Doncaster dawn patrol to decide it for Wachman

Co Tipperary trainer has to decide which Leger option is best for Galileo Rock

The shape of two classic races, today's Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster and tomorrow's Gain Irish St Leger at the Curragh, is set to come down to the outcome of a dawn stroll by David Wachman in South Yorkshire this morning as the Co Tipperary trainer tries to decide which Leger option is best for Galileo Rock.

For the second week running, weather conditions are casting a pall over the build up to a big race but whereas last weekend's Irish Champion Stakes had a number of camps staring anxiously at the skies, this time the focus is remorselessly on Wachman alone.

Winning opportunity
Anxious to ideally keep Galileo Rock against his own age-group in the English option, he has also kept the colt placed in a Curragh Leger which, despite containing 10 older horses, appears to present a winning opportunity at least as realistic as the English one.

Bookmakers yesterday were predicting the stay-at-home classic option is just favourite for Galileo Rock but the one guarantee is Wachman’s walk at the Doncaster track is unlikely to be stress-free.

“I’m going to walk the course around 5.30 and we’ll see where we are,” Wachman said yesterday. “The horse is due to fly over at 7am, so we’ll be able to decide whether to put him on the plane or get him off. We’ll see what happens with the weather.”


Galileo Rock’s preference for fast going looks unlikely to present itself at Doncaster, with ground conditions officially “good to soft” yesterday and clerk of the course Roderick Duncan reporting:

“The forecast is still for the possibility of rainfall overnight. It’s pretty hit and miss with an estimate of between 4-7mms. We’ll just have to see.”

Irish representation in the world's oldest classic is guaranteed anyway, with Aidan O'Brien aiming for a fourth Doncaster Leger with both Leading Light and Foundry ,while Pat Shanahan sends the outsider, Ralston Road.

Owner Cork developer Michael O’Flynn, has the chance to carve out a niche for himself if Galileo Rock becomes the first Irish-trained winner of the English St Leger in half a century that hasn’t emerged from Ballydoyle.

Ground conditions at the Curragh yesterday ahead of their final classic of 2013 were better than in Yorkshire and if that remains the case on Sunday, and if Galileo Rock gets re-routed, he would appear to have first-rate claims of becoming the first three-year-old winner of the Irish Leger since Vinnie Roe did it a dozen years ago.

With Ballydoyle's number one hope, Ernest Hemingway, needing to bounce back from an underwhelming effort behind old rival Royal Diamond last time, and doubts over several other fancies, Galileo Rock has the sort of progressive profile that appeals.

Sunday’s other Group 1 at the Curragh is the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes and Wachman’s central role in the weekend activity is emphasised by how his Phoenix Stakes winner Sudirman is in line to record back-to-back top-flight victories.

Last Sunday's Dundalk winner Giovanni Boldini appears to be Ballydoyle's main hope but this is a huge step up, while the English raider Toormore at least boasts a Group 2 win at Goodwood.

Sudirman’s profile however is superior to them all, although he too is a colt that loves to hear his hooves rattle.

Wachman has half-dozen career Group 1 wins to his name, and potentially can add to that significantly this weekend.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column