Harbour Law (orange) came with a late charge to win at 22-1
PICTURE: Martin Lynch (racingpost.com/photos)
Report: Doncaster, Saturday
Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes (Group 1) 3yo, 1m6f132y
HARBOUR LAW caused a humongous upset to win a dramatic Ladbrokes St Leger, with hot-favourite Idaho unseating Seamie Heffernan when slipping with over three furlongs to run.
Victory gave Laura and Ian Mongan’s 20-strong dual-purpose stable a fairytale success and a first Classic triumph for an Epsom-based yard since Right Tack won the 1969 2,000 Guineas.
Sent off at 22-1, Harbour Law looked to have a mountain to climb on ratings but the Queen’s Vase runner-up took his form to a new echelon as he swept down the outside to give Mongan a first success at Group level and a dream Classic victory.
Harbour Law, owned by Jackie and Nick Cornwell, was tracking favourite Idaho towards the rear of the field as the runners galloped past the four-furlong marker with the race’s complexion about to change dramatically.
Heffernan was inching Idaho away from the rail in preparation to launch the favourite into contention when he appeared to take a false step. Taking a noticeable stumble, Idaho managed to stay upright but that could not save Heffernan, who was catapulted high out of the saddle and crashing to the floor, sending their Classic hopes up in smoke.
Up front champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa took the race by the scruff of the neck on Ventura Storm, sensing a first Classic success of his own.
Laura Mongan and George Baker celebrate a first Classic success
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
He was chased hard by Idaho’s stablemate Housesofparliament and the winner looked sure to come from this duo with less than a furlong to run.
However, George Baker, himself a Classic virgin, had timed things to perfection on Harbour Law and, although the eventual winner threatened to hang in behind the leaders, Baker got him organised and lunged at the leaders to score a remarkable win.
“That was brilliant, he’s a classy horse but it was a bit of a shock still,” said Laura Mongan, whose biggest win before Saturday came when First Avenue won the Imperial Cup over hurdles at Sandown in 2013.
She added: “He was obviously good enough and I am so glad we came here. He has proved he can do it. I was scared the whole way through the race because it is not particularly how we wanted the horse ridden but George knows him and George did the right thing, all credit to him.
“It was a really professional performance from the horse, we knew he was going to go somewhere in life and he has.
“It proves that we can do it with the right ammunition. We do very well as a team with what we have got at home. It is great to get a horse like this and have a chance to bring him here for a race like today.”
Harbour Law had three-quarters of a length to spare over 14-1 Ventura Storm at the post, with Housesofparliament a further short-head away in third in a captivating finish.
“I promise you; I can’t believe it,” said a shell-shocked Baker. “I’m so happy for Ian and Laura. They had so much belief in him, have done everything right with the horse and they really deserve it. This is a sweet, sweet result.”
Winning owner Nick Cornwell said: “Jackie and I have been in this for around 20 years. We drove up from Dorset praying for rain. We came thinking we had a chance but this is absolutely unbelievable. It was a cracking ride by George and tremendous training by Laura and Ian and all the team at Whitcombe [where he was formerly trained by Jo Crowley]. I am over the moon.”
A riderless Idaho looked none the worse for his stumble
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
The stewards inquired into Idaho’s mishap, finding that “the fall was caused by him stumbling when being switched right handed, causing the rider to be unseated”.
Reflecting on the drama, Kevin Buckley, Coolmore’s UK representative, said: “That wasn’t part of the plan and I just hope Seamie is alright. It looked like a false step to be honest, which is so disappointing.
“Fair play to Laura Mongan and the team; great result and I’m delighted for them and George Baker.”
Heffernan, who had been due to fly to Leopardstown, walked away from his fall with a bloody nose but was later taken to Sheffield Hospital for checks. Idaho looked none the worse as he galloped on riderless.
Vowing to savour the remarkable victory, Group 1-winning former jockey Ian Mongan, who rides Harbour Law at home, said: “I can’t get my head around it; we’ve won the Leger! We came here hoping he’d run well. Did we think he’d win? In our dreams we did and he has. He’s the easiest horse to train.
“I sat down with Henry Cecil three or four years ago and he said ‘good horses make good trainers’. This good horse came to our yard and has put us on the map. He’s so professional and a class act. I’m so happy for Laura, the yard, Epsom and the owners and I’m going to enjoy every single minute.”
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