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12/1 “Generous Price” for Simple Verse – St Leger views…

A press conference was held at London’s Landmark Hotel ahead of the £694,300 Group One Ladbrokes St Leger, the final Classic of the season, which takes place at Doncaster this Saturday, September 12, the climax of the four-day Ladbrokes St Leger Festival.


Maureen Haggas, wife of 9/4 joint-favourite (with Ladbrokes) Storm The Stars‘ trainer William Haggas, said: “Storm The Stars is an easy horse from the point of view that every race he has run in he has given 100 per cent, he is a tough horse. He is not the easiest at home, as has been well documented, but if he performs well out on the track we will forgive him.


“He is a tough sort. We don’t do much with him at home as he isn’t a horse that likes going to the gallops. Early on he wasn’t very well behaved and looked like he needed more education, so we kept running him to try and make him a bit more professional and bring him on. It doesn’t appear to have done him much harm.


“Hopefully, the step up in trip will improve him but you never really know until you actually go and do it. The signs are that he should be a better horse over a bit further but it is the end of a long, hard year and he has given us everything so far. If we could get one more big run out of him, that would be great but he doesn’t really owe is anything.


“I don’t know if he will stay in training next year. That will be up to his owner. It is hard after having a year like he has had to come back next year and compete in all-aged races as he has only been running against three-year-olds this year. If he can prove he is an effective stayer, then he will have the Cup races as option next year.


“From the Derby onwards, the St Leger was always the route we were going and dad (Lester Piggott) didn’t put us off that – he would certainly have told us if he didn’t agree! The St Leger was the obvious way to go as he is a galloper and the further he goes, the better he should be.”


Bruce Raymond, racing manager for Storm The Stars’ owner, Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum, added: “I think Storm The Stars is an ideal horse for the Ladbrokes St Leger.


“I would be surprised if he doesn’t stay well. He is a bit one-paced, as most of them are, but he is a Classic horse, with a second and third in two Derbys. So he is a proper horse for the St Leger.


“Our horse shouldn’t be leading but he needs a good gallop. You never know what Aidan’s plans are, but hopefully Fields Of Athenry will set a good pace..”


Aidan O’Brien is set to be triple-handed in Saturday’s race with 9/4 joint-favourite Order Of St George, 3/1 chance Bondi Beach and 8/1 hope Fields Of Athenry all set to line up.


He said: “Bondi Beach ran very well in the Great Voltigeur (second to Storm The Stars) at York. We wanted to get a run into him and I was delighted with his performance. Both him and the other horse (Storm The Stars) drifted left that day.


“I think he is a horse that likes good ground and the better the ground, the better it should suit him – he is good-moving horse. Good ground or better would really suit him well and I have been very happy with him since York.


Order Of St George had a bit of a setback around Derby trial time. He was due to go Lingfield for the Derby trial instead of Kilimanjaro but got a temperature. We had been very happy with him up until that point.


“I was very happy with him at the Curragh last time and the ease in the ground suited him. He won very nicely. He has also form on fast and good ground and I think he is one of those horses that can handle anything.


Fields Of Athenry was drawn very badly in the Ebor last time and was a bit slow away. He is a horse that likes to bowl along and it took him a while to get to the front. Given his wide draw and big weight for a three-year-old, it was a good performance to finish fifth in a very competitive handicap. He kept going and will be back to level weights on Saturday.


“I am not sure if Joseph (O’Brien) will be riding any of them, as it is possible he will stay at Leopardstown that day. We have not made a final decision. Seamus (Heffernan) and Colm (O’Donoghue) will be available and, with not many runners in the St Leger, there should be no shortage of jockeys. Seamus has won on both of Bondi Beach and Order Of St George and Colm knows them well too.


“The three horses all have different profiles and it is hard to say which will be best on Saturday. Bondi Beach came out on top by a short-head when he met Order Of St George at the Curragh of fast ground in June but that was Order Of St George’s first run in a long time. On the other hand, Seamie wasn’t hard on Bondi Beach that day, so I don’t think there is much between the two.


“They both handle good ground and we know that Order Of St George will cope with softer ground if there is any rain. Fields Of Athenry will run very well I think, as he is a tough horse and ran very well in the Ebor at York.


“You would think all three would have big chances. Hopefully, they can all run big races.”


Ralph Beckett, trainer of 12/1 chance Simple Verse who was supplemented at a cost of £50,000 today, said: “The owners didn’t really take much persuading to supplement Simple Verse for the Ladbrokes St Leger. Once it was established she was in good nick, it became the obvious thing to do.


“She did a good piece of work nine days ago, I was very pleased with that and, while we haven’t trialled her at home, the work was good and she has developed physically.. She has come on for both her wins at Salisbury and Goodwood.


“She is not ground dependent – she has won on a fast surface and she has won on slow ground. We felt that with the fact that she is progressive and she is a certain stayer, supplementing her for Doncaster seemed like the right thing to do.


“It would be difficult to compare her to Look Here and Talent. I felt Look Here didn’t stay in the St Leger, although she ran very well, while Talent ran to the same level as she did when she won the Oaks. Both of those fillies had troubled preps for the St Leger. Look Here didn’t run between the Oaks and the Leger, while Talent ran poorly in the Irish Oaks.


“We haven’t had a blip with Simple Verse. She is in good shape and is progressive so that is why we are taking our chance. Andrea Atzeni rides, he knows her well. He was on her when she won her maiden.


“With the dead eight in the race, I think 12/1 is a generous price.”


Julie Wood, who owns 33/1 outsider Proposed who is trained by Richard Hannon, said: “I have had several runners in the Guineas before, including Manderley, who was fourth in the 1,000 Guineas last year when she was still a maiden. I also owned The Miniver Rose, who won the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster (in 2009) and was also fifth in the Oaks.


“Proposed is a horse what we picked ourselves. We went to see him and he was going through the ring as we were chatting outside and my husband went in and had a look. The next thing that happened was that Ross Doyle was signing for him. We bought him on spec really.


“He is not up to Group One level yet, but we thought we would give it a go. Last time, Cam Hardie got off him and said this a horse that will gallop forever and needs a trip. That is what all the jockeys that have ridden him have said.


“While the St Leger is obviously on a different level, it is for three-year-olds and with not so many runners, we thought it was worth having a go.


“He won over a mile and a quarter on good ground and we think the ground will suit him at Doncaster.”


Mikel Delzangles is hoping for a good run from his French raider Vengeur Masque. The trainer said today: “He is an improving three-year-old and improving all the time. He was very laidback and we had a few issues with him at the beginning of the season – he bruised a foot – and we were quite late getting going.


“He seems to be coming up very well and is well-bred. The two races he won are definitely not as good as the Ladbrokes St Leger will be on Saturday. But both victories came on left-handed tracks which suited him very well.


“The longer distance of the Leger will suit him too. He is really improving and his last run at Deauville (on August 9) was not as good as I had hoped for. It was a true French race with no pace and turned into a sprint.


“Vengeur Masque has always shown a lot in the mornings and he will suited by the style of racing in England. We will find out whether he is good enough on Saturday.. We will keep regular jockey Umberto Rispoli on board as he knows the horse very well.”


Vengeur Masque is owned by Wildenstein Stables and Crow won the 1976 St Leger for Daniel Wildenstein.


Delzangles worked for Jimmy Fitzgerald in Yorkshire and remembers arriving at the trainer’s yard a week before Sapience finished second to Michelozzo in the 1989 St Leger, which took place at Ayr that year.


Mike Dillon from sponsors Ladbrokes looked forward to the Ladbrokes St Leger, the final of Britain’s five Classics, on Saturday.


He said: “Eight is great for the each-way market – it is going to be a very competitive race.


“I don’t know if the Voltigeur (when Storm The Stars beat Bondi Beach by a half-length) holds the key, whether Aidan (O’Brien) with his three runners holds the key or the supplementary entry, Simple Verse, holds the key.


“You can look at the Ladbrokes St Leger any which way – I am quite interested by the confidence of Ralph Beckett (Simple Verse). I looked at the Ebor and thought that was a great run by Fields Of Athenry under an impossible weight.


“I don’t know how to split the Voltigeur horses and I have been very impressed with Order Of St George but I think he needs softer ground. So it is a devilishly hard race as I see it.”


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