Harbour Lays Down The Law In Weekend Of Leger Shocks
Saturday afternoon at Doncaster saw the final classic of the British racing season take place on Town Moor. It was Aidan O’Brien’s Idaho, who had already placed in two Derby’s so far this season who was all the rage for the staying test which is the historic St. Leger.
This race hasn’t been all that kind to O’Brien in recent years however, with Camelot narrowly missing out on the triple-crown to a runner from the yard of a subsequently disgraced trainer in 2012, and Bondi Beach eventually coming out second best to Simple Verse after a drawn out enquiry and appeal process last year. Sadly the tale of woe continued for the master of Ballydoyle in 2016.
Idaho appeared to be travelling as well as anything and was just moving into contention when taking an awkward step and promptly depositing Seamie Heffernan onto the Doncaster turf. Cue groans from the odds on backers in the stands and a race which was all of a sudden wide open.
It looked set to be a battle between Ventura Storm and the O’Brien second string Housesofparliament headed into the final furlong, but stamina is the name of the game here and it was the Laura Mongan trained Harbour Law who came with a relentless, withering run to get up close home. This was a first classic win for Mongan and the first time in the St. Leger’s 241 year history that a female trainer had taken the prize.
Also on Saturday we had what for many looked to be the race of the season to date. Looking at the assembled field beforehand, it was certainly hard to dispute that assessment, as no fewer than nine previous Group 1 winners went to post for Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Stakes. The superstar filly, Minding and this year’s dual Derby winner, Harzand, were the headline acts but in the end both had to give best to the French Derby Champion Almanzor.
The Wootton Bassett colt swept down the outside to relegate Found to the runners up spot for a second year running, and record another famous success for what is rapidly becoming the greatest season of Jean-Claude Rouget’s career. Minding ran with credit in third whilst Harzand can be given another chance having been struck into and finishing the race lame. For the winner all of the big autumn targets are now realistic goals, with Ascot’s Champion Stakes seeming most likely to be his next assignment at this stage. He’s as short as 5/2 in places for that October contest so the 9/2 currently on offer may well be snapped up before long.
If the St. Leger eclipse of Idaho was somewhat excusable given the circumstances, the failure of Order Of St George to land the Irish version at the Curragh on Sunday was truly shocking. Such has been this horses dominance in the staying division of late, that only three rivals showed up to take him on here.
Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt routed the field by 11 lengths in this race last year, and having also landed this seasons Ascot Gold Cup, was sent off as a prohibitive 1/7f for the defence of his crown. Wicklow Brave had been amongst the runners trailing in Order of St George’s wake here twelve months ago but a switch to front running tactics was enough to produce one of the shocks of the season date.
Frankie Dettori judged the pace to perfection from the front and whilst the favourite was only a half-length adrift come the line, in truth he never really looked like getting there. An excuse may yet emerge for this sub-par effort but nothing should be taken away from the winner, who has now proved himself a smart performer under both codes, having won the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2015.