Leading Light Cruises to St. Leger Victory
Coolmore and partners' Leading Light kicked clear to victory in the 237th Ladbrokes St. Leger Stakes (Eng-I), the world's oldest classic and final jewel in England's Triple Crown, Sept. 14 at Doncaster.
The Montjeu colt, the 7-2 favorite, won by 1 3/4 lengths from Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) winner Talent after pursuing pacesetter Cap O'Rushes from second throughout the 1 3/4-mile race. Leading Light was ready to pounce with powerful strides more than a quarter mile out when the front-runner's stamina wore thin. He pulled clear for the convincing win, his fifth consecutive from six career starts.
Leading Light covered the trip in 3:09.20 under Joseph O'Brien and earned consideration for the upcoming Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), Europe's premier middle-test test. The 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) race is set for Oct. 6 at Longchamp.
"He is such a solid horse and there is plenty of class there," trainer Aidan O'Brien told Racing Post.
"They obviously think a lot of him back home, but he is very versatile. We could drop him back to a mile and a half for the Arc but we will have to discuss that."
Highly regarded dual classics-placed Galileo Rock was cleared to start the morning of the St. Leger due to ground concerns. He raced in third early but was edged by three-quarters of a length for second by Talent after tracking the pace.
In a resounding return from a last-place finish in the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I) last out, Talent kicked from the back of the field, getting hampered as she advanced into contention, and finished a second as the only filly in the 11-horse field.
"We would have loved to get a clean run today for sure, but the winner has run well and she has run well," trainer Ralph Beckett told Racing Post. "I'm thrilled to bits for her and I feel like I've won because it was so bad in Ireland and to bring her back and do that is terrific."
Leading Light bypassed the earlier classics but emerged a leading contender for the St. Leger following his determined victory in two-mile Queen's Vase Stakes (Eng-III) June 21 at Royal Ascot. Prior to that race, he captured the Gallinule Stakes (Ire-III) May 26 at the Curragh after a seven-length triumph in a conditions event at Navan, both at 1 1/4 miles.
The Coolmore/O'Brien team's chance at sweeping England's elusive Triple Crown with Camelot in last year's St. Leger evaporated in the straight when longshot Enke shot for home a quarter-mile out. Camelot struggled to find an opening to challenge and ultimately finished a close a second.
The partnership team previously captured the St. Leger with Scorpion in 2005, Brian Boru in 2003, and Milan in 2001.
Libertarian finished fourth in the St. Leger, followed by Foundry, Secret Number, Ralston Road, Havana Beat, Great Hall, Excess Knowledge. Pacesetter Cap O'Rushes was eased a furlong out.
Leading Light, who is out of multiple graded/group winner Dance Parade, by Gone West, was bred in Ireland by Lynch-Bages. He was a 520,000 guineas ($845,699 in U.S. funds) purchase by Coolmore bloodstock adviser Demi O'Byrne out of the elite Book One at the 2011 Tattersalls October yearling sale. Glenvale Stud consigned as agent.
Leading Light is the second classic winner this year for former Coolmore sire Montjeu, a son of Sadler's Wells who died last year at age 16. His daughter Chicquita won the 2013 Irish Oaks and finished second in the Prix de Diane (Fr-I, French Oaks). He is the sire of three St. Leger winners, including Scorpion and Masked Marvel in 2011.
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