trip didn't look beyond him then it might look the logical thing to do without it being a given."

Sir Michael Stoute's Snow Sky was fancied for the Derby in some quarters having won the Lingfield Derby Trial but he missed the Classic due to a last-minute setback. He was fourth in the King Edward VII at Ascot but regained the winning thread in a blanket finish to the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, where he did well to win considering he had got very warm beforehand.

Jockey James Doyle told At The Races: "I was pleased with him at Goodwood, I think people probably went over the top about him beforehand. He's a bit of a playboy, he just got a little bit hot but it was nothing to worry about. I was pleased with him in the race. I probably got there a bit too soon on him and he idled a bit but he knuckled down and galloped to the line, he stays very well and I'm looking forward to it."

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