Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 19 April 2018

Wingman Heffernan gets lift-off for Idaho Leger bid

Jockey Seamie Heffernan: 'hope for the best, prepare for the worst'
Jockey Seamie Heffernan: 'hope for the best, prepare for the worst'

Johnny Ward

For most of this week Seamie Heffernan did not even envisage being at Doncaster tomorrow.

It was accepted that Ryan Moore would scurry to a chopper after riding Idaho in the Ladbrokes St Leger, thus ensuring he got a piece of the Leopardstown cake, in particular the feature Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.

That was canned and Moore will concentrate on the Irish meet wholly; Heffernan was in Doncaster yesterday, walking the track and riding the Aidan O'Brien-trained Pretty Perfect into second in a Group Two. Tomorrow he steers Idaho.

The confidence of punters reflects that of the rider, 44, who says he's "too old to be nervous" on a day when he not only rides Idaho but also Found in the Champion Stakes.

"My motto is: always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I presumed Ryan would be riding Idaho. The decision was made late.

"Idaho and Found are serious rides in serious races and I'm lucky. That said, you don't know until they are going to the start. There is still a bit of time. Lots can go wrong," Heffernan (above) stresses, true to the motto.

Idaho could yet go to post similar odds to 2/5 favourite Camelot in 2012 - though we all recall what happened that day. He was one of nine confirmations yesterday, with stablemates Housesofparliament and Sword Fighter far from back numbers in the betting, though bookmakers expect Hamdan Al Maktoum's Muntahaa to offer most resistance.

Heffernan gave the visual impression in the pair's success in his key York trial that he has an innate understanding of Idaho, which stretches now to a mile and three parts. He talks the talk too.

"He was the best horse in the race then and I was always confident I was going to get them when I needed to. He quickens well and he has been getting stronger; I feel that he is more mature than he was earlier in the year.

"It's the last Classic and when you have a mature one, he's the one to be going to the race with. In my opinion Aidan never really pushes the boat completely out and they keep coming out and trying hard if you do that.

"Some of them get stronger with age, some stay better. We are hoping he stays; definitely he has gotten stronger with age and time. I will be riding him with all the confidence."

Found, conversely, was turned over in the Yorkshire Oaks but Heffernan "was happy with her" - though he was hoping she'd win. "She has to have a major chance if she improves a little on the run and we think she will." Found can be supported at 10/1 tomorrow.

Very often the wingman, this is one day in which Heffernan takes centre stage, befitting the talents of a rider long considered one of the most astute judges of a young thoroughbred. "This is the big weekend of the year for us."

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