Galileo Rock to shoot for stars in Doncaster classic
Saturday's Doncaster St Leger promises to be a compelling edition of the world's oldest classic, but it will form just one leg of what is shaping up to be an absolutely fascinating weekend of international Flat racing.
David Wachman's dual Derby-placed Galileo Rock continues to vie for a share of the market lead alongside the John Gosden-trained Excess Knowledge for the mile-and-six-furlong Group One at a top price of 4/1.
Ballydoyle's Leading Light and Foundry are also to the fore in the betting for the £600,000 Town Moor feature, though Aidan O'Brien has said that Leading Light may switch to the Curragh's Gain Irish St Leger on Sunday if the ground isn't soft enough for Ernest Hemingway to run there.
O'Brien's three St Leger heroes of the last decade (Milan, Brian Boru and Scorpion) are the only Irish-trained winners of the Doncaster showpiece since Boucher delivered his predecessor and namesake Vincent the last of his three 41 years ago.
Wachman has a live chance of adding his name to an illustrious list with Galileo Rock, third to Ruler Of The World at Epsom before chasing up Trading Leather at the Curragh. Indeed, it could be a massive weekend for the Tipperary handler, as Sudirman is likely to try for its second Group One in Sunday's Goffs National Stakes.
War Command, back to form at headquarters last month having been outpointed by Sudirman in the Phoenix, is not among the entries for the seven-furlong juvenile contest, nor is John Murphy's Phoenix runner-up Big Time.
Giovanni Boldini, Sunday's facile Dundalk winner, is one of four that O'Brien could field, another being Wilshire Boulevard. Astaire – his conqueror at York – could also run in the €200,000 contest, as might Richard Hannon's unbeaten Goodwood winner, Toormore.
With the ground officially good to firm on the expansive Kildare plains' round course – where up to 5mm of rainfall is forecast – it remains to be seen if Ernest Hemingway will tackle the St Leger. However, the race received a big boost when Royal Diamond was given the go-ahead to attempt to become the first dual holder since four-time winner Vinnie Roe (2001-2004).
Johnny Murtagh had been considering putting his seven-year-old into quarantine ahead of a Melbourne Cup prep run in Australia's Caulfield Cup, but has opted to keep him local for now.
There is a strong cross-channel entry for the long-distance Group One that has been won or shared by four cross-channel handlers since 2005, with Michael Owen's Brown Panther due to attempt to build on last year's third.
Sunday's Curragh programme could host other potential Ballydoyle stars like Dazzling and Darwin, but O'Brien has some of his premier campaigners pencilled in for Longchamp's 'Arc' trials day the same afternoon. Camelot will try to kick-start his lacklustre campaign in the Prix Foy, while Ruler Of The World runs in the Prix Niel as the Epsom Derby hero bids to bounce back from his poor Curragh showing. Having been withdrawn from the Irish Champion Stakes due to the soft ground, Declaration Of War could join O'Brien's Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Magician in the Prix du Moulin. Venus De Milo, runner-up to The Fugue in the Yorkshire Oaks after filling the same spot in the Irish equivalent, will try to shed her Group One bridesmaid's tag in the Prix Vermeille.
Today, Wachman has booked Kieren Fallon for Hot Bed in Doncaster's DFS Handicap. Pat Shanahan and Tadhg O'Shea also team up with Bethany Bay in the Sceptre Stakes, but Wachman's four-year-old has better win prospects.
At York, Hot Bed stayed on for third over a mile and the step-up to 10 furlongs for a first time could prove key.