Winters confirms Missunited on course for French St Leger
Seamie Heffernan will do the steering around Longchamp on Sunday
Michael Winters: Eyes crack at Quevega in the mares hurdle at Cheltenham.
The hugely popular mare Missunited has scaled considerable heights over jumps but will put even her Galway Hurdle success in the shade if successful in Sunday’s Group One French St Leger at Longchamp.
Legendary names on the flat such as Nijinsky’s Arc conqueror Sassafrass, Ardross, and the four-time Ascot Gold Cup hero Yeats feature on the Prix Royal Oak roll-of-honour and Co Cork trainer Mick Winters yesterday gave the green-light for his star mare to try and join them.
“She runs and Seamie (Heffernan) rides. She’s in good order and the ground looks like being soft which will help her against some of those good flat stayers,” said Winters who will be having his first runner in France.
Following her emotional Galway Hurdle success in early August, Missunited subsequently returned to Ballybrit to beat Eye Of The Storm in a Listed race on the level, form that the runner-up has boosted since by winning at Listowel and also finishing placed in last weekend’s Long Distance Cup at Royal Ascot.
Winters has already expressed his long-term aim for a crack at Quevega in the mares hurdle at Cheltenham in March but sees the benefits of a crack at a prestigious Group One international prize first.
“She is more of a flat bred mare and the owners (Vanessa Hutch) would love to get some Group form into her. If she wins, or is placed in a Group One, that’s huge for them for breeding purposes,” he said. “She would then be a dual-purpose broodmare and that’s everything these days.”
Ballydoyle’s number two rider Heffernan will again do the steering around a Longchamp track he is very familiar with, and the jockey also has a Group One success to his name in France already having won the 2006 Criterium International on Mount Nelson.
Unlike Ballydoyle’s high-powered travel resources though, the Winters team are preparing for a mini-expedition by road for Missunited.
“She’ll go in one of those two-stall horseboxes and she’ll probably stop off in Newmarket for a bit of exercise on the Friday. We aim to be at the course on Saturday,” Winters said.
“It’s a good time of the year to try this. She’s going to have a good break after France anyway so if she comes home a bit tired after all the travelling it won’t matter. And she’ll race again next year before she goes to stud,” he added.
The weekend flat highlight at home is Leopardstown’s JRA Killavullan Stakes on Saturday, a Group Three race being eagerly anticipated by Curragh trainer Paul Deegan for his impressive Listed winner Shining Emerald.
“This has been the plan since he won the last time (Blenheim Stakes.) It’s all systems go,” Deegan said yesterday. “We’re very happy with him. He’s going the right way, the rain has come which is good, and conditions should be ideal.
“He goes there with a live chance hopefully and will take a bit of beating.”