Wednesday 13 December 2017

O'Brien rewarded for faith in Light

Leading Light and Joseph O'Brien (right) win the St Leger last month
Leading Light and Joseph O'Brien (right) win the St Leger last month

IAN McCLEAN

Leading Light went some way towards curing the heart-ache of Camelot's failed Triple Crown bid in last year's Doncaster St Leger when grinding out a cosy victory in the final Classic of the season on Town Moor yesterday.

Many had questioned Joseph O'Brien's choice of runner – as his stablemate Foundry seemed to have equally persuasive credentials – but the stable-jockey's judgment was right on the money as he justified strong late market support to provide Aidan O'Brien with his fourth victory in the oldest Classic.

Many doubted whether a Queen's Vase winner would have the class to carry off a Classic, but Leading Light is obviously a deeply progressive colt – still unbeaten this year after four races.

As stamina was never going to be an issue, Leading Light was never likely to be far from the pace. Joseph O'Brien admitted to "giving him a kick just to get him up there" as they broke from the gate and he sat on the quarters of pace-maker Cap O'Rushes before striking for home over two furlongs out and putting the race beyond doubt.

Oaks winner Talent, held up in last, began to thread her way through from the back and was checked at a crucial stage of the race.

However, it made little difference to the result as neither she, nor Galileo Rock (a late confirmation on the ground), could match strides with the winner. David Wachman's colt once again ran respectably and stayed on well to take third.

The winning rider said afterwards of Leading Light: "He's quite lazy in his races, he wears cheek-pieces and I got him going plenty early. I knew if I didn't hit him until a furlong and a half out he would win."

The victory chalked up a stark contrast to the same day last year when Camelot (which runs this afternoon in the Prix Foy) came up short against Encke in his bid for his history. "We came here last year expecting a big day" said Aidan O'Brien "and it just went the other way". Asked whether yesterday's win in the same Derrick Smith colours was enough to make up for last year Joseph O'Brien's succinct reply was simple: "A little bit."

It is not inconceivable that Camelot and Leading Light could both end up at Longchamp on October 6.

Ireland provided another high-profile success on the Doncaster card when Viztoria vindicated the high opinion Edward Lynam has always had of her by winning the Group Two Park Stakes in very convincing style against a quality field of older rivals.

Lynam has been a regular visitor to the UK this season with the Powers (Sole and Slade), but it was the turn of Girl Power on this occasion to make the headlines on another big day. Soft ground is very important to Viztoria and she hasn't made an appearance since she ran respectably over a trip that stretched her stamina at Royal Ascot.

However, patience was richly rewarded yesterday and jockey Wayne Lordan said afterwards: "Eddie (Lynam) told me this morning that she'd travel really well and to sit as long as I could – she did exactly that and went to the line well. She's an improving filly and she's going the right way." She is another who could turn up – perhaps in the Foret – on Arc day.

Godolphin's blistering two-year-old form throughout the Leger meeting this week continued in the (admittedly weak-looking) opening Group Two Champagne Stakes. The all-blue Outstrip simply outgunned his rivals to comfortably regain the winning thread after getting nutted by Toormore in the dying stages of the Vintage at Goodwood.

Trainer Charlie Appleby said afterwards: "We were very pleased with him coming into this race. We weren't disappointed after Goodwood, we just got nabbed on the line. The winner (Toormore) is a nice horse and can hopefully frank the form (today at the Curragh)."

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