Storm The Stars bids to tick stamina box in Leger at Doncaster

William Haggas has conceded there are no guarantees the step up in distance will bring out the best in Storm The Stars as the tough-as-teak colt bids to round off an excellent campaign by clinching Classic glory in Saturday’s Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.
Having been placed in both the English and Irish Derbys this summer, there is little doubt the Haggas inmate sets the standard on Town Moor this weekend and was certainly not winning out of turn when enjoying his day in the sun in last month’s Great Voltigeur at York.
He has appeared a likely Leger favourite ever since his staying-on effort behind John Gosden’s top-class pair Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs at Epsom in early June – but Haggas is taking nothing for granted as his charge prepares to tackle a mile and three-quarters for the first time.
“Storm The Stars has been fine since he won the Great Voltigeur. He’s fit, so he has not needed a lot of work,” said the trainer.
“I can’t be certain that he will get the trip. He’s not bred to get it, but the way that he keeps finding over a mile and a half gives every indication that he will get it.
“I thought he won the Great Voltigeur well and I don’t think that we should make a big thing about him hanging in the closing stages – it was just one of those things.
“It’s a Classic, everybody wants to win them. Aidan O’Brien’s three runners will be hard to beat and I thought that Simple Verse was pretty impressive when she won the Lillie Langtry.”
O’Brien, who already has four Legers in the bag, fires a formidable three-pronged attack on this year’s renewal.
Bondi Beach was just half a length behind Storm The Stars at York after a thrilling ding-dong battle on the Knavesmire, with the Haggas runner having to survive a tense stewards’ enquiry.
Order Of St George proved stamina is his strong suit when fairly bolting up in the Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh three weeks ago and while Fields Of Athenry appears the least fancied of the Ballydoyle trio, he is no forlorn hope after finishing fifth in the Ebor.
O’Brien said: “Bondi Beach we thought ran very well (at York). He came there up the straight and both horses drifted left, but we were delighted with his run.
“He loves good ground. The better the ground, the better it would suit as he is a good-moving horse. I am very happy with him since York. I could not be happier really.
“Order Of St George had a setback at Derby trial time. He was going to go to Lingfield instead of Kilimanjaro, but he got a temperature and we just had to give him a bit of time off. We had been very happy with him up until that point.
“We were very happy with him going to the Curragh and he handled the ease in the ground well. Obviously he won very nicely and we were delighted.
“He has form on good and fast ground, but he is one of those horses that handles ease very well.”
O’Brien hinted Fields Of Athenry could be the one to take the field along at Doncaster.
“Fields Of Athenry will run very well I think, as he is a tough horse and ran very well in the Ebor at York,” he said.
“We just thought before the Ebor that he was drawn very badly and we were not sure how that would affect him.
“He was slow away and he is a horse that likes to bowl along. He took longer to get to the front.
“He had a big weight to carry as a three-year-old in a competitive handicap. Looking back at it, though, somewhere like Doncaster should suit him.
“You would think all three would have big chances. Hopefully, they can all run big races.”
The Ralph Beckett-trained Simple Verse only emerged as a possible Leger candidate after winning at Glorious Goodwood and connections sportingly added her to the field at Monday’s supplementary stage.
The last filly to win the race was User Friendly in 1992, but Beckett has twice come close to ending that run, with Oaks heroines Look Here (2008) and Talent (2013) both placed in recent years.
“The main reason we decided to go for it is her well-being – she is very well at the moment,” said the trainer.
“You only really get one chance to win a Classic, two if you’re lucky or three if you’re very, very good.
“She can run in the Park Hill next year – she won’t be able to run in the Leger next year.
“Talent ran very well in the race a couple of years ago, as did Look Here in what turned out to be two very good renewals behind Conduit and Leading Light.
“In hindsight, I’m not sure Look Here really got the trip and I’m not sure Talent really improved for it. I think she probably ran as well as she did over a mile and a half in the Oaks.
“This filly has already won over the trip, so she’s proven it.
“Order Of St George, Bondi Beach and Storm The Stars are all good horses, but we’re very much looking forward to it.”
French trainer Mikel Delzangles is hoping Vengeur Masque can become the first French-trained winner since 1991 victor Toulon.
The son of Monsun was last seen finishing fourth in the a Deauville Group Three in early August.
Delzangles, who tasted British Classic glory with Makfi in the 2000 Guineas five years ago, said: “I am pleased with Vengeur Masque and I think that he has improved since his last run, though he will have had to as the St Leger is a step up to a much higher level.
“He needed the race last time and it also developed into just the kind of race that he would not want, a typical French race when there was a slow pace and then they sprinted for the last two furlongs. He doesn’t need a mad pace on Saturday, just a regular pace would be fine.
“This race has always been in the back of my mind for him but we had a few issues with him at the beginning of the season when he suffered a foot injury.
“Vengeur Masque will be my first Leger runner but I was working for Jimmy Fitzgerald many years ago when his stable star Sapience finished second to Michelozzo (1989), so you could say that I have an understanding of the type of horse needed to win.
“Vengeur Masque is a good horse, but whether he is good enough to win is a different matter.”
Proposed is a big outsider for champion trainer Richard Hannon and prominent owner Julie Wood.
Wood said: “He is not up to Group One level at the moment, but we thought we would give it a go.
“All the jockeys that have ridden him have said the same – that this horse gallops forever and needs a trip. With it being for three-year-olds only and there not being many runners, we thought we would let him take his chance.”
The field is completed by David Brown’s Medrano, who also needs to significantly raise his game.
“He’s in good shape and I think the extra distance will suit him,” said Brown.
“We’ve been promised a bit of rain on Saturday morning and I think that will help.
“He’s an outsider, but he’s one of three or four outsiders and there are only eight runners, so we’ll see how we get on.”

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