The Great Voltigeur Stakes takes place on the opening day of York’s Ebor meeting. A Group 2, it is open to three-year-old colts and geldings, and is run over a mile and a half.
The event is named after Voltigeur, the Yorkshire-trained winner of the Derby and St Leger in 1850. The race was established in 1950, and was initially called the Voltigeur Stakes before the word ‘Great’ was added to its title in 1957.
It has become one of the leading trials for the final Classic of the season; the St Leger at Doncaster. Thirteen horses have achieved victory in both events. The first was Premonition in 1953, and the most recent was Lucarno in 2007. The last participant to subsequently win the St Leger was Encke who finished third in the Great Voltigeur of 2012.
Several true greats of the sport have been successful in the race over the years. In 1977 Alleged trained by Vincent O’Brien and ridden by Lester Piggott took the event before losing out to the Queen’s Dunfermline in the St Leger. Just a few weeks later he travelled to Longchamp and won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He completed an Arc double the following year when storming to a convincing victory.
Rainbow Quest won the ‘Voltigeur’ in 1984 having previously been placed in the Epsom and Irish Derby’s. He failed to make an impact in the Arc as a three-year-old but returned to the track a much improved beast at four. An impressive win in the Coronation Cup was followed by a second place finish in the Eclipse and a third in the King George. His second attempt at the Arc was far more successful. Initially defeated in a thrilling finish by just a neck, he was awarded the race when the French horse Sagace was disqualified for causing interference.
Fantastic Light may not have won an Arc, but after winning the Great Voltigeur in 1999 he went on to become an international star, taking the Hong Kong Cup, the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Turf. He began his career with Sir Michael Stoute, but after the opening race of his four-year-old campaign was transferred to Godolphin. He quickly became a global star with wins in Dubai and Hong Kong. But for many his clashes with Galileo as a five-year-old were career defining.
Their first meeting came in the King George at Ascot. Ballydoyle’s latest star was a dual Derby winner and was sent for home turning into the straight, tracked by Fantastic Light. The latter came alongside and for a few strides it looked as if Godolphin’s colt would assert, but he appeared to be outstayed by the mighty Galileo, who forged clear close home.
Their second encounter came over a shorter trip in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Again the two swept to the front in the home straight. Head to head for a full furlong, they fought out a sensational finish, but on this occasion Fantastic Light prevailed.
Seven runners go to post in Wednesday’s Great Voltigeur, with three representing Ballydoyle. Aloft has only run once this season, when winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot. That bare form may not appear good enough to take this, but he should have improved a fair amount for the run, and was a talented juvenile, classy enough to finish runner-up in the Racing Post Trophy.
Storm The Stars is trained by in-form William Haggas, and is a horse that has been running consistently well in the highest company. Placed in two Derby’s, he also ran with great credit at Longchamp last time, when third to the classy French colt Erupt. He has had a busy season, and much may depend on just how fresh he is for his eighth start of the campaign.
Tashaar is the least exposed in the field with just the two career starts. Owned by Al Shaqab Racing and trained by Richard Hannon, the colt won a handicap at Goodwood last time, and this is clearly a huge step up in class. However, both his wins have been emphatic and the son of Sea The Stars out of a Montjeu mare is certainly bred for the task.
It’s an intriguing renewal with every possibility that a very classy sort could emerge successful. Storm The Stars is probably the rightful favourite on known form, but less exposed types lurk among the entrants waiting to make a name for themselves.