Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hard Top Could Be Stoute's Salvation

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Hard Top Could Be Stoute's Salvation

Article excerpt

Byline: By Doug Moscrop

Seven times champion trainer, yet one significant achievement is still missing from Sir Michael Stoute's CV. He hasn't saddled a St Leger winner.

He has won every classic in Britain and Ireland, some more than once, but the oldest one of them all at Doncaster still eludes him.

Stoute has supplied the runner-up on five occasions and the nearest he has come to winning was last year when Quiff failed by a head against Rule Of Law. Now he can finally put the record straight today with Hard Top.

This lightly-raced colt made only one appearance as a juvenile, finishing a never-nearer fifth to Proclamation. He returned to action at Lingfield in July and got off the mark in emphatic style but the bare result didn't suggest he was a classic winner in the making.

However, the Great Voltigeur at York told us more about his credentials as he showed significant improvement to stake his claim as a leading contender for the final classic of the season.

We can safely assume that further progress is forthcoming and the easier ground shouldn't be a problem as he is out of a mare by Sadler's Wells who appreciated some cut. The extra distance will also play to his strengths.

Aidan O'Brien has already won this classic twice, has two strings to his bow and the favourite, Scorpion, has more obvious claims than Avalon.

After beating only one home in the French Derby, he was ridden more prominently in the Irish equivalent and found only Hurricane Run too good for him. An additional two furlongs here will be right up his street.

Scorpion was put away for an autumn campaign and hasn't been seen since winning the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in mid-July.

Of slight concern to me, anyway, is the fact that Keiren Fallon has opted to stay in Ireland to ride Oratorio, third choice in the betting for their Champion Stakes, rather than partner Scorpion. …

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