Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 17 December 2017

Sans Frontieres strikes to seal Irish St Leger victory

Noseda-trained inmate overcomes Profound Beauty's sustained effort, says Ian McClean

Ian McClean

IF YOU just woke up from a Rip Van Winkle slumber yesterday, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was the middle of the National Hunt season.

With both main Grade One racecourses on either side of the Irish Sea battered by frequent torrential showers offering some clue, the sight of Jessica Harrington and Robert Ogden receiving the two Group One prizes would have copper-fastened the notion.

And the remark from the corresponding Group One winning owner at Doncaster that he "could see him coming up the hill at Cheltenham," should certainly serve to scotch any doubt. But no -- although it felt more Cheltenham than the Curragh at Flat racing's headquarters, on the day that featured the parallel renewals of Flat's final Classic, the St Leger.

It may not have been the classiest running of the Irish Field St Leger, but the market didn't mind as it was vindicated by the success of the Jeremy Noseda-trained Sans Frontieres who came from the rear of the field under a sustained challenge to overhaul local favourite Profound Beauty. The two horses flip-flopped in the betting on the day and both are likely to go on from this for a crack at the Melbourne Cup down under.

Barry Simpson, racing manager to winning owner Ogden, said: "It's a first Group One for Sir Robert and I'm thrilled for him and the horse. Sir Robert spends most of the winter away, so his interest in jumping has diminished a little bit. We've bought Flat horses for the last three or four years and we are delighted with what he has done today."

If it felt like a mind-warp to see the owner of champion chaser Voy Por Ustedes receive a Group One Flat prize, then it was a double-take to witness Jessica Harrington and Eamonn Leigh lead up two-year-old revelation Pathfork who was notching his third straight win and his first Group One. I'm sure Moscow Flyer could give the freshman colt a lesson or two on life, but it's doubtful the former Champion Chaser could ever have come up seven furlongs of the Curragh as fast. Certainly chief market rival Zoffany couldn't keep tabs with the American-bred and it was left to the Michael Halford-trained Casamento to tender the sternest challenge.

Pathfork's US owners -- who won the previous Listed race on the card with Longhunter -- are allegedly keen on the Kentucky Derby which takes place in their back yard.

Jessica Harrington commented afterwards: "Fran said he had to be really tough and that he didn't really like the ground. Pure class got him there in the end and it's just fantastic. I felt sick beforehand and my panic during the race was that he was in front for so long. I'm going to the sales at Keeneland in the morning and I'll make plans with the owners then."

Flat maestro Aidan O'Brien, uncharacteristically, had to settle for third fiddle in both the National Stakes and the Irish St Leger -- but managed to go one better at Doncaster while still finding John Gosden's Arctic Cosmos too strong in the finish.

The winner became the first Classic winner for Derby winner North Light and the application of blinkers for the first time made the whole difference.

Buick, enjoying a tremendous first season as stable jockey to Gosden and completing a memorable treble on the day, said: "It's unbelievable, I just can't believe it. It's a very good buzz -- I've won a Leger on a very good horse. He's been dossing all year, he's still a big baby. We put the blinkers on him to help him concentrate and it's worked."

Favourite Rewilding -- the best backed horse of the year according to Ladbrokes and other bookmakers -- proved a major disappointment.

Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford said: "He wasn't the same horse as at York -- at York he travelled and stayed on, but for whatever reason he just didn't today. He was in trouble a long way out and we didn't see the real Rewilding today. He looked fine afterwards so we will just take a view."

A disappointed Frankie Dettori said: "I knew I was beaten at Rose Hill, I thought I would wait a while and give him a breather, then ask again in the straight. But he was on his knees, that was not his running."

Arctic Cosmos is co-owned by Robin Geffen, founder of Neptune Investments and sponsor these days of the old Sun Alliance Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. From its birth eight years ago the company has gone from managing £12.5m to an investment portfolio that now controls £6bn. Geffen's ambition is to win the Champion Hurdle with this horse but grudgingly admits that Arctic Cosmos has probably now "earned the right to another season on the Flat".

"Neither in my day job, nor in my interests do I follow the herd". With no Coolmore, Godolphin, Moyglare or Juddmonte on the Group One stage, the same comment applies itself equally well to yesterday's St Leger day.

Sunday Independent

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