Military Precision

Temporarily derailed as he attempted back-to-back victories in the G1 Ascot Gold Cup, Order of St George (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) looks to have been brought back to his imperious best as he bids for a second edition of The Curragh’s G1 Comer Group International Irish St Leger on Sunday. Successful by 11 lengths here in 2015 but upset by Wicklow Brave (GB) (Beat Hollow {GB}) when 1-7 for the repeat 12 months ago, Michael Tabor’s colour-bearer showed that a battle with Big Orange (GB) (Duke of Marmalade {Ire}) at the Royal meeting’s June 22 feature had not diminished him when winning with all his old authority in the course-and-distance G3 Irish St Leger Trial S. on Aug. 19. “He’s good and I’m happy with him. He was obviously only at The Curragh a couple of weeks ago,” Aidan O’Brien said. “He’s in good form and he handled the ease in the ground well last time. We were delighted with him in the trial and we’ve been delighted with him since.”

Interestingly, Seamie Heffernan is on key opponent Dartmouth (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) for The Queen and last year’s G2 Hardwicke S. scorer suggested that this trip could be ideal when winning the May 19 G2 Yorkshire Cup. Fourth in the latest renewal of the Hardwicke back at Royal Ascot June 24, the 5-year-old was nosed out of the G2 Lonsdale Cup over an extended two miles back at York last time Aug. 25. “He is in very good form,” The Queen’s racing advisor John Warren told the Daily Mail. “With top-class horses, you are always concerned about extremes of going but the ground when he won at York in the spring was pretty ordinary and he coped very well. He will run on the ground but, like everyone, we would prefer it was not hock-deep. He is exceptionally versatile and is the toughest, most genuine horse an owner could wish to have. Whatever he does, you know he will put in his best. He is such an exciting horse to have anything to do with and the Queen gets tremendous pleasure out of him.”

Last year’s surprise winner Wicklow Brave went on to win Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle in April and while he has been close to his 2016 standard on the flat this season, his latest fourth behind Order of St George in the Irish St Leger Trial leaves him with something to find. “Frankie Dettori rode him last year, it was a fantastic day and he gave him a great ride,” trainer Willie Mullins said. “We were probably a little lucky, but the lucky ones count. This year it looks like he’s only running for place money. It’s going to be one of the biggest races of the festival.”

One going further than he ever has is the quirky but talented Western Hymn (GB) (High Chaparral {Ire}), but he finished off strongly to win Chester’s G3 Ormonde S. over an extended 13 furlongs May 12 and is fresh after a rest having finished fourth in the G2 Princess of Wales’s S. over a mile and a half at Newmarket July 13. Torcedor (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus) beat Order of St George in the G3 Vintage Crop S. over this trip at Navan Apr. 23 before finishing fifth in the Gold Cup and is also a fresh horse here. “I don’t think he didn’t stay at Ascot and it’s a race Mrs Harrington is keen to go back again for next year,” rider Colm O’Donoghue said. “In saying that, he’s got plenty of pace for a stayer, too, and was winning over this trip earlier in the season so one-mile-six isn’t a problem. This race has been the plan since Ascot. He’d made giant strides earlier in the season, coming a long way in a short time, so Mrs Harrington was keen to give him a break with this in mind.”

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