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Gosden's St Leger double a real marvel

Saturday turned out to be quite a day's racing.

After a cracking duel, Duncan and Jukebox Jury eventually shared the spoils in the Irish St Leger at The Curragh.

It was the second year in a row that the Group One went for export, as Jukebox Jury provided Johnny Murtagh with a first success in the race, while Eddie Ahern deserves credit for coaxing Duncan home.

John Gosden's charge has looked shy of resolve at times, so Ahern's decision to put his whip down and resort to a hands-and-heels drive inside the final furlong took plenty of nerve.

The Tipperary native has had a fairly chequered career since being crowned champion apprentice here in 1997, and Saturday's triumph was his first at the highest level since he won the Moyglare Stud Stakes on Preseli for Michael Grassick in 1999.

In light of the fact that the Leger would prove to be the second Irish Classic not to go the way of a Ballydoyle horse this year, it was disappointing that -- once again -- no other Irish trainer had the material to take advantage.

Despite there being two winners -- none of our assorted others could lay a hand on the trophy.

Given what transpired, John Oxx may well regret heading for Doncaster rather than The Curragh with Saddler's Rock, despite that one maintaining the wily handler's 100pc strike rate in England this term on Friday.

Fame And Glory's presence at home no doubt swayed Oxx's decision, but the Gold Cup hero flopped, after Saddler's Rock had sluiced up from horses that are rated on a par with Jukebox Jury and Duncan.

Then again, hindsight is a fine thing, and Oxx can look forward to next year with great optimism.

Saddler's Rock could well develop into a serious Cup horse, while Alanza likewise has the potential to be a Group One-class four-year-old.

Sea The Stars' brother Born To Sea looked a live 2,000 Guineas prospect when making a winning debut in Listed company on Saturday, just a week after Akeed Mofeed burst onto the scene at Leopardstown.

Oxx hadn't produced a genuine Classic prospect since Sea The Stars in 2008, and then two buses come along at once.

Also on Saturday, Power returned to form in the National Stakes, as David Marnane pulled off a second Portland coup with Nocturnal Affair.

However, the day belonged to Duncan's trainer John Gosden, a man cut from a not dissimilar cloth to Oxx. One of the game's most intelligent and articulate practitioners, Gosden has now won four English St Legers after Masked Marvel prevailed under the excellent William Buick. It was just the Newmarket trainer's fifth runner in the race in over 15 years.

No joy in France for Ballydoyle runners

Aidan O'Brien's St Nicholas Abbey and Wonder Of Wonders fell short at Longchamp yesterday.

In the Prix Foy, St Nicholas Abbey was well held in third, as Alain de Royer-Dupre's Sarafina landed skinny odds, hardening her position at the head of the market for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

De Royer-Dupre then watched his Reliable Man bounce back to his best in the Prix Niel, turning the tables on the colt's Grand Prix de Paris conqueror Meandre.

Wonder Of Wonders struggled in the Prix Vermeille behind Freddie Head's Galikova. Coolmore did enjoy some luck as Marco Botti's Excelebration, which they bought into recently, landed the Moulin under Jamie Spencer.

There was further English success when Prohibit defied a 7lb penalty to take the sprint. Jim Crowley's mount tackled Mar Adentro late on and wore him down to snatch the verdict in a photo finish, with Tim Easterby's Hamish McGonagall third.

Best current prices for the Arc: 7/2 Sarafina, Workforce, 6/1 Nathaniel, 7/1 So You Think, Galikova, 12/1 bar.

Don't count on Sizing

defence just yet

Anyone thinking about taking some of the miserly 5/1 about Sizing Europe retaining his Champion Chase crown at Cheltenham next year would be advised to hold fire.

Henry de Bromhead yesterday revealed that he might yet revert to staying distances with his star nine-year-old, despite an indifferent foray down that route last term.

Ride of the weekend

Johnny Murtagh on Bewitched at The Curragh yesterday. For a long time it looked as though Murtagh might have been in trouble behind a wall of horses, but he knew exactly what he was doing aboard Charles O'Brien's filly. The pair inched through the gaps to win in style.


20 The number of times that the once-promising De Valira had run since his last win in April of 2007 prior to yesterday's triumph at Listowel for James Morrissey.


"I did my best to tell everybody that he wasn't expected to win first time and not to be expecting too much. The first run is about education."

-- After Born To Sea succeeded in the only task that proved beyond his brother Sea The Stars by scoring on his debut, John Oxx reaffirms that he didn't fancy him. Somebody did, though, as he was backed into 5/2 favouritism from 7/2.

Irish Independent