Saturday 18 November 2017

Heffernan states Leger case for Idaho

Understated rider, 44, on cusp of Leger breatkthrough

Seamus Heffernan partners Found in the Irish Champion Stakes. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Seamus Heffernan partners Found in the Irish Champion Stakes. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

Idaho is nothing like the prices he was available at prior to winning his prep race but he still looks the bet in this afternoon's Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.

Rider Seamus Heffernan, 44, was expected to be at Leopardstown alone but the decision was made that Ryan Moore would be tasked with that track and Heffernan would retain his alliance with Idaho.

After the final Classic of the season, Heffernan (gets into a helicopter to partner Found in the Irish Champion Stakes. No time for celebration.

However, you won't hear him complaining. Idaho (right) looks nearly certain to go off odds-on but the sponsor's David Williams has confirmed that there will be a willingness to take him on in the morning exchanges.

"Ever since his Voltigeur win, Idaho's odds have been in freefall and he's been odds-on throughout the week. Suddenly, with an unsettled weather forecast and some doubts about how much rain might arrive at Doncaster, we're going to push him back out to evens and expect it to be popular."

Leading Light was Ballydoyle's last winner in the Leger three years ago. That most lazy of thoroughbreds is incomparable to Idaho, which often gets warm before his races and has the speed to race over much shorter than a mile and six.

After a nice run in his trial, he finished third behind Harzand and stablemate US Army Ranger in the Epsom Derby. He produced a high-class performance at the Curragh to give Harzand a stirring duel and it is near-impossible to pick a hole in him.

Heffernan has no obvious concerns about stamina and the manner of Idaho's York victory tallies with that. Ridden with extreme confidence, Idaho briefly looked in trouble and the odds-on jolly touched almost 5/1 in running. This long-striding colt mastered those in front, including a solid each-way player today Housesofparliament, the mount of Colm O'Donoghue.

Idaho is a brother to Highland Reel, which seems to have gotten better at four and whose King George victory earned him a place in the Champion Stakes line-up. According to Heffernan, a superb judge of a horse, Idaho has strengthened up considerably.

The son of Galileo handles a little ease if the ground softens considerably, and he should confirm the York form. O'Brien's son Donnacha steers the hardy Sword Fighter and all three of the stable's riders have a mount this evening in the Champion Stakes.

Harrinson's father, Sixties Icon, won the race ten years ago. Muntaha, however, looks a stronger threat to Idaho, as the Dansili colt has only raced five times and appeals as near-certain to progress for a test of stamina. He appears to handle an ease.

Rivet showed nice improvement from his debut to win around a month later at York and he can take the beating in the opening At The Races Champagne Stakes. His astute trainer Willie Haggas trained the dam to win three on the bounce in a short career.

Soft terrain is something of an unknown but on the basis of his Royal Ascot effort, it probably won't favour Thunder Snow, which ran a blinder at Glorious Goodwood since.

The Ladbrokes-sponsored Portland Handicap over five and a half furlongs sees 23 go to post. Confessional ended a spell in the wilderness with a couple of wins this year and the high draw should not inconvenience. In particular, given his versatility, a bit of rain would be welcomed, and he arrives into the race in proven form.

Aidan O'Brien targets the Group Two Saint Gobain Weber Park Stakes with both The Happy Prince and Cougar Mountain. Rain would be all wrong for Cougar Mountain, visored for the first time, but The Happy Prince could be a work in progress and his Navan win last Sunday was quite convincing.

Adaay wears blinkers for the first time and may be the each-way value in the race. Not ground-reliant, he ran well behind Gordon Lord Byron at the Curragh and his head second to Breton Rock at Newmarket was solid.

Haggas introduced cheekpieces before Newmarket and that they are taken off suggests he believes the Kodiac-bred is having a think about it in combat after running 13 pattern races in succession. Perhaps the new headgear will prove the difference.

There could be a bit of value in the Champagne Pommery Nursery in the shape of Mount Moriah, which found plenty for a drive in winning at Southwell. This is clearly a step up in quality but his mark looks exploitable and he ought to have more in the locker.

The tough mile will be right the Mount Nelson-bred's street under the title-chasing Silvestre De Sousa.

Watching Brief...

Starting a virtuous Champions weekend with a maiden is unusual but even those who most bemoaned the race's incongruity must admit it is developing its own little niche - because it is a Group race masquerading as a maiden.

Today's opener is captivating, with Jim Bolger describing Tradfest as a Classic type. Coolmore, Godolphin and Hamdan Al Maktoum are represented.

However, the eye has to be taken by Dilmun, her trainer David Wachman having recently revealed that he is quitting at the end of the term. On pedigree, she is attractive. By War Front, Dilmun is a first foal out of Pachattack, a juvenile winner and Listed scorer in Britain before Grade 3 success in the US.

The owner had the misfortune on this card four years ago of enjoying the victory of Duntle in the Group One Matron Stakes, only for her subsequent disqualification for interference.

What an appropriate start to the weekend it would be if Wachman entered the winners' circle - and the filly's draw in one is a major help.

Irish Independent

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