WILLIAM BUICK says Times Up is the horse to beat as the remarkable stayer prepares to create Doncaster Cup history on day three of the Ladbrokes St Leger Festival.
No horse has won three successive renewals of the famous race – the task facing Buick’s mount today – since Beeswing completed the feat back in 1842.
It will not be easy – Times Up’s opponents in the two-and-a-quarter mile stamina test, part of the Qipco British Champions Series, include the ever popular Estimate, who created history of her own when landing last year’s Ascot Gold Cup for the Queen.
Although Eddie Ahern and Ryan Moore were in the saddle for the 2012 and 2013 renewals of the Doncaster Cup, Buick did win the 2012 Lonsdale Cup at York on the gelding and was back in the saddle for last month’s renewal on Knavesmire when Times Up chased home Pale Mimosa and Estimate.
“He was right back on his game when I was reunited with him in the Lonsdale last month when he kept on brightly for third,” said the Northern Racing College graduate, who will seek a third St Leger win in five renewals when he partners Romsdal in tomorrow’s big race.
“I wouldn’t swap him for anything this time. The ground should be perfect for him, we know he loves the long run home and despite having turned eight it seems he’s as good as ever.
“We’ve got a couple of lengths to find with Estimate, but seeing as York was his first run since May I’m sure he’ll be right on his game this time. Times Up has a very solid chance.”
The early years of Times Up’s career were overseen by John Dunlop who retired shortly after the 2012 Doncaster Cup, with the training responsibilities passing to his son Ed.
“It was a very good run at York as it was almost like his first run of the year. He has come out of it well and improved as we expected,” said Dunlop junior ahead of today’s race, which will be sponsored by Socialites Electric Cigarettes for the first time.
“I think he proved at York that he is back to his best. He will have his conditions, so let’s hope for the best. I think it’s a tough race, sadly, maybe a bit tougher with Estimate in there. He’s in the best condition he’s been in this year.”
As for Estimate, the Royal filly has had an eventful 2014. She was behind in her work but still finished second at Royal Ascot, and was then found to be one of the horses involved in the spate of positive morphine tests.
The five-year-old ran appallingly in the Goodwood Cup but was nursed back to form by Sir Michael Stoute and finished second, some two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of Times Up, at York.
The Queen’s racing manager John Warren said: “She’s in good order and Sir Michael is very happy with her wellbeing. We expect her to run a nice rain.”
Of the Yorkshire hopes in a race first run in 1776 and which pre-dates the St Leger by a decade, Richard Fahey saddles Northumberland Cup winner Angel Gabrial and the outsider Very Good Day while The Yorkshire Post’s columnist Daniel Tudhope is aboard Repeater for his boss David O’Meara.
Perhaps the best hope is Peter Niven’s remarkable former hurdler Clever Cookie, who won at Doncaster earlier this season before finishing sixth in the Ebor.
“It’s a step up in class again but he’s not far off it, and there aren’t too many other places he can go,” said Niven who trains near Malton. “His run in the Ebor was good if you consider he hated every minute of it; the ground was far too quick for him. It was like a road there.”
As for yesterday’s action, 2013 Royal Ascot heroine Kiyoshi returned to form with a brilliant victory under the soon-to-retire Jamie Spencer in the Japan Racing Association Sceptre Stakes.
Fitted with cheekpieces for the first time, Kiyoshi appeared much more like her old self, travelling with the panache that was the trademark of her juvenile campaign.
Trained by Charlie Hills, Kiyoshi is now likely to test her powers at Grade One level once again in the Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on October 4.
Hills reserved special praise for Spencer, who stunned the racing world last month when announcing he was hanging up his riding boots at the end of the season. “Jamie gave her an absolute peach of a ride and I will definitely miss him,” said the Lambourn handler.
It was also a day to remember for two Yorkshire jockeys attached to the Malton yard of the aforementioned Richard Fahey.
Home Cummins took the EBF Stallions Breeding Winners Carrie Red Fillies’ Nursery under Jack Garritty who recently returned to Ryedale after a spell in the south with Andrew Balding.
“She did that well,” said 18-year-old Garritty, son of former jump jockey Russ, after the 28th winner of his breakthrough year.
Meanwhile, self-confessed journeyman jockey Patrick Mathers picked up the biggest pay-cheque of his career as he took the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance £300,000 2-y-o Stakes on Bond’s Girl.
Mathers, 33, has been attached to the Fahey yard for three years.
“I started with Alan Berry, I’ve been with Derek Shaw and then I was a freelance,” he said.
“Someone like me finds it hard unless you get on a good one. But if you stick around long enough, things like this happen eventually. And I’m very grateful to Richard, a great trainer and a great boss, for giving me the chance to stick.”