Masked Marvel Sets Stakes Record in St. Leger

Masked Marvel Sets Stakes Record in St. Leger
Photo: Trevor Jones
Masked Marvel pulls away to win the Ladbrokes St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster.
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Masked Marvel drew clear in the final furlong on his way to a decisive three-length victory in the $780,000 Ladbrokes St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I) at Doncaster Racecourse Sept. 10.

The 3-year-old son of Montjeu provided trainer John Gosden and jockey William Buick with their second consecutive winner in Britain’s oldest classic race. The pair teamed up in 2010 to take the race with Arctic Cosmos. It was the fourth St. Leger win for Gosden, who also conditioned Shantou (1997) and Lucarno (2007).

A field of nine colts and fillies went to the post in the St. Leger, which is the last classic race of the season in England. Favoritism fluctuated between Juddmonte Farms’ Sea Moon, the runaway winner of the Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II), and Godolphin’s Blue Bunting, a three-time group I winner who captured the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) earlier this season.

At the start, it was longshot Buthelezi who shot straight to the front under Robert Havlin. The dark bay colt set a rapid pace, all the while being tracked by Godolphin’s Rumh, who was acting as a pacemaker for her stablemate.

Seville, ridden by Joseph O’Brien, raced in third while Buick had Masked Marvel settled just behind the frontrunners in fifth. Olivier Peslier was content to allow Sea Moon to race toward the rear of the field, along with Brown Panther and Census. Blue Bunting, partnered by Frankie Dettori, trailed the field through the early going.

Buthelezi continued to set a swift pace, as he led the field through the first nine furlongs of the 14.5-furlong marathon. As the field entered the home straight, Joseph O’Brien was the first to make his move, driving Seville past Buthelezi and into the lead.

In the final two furlongs, Seville held a narrow advantage as the rest of the field closed around him. Masked Marvel, who was traveling easily for Buick, soon pulled alongside Seville to challenge for the lead. The pair matched strides only briefly until Masked Marvel gained the upper hand and began to pull away.

Masked Marvel continued to increase his lead throughout the final furlong, eventually crossing the wire an easy winner. Brown Panther got up for second, finishing a half-length in front of Sea Moon. The latter colt encountered numerous traffic troubles and was unable to get into the clear until it was too late.

Seville finished fourth, and Blue Bunting, who was never a factor in the race, finished a disappointing sixth.

The final time over the good turf course was a swift 3:00.44, which set a new stakes record.

A delighted Gosden said, “To win the oldest classic with this horse is what we’ve planned for about two years. From the day I saw him as a yearling in Deauville, I thought he was a Leger type, and he’s grown and developed. He was a powerful little guy then and he’s got a great pedigree for this job.”

Masked Marvel was bred in England by Newsells Park Stud and is owned by Bjorn Nielsen. Masked Marvel is out of Waldmark, a stakes-placed daughter of Mark of Esteem who is a half sister to the 2011 Deutsches Derby (Ger-I) winner, Waldpark.

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