The fast finishing French Derby sixth will race into the unknown when stepping up to a mile and a half for today’s Neptune Investment Management Great Voltigeur Stakes.
The Constable Leyburn trainer and her husband George, the former St Leger-winning jockey, bought the horse for a bargain 21,000 euros at a breeze-up sales in Ireland.
Victories at Hamilton and Pontefract last season caught the eye of the rapidly expanding Qatar Racing operation and Willie The Whipper justified their faith in the French Derby after he suffered the misfortune of being drawn furthest of all from the running rail.
“If you look at the form, he has done nothing wrong,” a bullish Duffield told the Yorkshire Post.
“He was second in a Group One in France (Criterium de Saint-Cloud) at the end of last season and was only beaten six lengths in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, which is the French Derby.
“He had a hopeless draw and had 25 lengths to make up with two furlongs to go, and he was only beaten five and a bit lengths by Intello who is regarded as one of the best horses in Europe.
“When we bought him, he just had a lot of presence. He is very agile and very athletic – we liked him so much that we bought him ‘on spec’ without an owner in mind.
“I still don’t know for sure if he is a St Leger horse. The sire Whipper didn’t appear to be a stayer but Willie The Whipper’s mother Anna Simona is by Slip Anchor who did win an Epsom Derby over a mile and a half.”
Favourite for today’s race is Sir Michael Stoute’s Telescope. Second in Haydock’s Rose of Lancaster Stakes, the Highclere horse – whose co-owners include Sir Alex Ferguson – has yet to show his class in an injury-blighted season. Today could be the day.
Godolphin’s main hope is Glorious Goodwood winner Cap O’Rushes while John Gosden, who has taken the last three of the previous six runnings of this race, relies on Nichols Canyon.
Yet Newmarket’s leading luminaries would be wise not to discount the credentials of Willie The Whipper; this seven-runner field means he should enjoy a clear run under his jockey Jamie Spencer.