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Berkshire Rocco pencilled in for Ascot

Pertemps St Leger runner-up Berkshire Rocco could be seen next in the Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot.

Although winless in 2020 thus far, Andrew Balding’s colt has run some tremendous races in defeat – finishing second in the Lingfield Derby Trial, the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the season’s final Classic at Doncaster, as well as placing fourth in the Great Voltigeur at York.

The Kingsclere handler is keen to get the son of Sir Percy’s head in front before the end of the campaign and views the Listed Noel Murless Stakes on October 2 as an attractive aim.

“He has come out of the Leger in good form,” said Balding.

“He will probably go to the Noel Murless in two weeks’ time at Ascot. He deserves to win a race this year and that looks a logical target.

“There has been some interest from abroad, but nothing firm. It is just a case of watch this space.

“I was very proud of the horse last week. He went as close as he could without winning it, but there you go.”

Cunningham retains Fury faith despite Doncaster disappointment

Connections of the equine Tyson Fury retain full faith in his abilities after taking plenty of encouragement from his performance in the Pertemps St Leger.

The Richard Spencer-trained colt – who is named after the world heavyweight champion – lined up for the final Classic of the season at Doncaster having only made one racecourse appearance, when he was the comfortable winner of a novice stakes race at the same track.

The son of Iffraaj was not seen again until taking his big-race chance on Town Moor last Saturday, when he finished an eventual ninth of 11 runners, beaten 12 lengths by Galileo Chrome.

However, co-owner Phil Cunningham was bolstered by Tyson Fury’s late progress in the race and pointed out his encouraging sectional timings.

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“I suppose on one hand we were a little bit disappointed, because obviously we wouldn’t have gone there if we didn’t think we’d have finished closer,” he said.

“But I thought he ran a lovely race in hindsight. Kieran (Shoemark) looked after him – I thought he did the right thing, he showed up nicely from four furlongs out.

“His furlong from the fourth (furlong out) to the third, now we have the benefit of sectional timing, was the fastest furlong of any horse in the race. His combined time from the fourth (last) to the second was the fastest of any horse in the race.

“He’s a big baby, very immature and very green – everything we half expected. Like I say, I think Kieran looked after him. He could have finished closer if he wanted, but there was no point, we weren’t going to win.”

Cunningham anticipates Tyson Fury will make his next appearance in a less testing contest, perhaps stepping back down to the 12-furlong trip he won over on his racecourse debut.

“I think Richard will find a race for him in a couple of weeks’ time,” he said.

“Maybe slightly back in trip, a bit of a confidence boost, but I think we’ve got a cracking horse to look forward to for next year.

“Obviously we’ll discuss it with Richard, but I’d love to see him back at a mile and a half next time. Off the back of that run, we’ll probably determine where we go after that, or indeed if we put him away until next year.”

Heartened by the promise shown in his two runs starts to date, Cunningham is looking forward to seeing how the colt matures and progresses next season.

“The positive thing is that there’s no harm done,” he said.

“I’m just delighted to know we’ve got a horse that’s capable of competing at that level and I think we’ll be the biggest improver from the race for next season.”

Wait and see on next target for Galileo Chrome

Joseph O’Brien is in no rush to firm up future plans for his Pertemps St Leger hero Galileo Chrome.

The Australia colt was well fancied for the final Classic of the British Flat season at Doncaster on Saturday, having won each of his three previous starts this season at the Curragh, Leopardstown and Navan.

Galileo Chrome displayed class and courage to come out on top under a delighted Tom Marquand – a late substitute in the saddle for Irish apprentice Shane Crosse, who was forced to watch on from home after testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday.

O’Brien’s charge has now returned to County Kilkenny and the Piltown handler is keen to let the dust settle before considering the next course of attack.

“He’s home safe and sound. We were delighted with his performance and it was a special day,” he said.

“We’ll discuss things with his owners. We have a few different options for him and there’ll be no decision on where we go just yet.

“He’s entered in plenty of races and we can put him in any races he’s not in.

“At this stage we’ll just wait and see how he comes out of the race, speak with the owners and take it from there.”

Champion Stakes on the agenda for Pyledriver

A crack at the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot is next on the agenda for Pyledriver following his fine effort to finish third in the Pertemps St Leger.

Having already won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur at York this season, William Muir’s stable star was strongly fancied for the final British Classic of the year at Doncaster on Saturday.

After travelling strongly for much of the race, the son of Harbour Watch ended up racing on the far side of the track in the closing stages and ultimately had to make do with minor honours.

Muir said: “He’s come home safe and sound. I wondered whether the race might have taken a bit out of him, but he’s eaten everything and he’s in great shape.”

Jockey Martin Dwyer – Muir’s son-in-law – felt Pyledriver failed to see out the trip of a mile and three-quarters and he is set to come back to a mile and a quarter on Champions Day.

“I don’t want to be dogmatic and say he didn’t stay. He didn’t stay quite as well as the first two, but I felt he was closing again at the line and at the end of the day he’s been beaten a length and a neck,” Muir added.

“He couldn’t quite go through the gears like he did at York. It didn’t help that he got a bump and ended up out on a wing on his own, but that’s racing.

“The Champion Stakes was the plan and I don’t see any reason to change it.

“I think he’ll be fine back at a mile and a quarter and if it did come up heavy ground, he’d handle that and it would mean you’d nearly need to stay a mile and a half well to win, which he obviously does.

“He is still a bit weak, which I’ve been telling everyone all year. He’ll be some horse next year, I promise you.”

Twist of fate makes Marquand’s St Leger dream come true

Tom Marquand counted his blessings after fate contrived to give him a first domestic Classic triumph in the Pertemps St Leger on Galileo Chrome at Doncaster.

When the four-day meeting began on Wednesday, the 22-year-old rising star had been booked for English King – but when it became apparent that horse would be heading for the Grand Prix de Paris on Sunday, he was without a ride again.

But as happened in this year’s Derby – when he lost the ride on English King and was snapped up instead for Khalifa Sat and was second on Andrew Balding’s 50-1 outsider – there was a twist in his favour.

As Marquand arrived at the start on Sacred before Doncaster’s Flying Childers Stakes on Friday, he was told he was going to partner Galileo Chrome for Irish trainer Joseph O’Brien – after Shane Crosse had tested positive for Covid-19.

He had to pinch himself, but it turned out to be a dream of a spare ride.

Marquand shows maturity and ability way beyond his years – and to win the world’s oldest Classic, founded in 1776, was just reward for his talent.

He said: “I can’t say how bad I feel for Shane Crosse – because we’ve all been in situations where things haven’t gone our way, and we’re both relatively young – so I can relate, and he’ll be sat at home in pieces, no doubt.

“I guess in racing it all comes back round. No doubt he’ll have his time, and I look forward to seeing him do it.

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“I’ve never met Shane in person. We’ve both only been riding a relatively short time – and I guess, without the restrictions over the last few months, he’d have been over here and I would have come across him.

“I’ll certainly have a chat with him later on.

“It really is a dream come true. Classics in Britain are some of the hardest races go come across. Group One races in Britain are equally hard.

“To have my first Group One winner on UK soil in the St Leger for Joseph O’Brien who, when I as growing up was one of the best jockeys in racing, is mind-blowing.”

Marquand spent a lot of this winter in Australia, and enjoyed a highly-successful time with two Group One successes.

Apart from the odd minor blip, 2020 has continued to be the year of a lifetime – despite the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Time and time again this year, it’s all fallen my way,” he said.

“I had a few minor bumps in the road, but I wouldn’t mind the rest of my career going that way.

“It’s incredible how racing works everything out. I lost English King in the Derby but rode Khalifa Sat for Andrew Balding and finished second.

“I got English King back for today, and he has ended up going to France for a more favourable race (for him).

“Obviously I couldn’t go there, because I would have to do a week’s quarantine afterwards – which wasn’t something I could do – and Shane Crosse’s misfortune has luckily for me ended in my lap.

“I was able to have a good look at this horse’s form when I was in my hotel room. It looked like the mile six and a half would be within his reach, and he has shown today what a horse he is.”

Marquand is proud of partner Hollie Doyle's achievements
Marquand is proud of partner Hollie Doyle’s achievements (Tim Goode/PA)

Marquand’s partner Hollie Doyle has had a record-breaking last 12 months herself, setting a new highest tally for most winners by a female jockey in a year and having already reached a century earlier than she did in 2019.

He stressed how proud they are of each other’s careers.

“There is no top dog in the house,” said Marquand.

“We are both really fortunate to be in the position we’re in and have the run we’ve had over the last couple of years.

“We are both proud of each other’s achievements – and long may the household continue on this path.”

Galileo Chrome shines brightest of all in St Leger

Galileo Chrome provided jockey Tom Marquand with a remarkable first Classic victory in the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster.

Marquand discovered he would be riding Joseph O’Brien’s colt barely 24 hours before the big race – after regular jockey Shane Crosse became unavailable because of a positive test for Covid-19.

While Crosse must therefore begin his period of isolation in Ireland, Marquand took his place and prevailed by a neck at 4-1 from 16-1 shot Berkshire Rocco, trained by Andrew Balding.

Pyledriver appeared set to make a bold bid for glory before wandering from a true line out on his own on the far side, eventually finishing third, a length further back. Just behind in fourth was Santiago, who was sent off the 5-2 favourite for Aidan O’Brien and Frankie Dettori.

Marquand, who earlier this year lost the ride on English King to Frankie Dettori before the Derby, said: “My heart goes out to Shane Crosse.

“I can’t say how bad I feel for him because we’ve all been in situations where things haven’t gone our way and we’re both relatively young, so I can relate and he’ll be sat at home in pieces, no doubt.

“I guess in racing it all comes back round. No doubt he’ll have his time and I look forward to seeing him do it.”

A big thumbs-up from Tom Marquand
A big thumbs-up from Tom Marquand (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He added: “I was told I’d got the ride on this horse just before I rode Sacred in the Flying Childers on Friday.

“It really is a dream come true. Classics in Britain are some of the hardest races to come across. Group One races in Britain are equally hard.

“To have my first Group One winner on UK soil in the St Leger for Joseph O’Brien, who when I as growing up was one of the best jockeys in racing and is now training and doing a similar job – it’s mind-blowing to get an opportunity like this.”

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O’Brien, watching from home as a Covid-19 precaution rather than attending Irish Champions Weekend, voiced his congratulations to Marquand – and sympathy and encouragement for Crosse.

He said: “It’s fantastic, a great performance from the horse – very tough, genuine and stayed very well.

“Tom gave him a fantastic ride.

“It’s great for Tom. He’s obviously been riding extremely well for a number of years now all over the world – and when he was available, we didn’t have to look any further.

“It’s very well-deserved.”

Shane Crosse (red and yellow silks) has ridden Galileo Chrome in his previous three victories this summer, but was absent at Doncaster
Shane Crosse (red and yellow silks) has ridden Galileo Chrome in his previous three victories this summer, but was absent at Doncaster (PA)

As for Crosse, he added: “Shane, I’m sure, is obviously gutted to miss the ride on him.

“But Shane’s a young man, and he’s a very talented rider – and he’ll have plenty of big rides in the future.”

O’Brien was himself adding St Leger victory as a trainer to his success when riding Leading Light at Doncaster for his father Aidan seven years ago, having come within three-quarters of a length of landing the Triple Crown with Camelot in 2012.

Unable to witness the action in person on the track, he said: “I’m at home today – Shane obviously had been in the yard during the week, so just as a precaution any of his close contacts are in the process of being tested, and I just haven’t gone racing to err on the side of caution really.

“But I’m enjoying the racing! I’m lucky enough to be able to watch it from home.”

Balding was thrilled with Berkshire Rocco’s performance.

Andrew Balding's Berkshire Rocco was an admirable runner-up
Andrew Balding’s Berkshire Rocco was an admirable runner-up (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He wears his heart on his sleeve,” said the Kingsclere trainer.

“He kept digging in. It wasn’t quite enough, but he’s given us all a big thrill.

“There were no hiding places. We had the run of the race, and no excuses.

“I don’t usually shout – but I did today. It’s a race we all want to win, and we’re getting closer, so we’ll keep going.

“He has got options this season, but we’ll wait a few days before making a decision.”

Berkshire Rocco’s jockey Andrea Atzeni added: “He was very straightforward.

“He got into a nice rhythm and picked up all the way to the line. Unfortunately the winner kept finding a bit more. He’ll be a nice horse next year.”

Pyledriver just ran out of stamina, according to his jockey Martin Dwyer
Pyledriver just ran out of stamina, according to his jockey Martin Dwyer (David Davies/PA)

Martin Dwyer reported the William Muir-trained Pyledriver’s stamina just ran out as he moved up in trip after his Group Two wins over a mile and a half this season.

“He didn’t stay – it was too far,” said the jockey.

“He was over-travelling. After York, I said he could come back to a mile and a quarter. He’s a very honest horse.

“It was unnatural for him. There was a point in the race where I should have been working through the gears and picking up, but I’m having to steady him down.

“Turning in, I thought he’d win – but he was tired in the last furlong. He was out of his comfort zone.”

Irish Derby winner Santiago (left) was back in fourth at Doncaster
Irish Derby winner Santiago (left) was back in fourth at Doncaster (PA)

Santiago (5-2 favourite) and Hukum were both well-fancied, but had to settle for fourth and fifth respectively.

Dettori said of the former: “He wants a bit of cut in the ground.

“He came there to win, but he didn’t level off like I thought he would.

“I felt on softer ground mine would be a better horse.”

Hukum’s trainer Owen Burrows added: “It was just the last furlong and a half.

“He was out on his head a bit. He stayed at Newbury, but in lesser company. In this class it was a bit too far for him.

“We always thought he wasn’t a Cup horse. We’ll look forward to next year.”

Wichita prevails in Park Stakes thriller

Wichita and Frankie Dettori edged a thrilling duel with One Master to win the bet365 Park Stakes by short head at Doncaster.

Dettori, riding for Aidan O’Brien in the famous Coolmore silks, just edged the verdict in a photo finish after Wichita and One Master had served up a terrific tussle in the final furlong of the Group Two contest on Town Moor.

Wichita was narrowly denied himself at this meeting 12 months ago, when a half-length runner-up to the reopposing Molatham in the Listed Flying Scotsman Stakes.

He was also a close second in this year’s 2000 Guineas – but this time, it was Wichita’s turn as he doubled his Group tally, winning as the 11-4 favourite.

Dettori, who had finished only eighth on Wichita in the Prix Maurice de Gheest last time out, said: “He ran a bit flat in Deauville, but he was a fresh horse today – he was bucking going to the start.

“I was always confident, but when (One Master’s jockey) Tom (Marquand) jumped so quickly at me I wasn’t so sure on the line.

“He deserves it – he was second in the Guineas and has been a model of consistency. I’m pleased he’s put his head in front today.

“I think seven (furlongs) is spot on for him.”

One Master, a previous Group One winner for William Haggas, had to settle for second at 7-2, with Molatham (3-1) back in third.

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Stone Of Destiny had earlier produced a telling late rattle up the stands side to deny the well-backed Danzeno in the bet365 Portland Handicap.

Andrew Balding’s sprinter, drawn high in stall 18, still had some running to do when the 11-2 favourite scampered clear a furlong out in a typically-competitive renewal of the historic race.

But Silvestre de Sousa had things in hand as Stone Of Destiny got to the front and stayed on for an emphatic success at 16-1 – by a length and a quarter from Danzeno, with 25-1 shot Yimou and Arecibo (15-2) a further two lengths and three-quarters of a length back in third and fourth.

Stone Of Destiny, making his 27th racecourse appearance, was visiting Doncaster for the first time.

Balding said: “Everything needs to drop right for him, as it does with a lot of these sprint handicappers.

“We felt this would be his type of race – his ideal distance and a strong pace – and it’s worked out well. Silvestre gave him a lovely ride.”

De Sousa added: “He’s run in a lot of these competitive sprint handicaps in the past.

“I didn’t want to get there too soon, but I knew I had a clear run travelling on the right-hand side. I could see I was going to get there.”

Matthew Flinders justified 5-2 favouritism in the opening Sky Sport Racing HD Virgin 535 Handicap.

Ridden by Marquand for Ed Walker, Matthew Flinders was previously a course winner over 10 furlongs back in June.

Reverting to a mile this time, the three-year-old arrived from off the pace to lead in the last furlong and comfortably keep Magical Morning and Frankie Dettori at bay by a length and a quarter.

Marquand was impressed with the winner, and anticipates significant further improvement.

“He still showed signs of relative immaturity,” he said.

“He’s such a big horse he’s not quite learnt where all his toes are yet.

“I could have ridden him any which way, and he still would have won. He’s a nice horse with a big future.”

Lone Eagle (3-1) gave De Sousa a double with a game victory in the Matthew Clark Nursery Handicap.

The Martyn Meade-trained youngster made most of the running and rallied splendidly when headed, to outstay 11-8 favourite Legend Of Dubai by a length and a quarter.

Jim Crowley was out of luck in the St Leger with Hukum, but at least ended the day with victory on Away He Goes (100-30) in the Magners Dark Fruit Cider Handicap.

Ismail Mohammed’s four-year-old strode past Mankayan in the last half-furlong to score by three lengths.

Crowley said: “It was lovely. He got a nice toe round and the race fell into his lap nicely.

“He likes the quick ground and he’d stay further.”

Chindit has Champagne sparkle for Hannon

Chindit remained unbeaten as he posted a decisive victory for Richard Hannon in the bet365 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.

Successful on his only two previous racecourse starts, including a Listed race at Ascot, the son of Wootton Bassett was following up Hannon and jockey Pat Dobbs’ victory in this Group Two event with Threat last year.

Chindit was sent off the marginal second-favourite at 15-8 – with another unbeaten colt, Owen Burrows’ Albasheer, just shading that battle.

But on the track it was Hannon’s rising star who emerged with a length verdict from his main market rival, after they had both travelled powerfully into it, having been towards the rear of runners in the early stages.

Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest was just a short-head back in third, with the front three well clear.

Betfair gave the winner an 8-1 from 12-1 quote for next year’s 2000 Guineas, and he is set to further test his Classic claims in the Dewhurst at Newmarket next month.

Hannon said: “He got there quite easily and I thought the first two travelled well and the first three were a long way clear of the fourth.

“That’s probably the best two-year-old race of the season so far. The second is a very good horse and the third obviously is.

“We always thought he was top drawer, but you don’t know until you come here.

“To find a very good horse like him with a good temperament is something you don’t get every year. This is another step up and it’s on to the Dewhurst, hopefully.

“That’s the plan at the moment. That’s the big race of the year and that is where we’re heading, along with Etonian.

“His attitude and the way he behaves gives him every chance of being a horse for the 2000 Guineas – he does look a miler.”

Dettori has Mandate for victory at Doncaster

New Mandate needed to be brave under Frankie Dettori to gain a narrow verdict over Laneqash in the bet365 Flying Scotsman Stakes at Doncaster.

Ralph Beckett’s youngster was trapped on the rail as Jim Crowley brought Laneqash with what appeared to be a race-winning run on his outside.

Dettori held his ground, however, and New Mandate’s greater experience proved vital as he battled back tight against the rail to win by a head at 17-2.

“It was very tight,” said Dettori, who rides Irish Derby hero Santiago for Aidan O’Brien in the St Leger on Saturday.

“I’m delighted, because Marc Chan is a new owner and a friend of mine from Hong Kong.

“This is his first year in racing. I was second (short-head, on Valeria Messalina) at Glorious Goodwood for him, and (now) I’ve managed to get my first winner for him – so I’m delighted.

“I know he’s watching in Hong Kong – well done, good start.

“He’s a very tough horse and it was a good race – he did it the hard way, but we’ve done it.”

He added: “He showed a lot of courage. Ralph said he was very pleased with him at home – I’m delighted for connections. Well done, Ralph.”

Roger Varian’s Apparate (5-1) returned to his best form, and continued a fine St Leger Festival so far for winning jockey David Egan, in the bet365 Mallard Handicap.

Egan, twice a winner on day two of Doncaster’s big meeting, outgunned 2-1 favourite Alfaatik by three-quarters of a length.

“The boss gave me free rein – he said there was going to be no pace, don’t take him back,” said Egan.

David Egan guided Apparate to victory
David Egan guided Apparate to victory (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
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“Riding for Mr Varian, he fills you with lots of confidence beforehand.

“He got a lovely run through, and picked up the last furlong. Then he really stuck his head down and stuck it out well – which was nice to see.

“Fitness-wise, he’ll probably come on for that, and he’s definitely a progressive horse with a nice future.

“He won a Lavazza Handicap at Ascot last year, so he’s a top-class horse, and I hope he can go on from here.”

Ray Dawson is another jockey currently in prime form, and he extended it with a fine ride to win the bet365 Handicap on David Loughnane’s Tranchee.

The 7-2 second-favourite was always prominent and led inside the final furlong, beating Sunset Breeze and favourite Ghalyoon by half a length and a neck.

Dawson made good use of his reconnaissance, having found the long Doncaster straight testing his own stamina when he ran the track before racing.

On four legs, however, he had the necessary reserves.

Ray Dawson struck aboard Tranchee (red colours)
Ray Dawson struck aboard Tranchee (red colours) (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Watching his last few runs, the races collapsed on heavy ground, and he got left out in front a little bit long,” he said.

“I ran (the track) earlier on, and I thought the last furlong felt long. But it’s even longer when you’re on a horse and you’re hitting the front – it’s a long way home, with a headwind and a crosswind as well.

“But I didn’t feel it too much today, thank God.”

Sorrel just got the better of her tussle with Albaflora in the opening British EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap, for Sir Michael Stoute and William Buick.

Stoute’s Almareekh, chasing a four-timer, was sent off the 5-4 favourite but was well held in fourth of five as her stablemate instead came out on top by a head at 2-1.

Buick expects continued improvement, perhaps up in trip, after Sorrel’s second successive victory.

“She’s a lovely, staying filly – and she’ll get further,” said the winning jockey.

“She’s really put her head down, she’s tough.

“I liked her – she feels like she’s still learning, and there’s still improvement in her.”

Buick, who sat off the pace before hitting the front in the last furlong, was always confident he had things in hand.

“She went through the gears nicely,” he added.

“When she came off the bridle, she always kept picking up.

“She didn’t win by far, but I always did feel I was going to hold on.”

Stoute completed a first and last-race double – and Crowley warmed up with a victory before his big-race ride on Hukum in the St Leger – when 11-10 favourite Tawaareq prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the Gary Reid Memorial Maiden Stakes.

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s well-bred colt was one of only three in the 10-strong field of juveniles with previous race experience, having finished fifth on his Sandown debut last month.

Tawaareq was still very fresh, but Crowley’s patience was eventually rewarded with a decisive success from 9-1 shot Cordouan.

The winning jockey said: “He got a bit warm before the race. He owed me that (win), because he dropped me at the start!

“But he’s got plenty of ability – he just needs to settle down.”

The rangy Tawaareq has an early 2021 Derby entry, and Crowley confirmed he is a long-term project.

“We went steady, then sprinted, so he could be okay,” he added.

“It will be all about next year really.”

Muir full of hope, Pyledriver expected to go distance in St Leger

William Muir admits it will be a dream come true if Pyledriver can provide him with a first top-level success in the Pertemps St Leger.

The Harbour Watch colt was a 40-1 shot when runner-up on his three-year-old debut at Kempton in early June, since when he has won the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur at York, with a luckless run in the Derby sandwiched in between.

Pyledriver disputes favouritism for the season’s final Classic – and his trainer is in confident mood.

“The horse had a quiet week to 10 days after York, but he’s back in his normal routine now and he’s as fit as a flea,” said Muir.

“You don’t dream about how good it would feel to win, you dream about all the things that could go wrong.

“If it comes off, what it would do for me and the yard would be immense.”

The one big question hanging over Pyledriver is whether his stamina will last out over Doncaster’s mile and three-quarters, in a race that forms part of the Qipco British Champions Series.

Muir added: “On the dam’s side of his pedigree he will stay, but he is by Harbour Watch, which is why everyone is asking the question.

“I think he’ll stay. If he’d gone another couple of furlongs at York, would anything have beaten him? I don’t think they would.

“I’m in such a good place because the owners have said ‘what’s the worst that can happen if he doesn’t stay? He’ll get beat and then we can come back in trip’. There’s no gun at my head and owners saying ‘if he gets beat you’re shot to pieces’.

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“He is in fantastic form and if he stays, it will take a very good one to beat him.”

Santiago is Aidan O'Brien's chief contender for the St Leger
Santiago is Aidan O’Brien’s chief contender for the St Leger (PA)

It is 19 years since Aidan O’Brien claimed his first St Leger success with 2001 hero Milan, since when he has added to his tally with Brian Boru (2003), Scorpion (2005), Leading Light (2013), Capri (2017) and Kew Gardens (2018).

The Ballydoyle trainer’s chief hope this time around is Santiago, winner of the Queen’s Vase and the Irish Derby before placing third behind star stayer Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup.

Reflecting on that most recent performance, O’Brien said: “It maybe didn’t work as we’d liked. We usually like to take our time on him and he just hit the gates on Ryan (Moore) and he couldn’t really get him back. He was just sitting in the second position and Ryan would have felt maybe he was a gear too high all the way.

“Because of that he went from travelling very well to having to drop him and ask him to go and race very quickly and he really didn’t get his breath to go again.

“It didn’t really work, but it didn’t do him any harm and he seems to be in good form. We had to give him a little bit of an easy time after it, because obviously when things don’t work or go smooth for a horse usually they have a harder race, but he seems to be in good form again.”

Frankie Dettori partners Santiago and rates Pyledriver as his chief threat.

He said: “Santiago is a Classic winner, he stayed two miles at Goodwood. In an open race, he’s a great ride.

“William Muir’s horse is the one to beat – without a doubt. You need class to stay – and he’s got class.”

O’Brien also saddles Dawn Patrol and Mythical, while his son Joseph is represented by a major contender in Galileo Chrome, who will be ridden Tom Marquand after regular pilot Shane Crosse returned a positive test for Covid-19 on Friday morning, before travelling from Ireland.

The son of Australia is three from three this season, but faces a step up in class.

O’Brien junior said: “Last time out he quickened up impressively, he showed a big turn of foot. It was quite a hot race, obviously not as hot as the St Leger, but it was quite hot and he couldn’t have been any more impressive.

“I think he goes there with a good each-way chance. He’s got to step up a little to win, but we’re hoping he’ll run very well.”

Hukum is a similarly progressive type for trainer Owen Burrows and owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, having impressed in winning the King George V Stakes at the Royal meeting and the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury so far this season.

The owner’s racing manager, Angus Gold, said: “We’re still learning about him, he’s lightly raced for the time of year, but he’s done everything well this season.

“Last year I thought he was going to be a lovely horse for this year but he was disappointing us in the spring, everyone told me he was showing nothing.

Hukum on his way to winning the Geoffrey Freer Stakes
Hukum on his way to winning the Geoffrey Freer Stakes (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“We went to Ascot to see where we were and obviously he won that well and it that turned a light on in his head. He’s done really well since.

“Hopefully he’ll run a very good race. I’m not saying he’s going to win a Leger, but I don’t think he’ll be far away.

“Owen has been at pains to say he’s not simply a stayer, but at the same time he stayed well enough at Newbury to make you think he won’t be beaten for stamina. He might not be good enough, but I’ll be surprised if it’s a lack of stamina that beats him.

“Hopefully next year we’ll be looking at races like the Hardwicke and the King George.”

Tyson Fury looked the part on his Doncaster debut
Tyson Fury looked the part on his Doncaster debut (Nigel Kirby/PA)

Tyson Fury was a winner on his debut at Doncaster in early July, but has not been seen in competitive action since.

There was talk his boxing namesake might be in attendance this weekend, but with the general public no longer permitted to attend following a change in protocols, that now appears unlikely.

Trainer Richard Spencer said: “It’s a tall ask, obviously, but his work has been good and he’s the only unbeaten horse in the race!

“I think Tyson will be watching at home, so fingers crossed the horse runs a nice race.”

Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist, the Andrew Balding-trained Berkshire Rocco, David Simcock’s Mohican Heights and Sunchart from Andrew Slattery’s yard complete the line-up after the Grand Prix de Paris-bound English King was, as expected, declared a non-runner.

Mission accomplished – Doncaster Cup success for Balding and Buick

Spanish Mission ran out a very impressive winner of the bet365 Doncaster Cup for Andrew Balding.

A smart performer for David Simcock last season, he has now won both his races since joining Balding.

Still only a four-year-old, the Noble Mission colt arguably had to prove his stamina over two and a quarter miles – and he clearly answered any lingering doubts.

Selino, who had finished behind Spanish Mission at Chester, kicked for home over two furlongs out, but William Buick had him in his sights on the 6-4 favourite.

On entering the final furlong Spanish Mission quickened impressively and powered away to win by three lengths.

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Sir Mark Prescott’s Revolver, who was stepping up in class having won six handicaps on the bounce, briefly threatened to take a hand in the finish before his effort petered out and he was passed for third by The Grand Visir.

Balding said: “I thought it was an excellent performance – I’m delighted to have a horse of his calibre in the yard.

“He looks like he could be a Gold Cup contender next year, which is very exciting.”

Paddy Power cut Spanish Mission to 8-1 from 12-1 for the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot on October 17.

Balding added: “That is really the only race for him if he is going to run again this year, but the ground might have gone too soft for him by then, so we’ll see.

“I’m just delighted with his performance today and thrilled to have a horse like him in the yard.”

The runners turn into the back straight in the Doncaster Cup
The runners turn into the back straight in the Doncaster Cup (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Buick said: “He was over-racing at stages, not the whole way, but just at stages. Two miles two is a long way, but he was never really doing too much.

“He was always going to come into the race easily – it was just whether he’d see it out, and he did see it out very well.

“He’s got that bit of class against these stayers, that turn of foot. That together with his stamina is a good combination.

“I’m sure all those races will be on his radar. Who knows – potentially next year, he might even make up into a Gold Cup horse.

“Connections will have a chat – and in that staying division, he’s going to be a lively contender.”

Ubettabelieveit leaves no doubt in Flying Childers

Ubettabelieveit bounced back to form to provide rider Rowan Scott with a first Group-race winner in the Bombardier Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster.

Trained by Nigel Tinkler, the Kodiac colt finished last in the Gimcrack Stakes last time out on his first attempt at six furlongs, when running free, and was dropping down to the minimum trip on Town Moor.

Prior to York, the 40-1 outsider had won a Listed race at Sandown and on that evidence looked a big price for his Town Moor assignment.

There were plenty in with chances a furlong out, as Frenetic, Steel Bull, Ventura Tormenta and Sacred all spread across the track on a blustery day.

Sacred seemed sure to gain compensation for her narrow Lowther Stakes defeat at York, but Scott managed to keep Ubettabelieveit on a true line, as the 11-10 favourite began to veer to her left.

The pair crossed the line together, before Tinkler’s juvenile was given the verdict by a short head. Measure Of Magic was third.

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Tinkler said: “He showed how good he was in the National Stakes (at Sandown) – he’s a very, very good horse.

“Last time, I probably shouldn’t have run him over six there. He ran too keen, and the ground was horrific.

“Everything went wrong, but luckily Oisin Murphy looked after him. But he’s a very good horse, and I don’t often say that.

“How he was 40-1 – it was probably because I trained him! National Stakes winner, 40-1 for this, unbelievable.

“You’re always wondering at this time of year, quite a long season – ‘is it too late in the year’?

“But he was working well, and this is brilliant. He was given a fantastic ride by the jockey.”

The North Yorkshire trained went on: “There’s a one per cent chance he could run in the Abbaye. He wouldn’t run there if it was soft, but that’s the one race (this season) you’d have to possibly think about. It’s one per cent, because it might be soft by then.

“We’ll see how he is – the ground would have to be no worse than good.”

He added: “This is brilliant – great for Yorkshire, great for Malton to get a win like that.

“It’s unbelievable. Getting up every morning at half-past five to feed the horses, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Scott, meanwhile, was thrilled to add such a race to his CV.

He said: “I’m delighted to get a Group winner so soon after riding my claim out.

“The horse did it very well, he didn’t make it easy for himself, but it’s happy days.

“It was a big race so I wanted to do everything right, but you have to treat it like another race.”

Limato primed for Park Stakes mission

Henry Candy’s veteran Limato is aiming for a second win in the bet365 Park Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday – five years after his first success.

Now an eight-year-old, Limato showed he was as good as ever when winning his only race of this season to date, the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket.

While Candy is assured he is as good as ever, the stop-start nature of the unusual season has not been helpful.

“Conditions should be perfect on Saturday, which is a relief as it’s been a long summer of abortive attempts,” said Candy.

“It was a long time ago (77 days) when he won. He’s been ready for four races since, but they’ve all been too soft.

“This looks a very hot race, obviously Wichita looks the main danger but there are two or three others that will take a bit of beating.

“I think he’s well, he should run well and he didn’t look to be getting any slower at Newmarket.”

Aidan O’Brien’s Wichita will be ridden by Frankie Dettori with Ryan Moore at Leopardstown for Irish Champions Weekend.

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“It’s great to pick up these rides for Aidan. He has so many talented horses and you know you’ve got a chance whatever you’re on when you ride for him,” Dettori told his Sporting Index blog.

“Wichita is a very interesting ride. The question mark is the return to seven furlongs, but I think that should be ideal.

“He’s a fast horse that ran well over a mile – second in a Guineas and a close third in the St James’s Palace – and we think this trip will really suit him.”

William Haggas’ mare One Master has won the Prix de la Foret for the last two years, but Haggas fears a hat-trick bid may be scuppered.

“We’ve got three weeks until the Foret and with the Covid situation, who knows where we’ll by then?” he said.

“We’re very happy with her, this is a suitable race and we decided we’d let her take her chance.”

Roger Varian’s Royal Ascot winner Molatham was fifth behind Pinatubo in the Prix Jean Prat last time out and now takes on his elders.

Varian said: “Molatham is in great form and we’re looking forward to getting him back on track.

“I don’t think he ran his race in Deauville, but it still wasn’t a bad run.”

In the bet365 Champagne Stakes owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum holds a strong hand with both Albasheer and Mujbar taking their chance.

The Owen Burrows-trained Albasheer could not have been more impressive on his debut over the same course and distance.

“He’s always looked a nice horse at home, he’s a good-looking, strong horse who is well-bred by a very good stallion (Shamardal). From what we can see we hope he’s a very good horse,” said Angus Gold, the owner’s racing manager.

“He did have the option of the Listed race at this meeting, but he worked very nicely the other day and Owen was happy to let him take his chance in this.”

Charlie Hills’ Mujbar was well beaten on debut but bolted up next time at Newmarket when winning by seven lengths.

“Mujbar beat a horse (Marlay Park) who had finished behind Minzaal so we’ve a bit of a line on him. He looked a good, galloping horse to me at Newmarket,” said Gold.

“They’ve always thought a bit of him, he’s out of a good mare in Madany who has produced Massaat and Eqtidaar and he worked very well on Tuesday to the degree that Charlie was happy enough to go for this – he said he thinks he’s decent so let’s have a look at him in the Champagne.

“We’re never afraid to run them against each other, one has run twice the other just once and you never know until you run them. There’s only a month left of the season and we’re running out of big races.”

Richard Hannon’s Chindit and Tom Dascombe’s Devious Company are others with strong claims.

Shane Crosse to miss Leger ride on Galileo Chrome following positive Covid-19 test

Shane Crosse will miss the ride on Galileo Chrome in Saturday’s Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster after testing positive for Covid-19.

One of the leading apprentice jockeys in Ireland, Crosse was due to partner Joseph O’Brien’s progressive colt in the final Classic of the British Flat season on Town Moor, as well as his stablemate State Of Rest in the bet365 Champagne Stakes.

Crosse had also been booked for some high-profile mounts on the second afternoon of Irish Champions Weekend at the Curragh on Sunday, but will now have to sit out the action after returning a positive test ahead of travelling to the UK.

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Dr Jennifer Pugh, senior medical officer for the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, said in a statement on Friday afternoon: “Shane was completely asymptomatic and was very surprised to learn of the test result. He was not unwell and hadn’t engaged in any high-risk behaviour. He is now in isolation for 14 days and has worked with us on identifying his close contacts.

“We have been in communication with Public Health today, notified them of the test, and they are happy with the steps we have taken. It means that those who have shared a car with him, and those who live with Shane, have been informed they must also self-isolate for 14 days. As directed by Public Health, contact tracing commenced on Friday morning and testing will be carried out today of all close contacts of the index case.

“We have been prepared for this and have responded accordingly, and this case reinforces just why we have had such strict protocols in place since racing resumed on June 8. These measures ensure that social distancing is taking place at racecourses, and face masks and coverings are mandatory both inside and outside.

“Shane is employed by trainer Joseph O’Brien and we have been working with Joseph this morning to provide contact tracing and testing of Shane’s close contacts. Joseph’s horses will run today as planned, but as a precaution these horses will be taken care of by staff from other yards.

“Public Health are satisfied with our protocols and the measures we have taken, and for racing to continue under strict protocols behind closed doors.”

Crosse rode at Navan on Thursday and at Galway and Cork earlier in the week, but Dr Pugh confirmed it was not a necessary requirement for all jockeys riding at those meetings to be tested.

She added: “The only people that need to be tested are Shane’s close contacts, so his family, the people he’s travelled to the races with and so on – the advice has been clear on that throughout.”

Padraig Beggy and Emmet McNamara are due to travel from Ireland to ride in the St Leger after being booked to partner Aidan O’Brien’s pair of Dawn Patrol and Mythical respectively.

Pugh confirmed the pair are “unaffected” by Crosse’s positive test and free to make the trip across the Irish Sea.

Dwyer out to make most of unexpected chance on Pyledriver

Martin Dwyer is keen to make the most of an opportunity he thought may never come again, aboard Pyledriver in the Pertemps St Leger.

It is 17 years since Liverpudlian broke his Classic duck aboard the Andrew Balding-trained Casual Look in the Oaks at Epsom. Three years later, he enjoyed the greatest triumph of his career on Marcus Tregoning’s Sir Percy in the Derby.

Now in the twilight of his career at the age of 45, Dwyer has found big-race mounts harder to come by in recent seasons, but will be thrust back into the spotlight at Doncaster this weekend as he partners the likely Leger favourite.

“It’s so hard to get rides in Classics and in these big races. To be going there with a favourite – I’m over the moon,” said Dwyer.

Martin Dwyer aboard Sir Percy after winning the 2006 Derby
Martin Dwyer aboard Sir Percy after winning the 2006 Derby (Sean Dempsey/PA)

“There are so many talented, young jockeys coming through now – it’s great to put them back in their place now and again!

“I’m obviously in the latter part of my career, but I actually feel more relaxed and happy and content – I just go out and ride and not worry about anything.

“I haven’t got youth on my side, but I’ve got plenty of experience (and) I’m enjoying riding more than ever.

“If I’m totally honest, in the last four or five years I thought my days of riding horses as good as Pyledriver were gone. To get another bite of the cherry is fantastic – hopefully I can make it count.”

In a sport increasingly dominated by the powerhouse owners and yards, Pyledriver bids to strike a blow for the smaller man on Town Moor.

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Pyledriver with trainer William Muir after winning at Royal Ascot
Pyledriver with trainer William Muir after winning at Royal Ascot (Edward Whitaker/PA)

The star of a string of less than 30 horses trained by Dwyer’s father-in-law William Muir, the son of Harbour Watch has made giant strides this season – claiming big-race victories in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur at York.

“It’a a great story. It’s great for racing, I think – and it would be great for us if we could win a Classic,” added Dwyer.

“Over the past five or 10 years, all the good horses seem to have been in the same hands – with the top trainers and top jockeys.

“This horse has shown you don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands or millions on bloodstock – you can breed a horse and compete at the top level.

“The dream is alive.”

Chief among Pyledriver’s Doncaster rivals is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Santiago, the mount of Dwyer’s fellow veteran Frankie Dettori.

Dwyer has nothing but praise and admiration for the popular Italian.

He said: “I started with Ian Balding many years ago, and Frankie was stable jockey. I looked up to him – we’re very good friends and have been for many years.

“Frankie is a superstar. He’s five or six years older than me, but he’s riding better than ever, and it’s a joy to watch him.

“I’ve learnt lots from him over the years. His positioning in a race is unbelievable – he always seems to be in the right place at the right time – (and) that’s what wins big races.”

Frankie Dettori (left) and Martin Dwyer
Frankie Dettori (left) and Martin Dwyer (Adam Davy/PA)

Dwyer is confident Pyledriver possesses the required tools to claim victory, which is part of the 2020 Qipco British Champions Series, with the step up to a mile and three-quarters the only real question mark hanging over him.

“The horse looks fantastic and is fit and well – the team have done a great job with him,” he said.

“The key thing with this horse is he’s just improved all year. Even when he won at Royal Ascot he was like a teenager – whereas now, he’s becoming a man.

“He wasn’t stopping at York and hit the line strong and full of running. He has got gears and has speed for a mile and a quarter, but I think he will stay if the race pans out well and he relaxes, which he normally does.

“He’s got a lot of talent. Sir Percy was a different kettle of fish, because he was a very precocious two-year-old – whereas this lad is a bit of a slow-burner and has taken his time, but his progression has been pretty unbelievable.

“It would be nice to win another Classic. I’m riding a very good horse, and they’ve all got me to beat.

“Touch wood, if things go well, he will win. So I’ll just go out there and enjoy it.”