Doncaster, ENGLAND // Frankie Dettori blamed a busy season for the defeat of Blue Bunting in the St Leger on Saturday after the Godolphin filly failed to land a blow against the colts in the world’s oldest Classic, won by Masked Marvel with William Buick aboard.
Blue Bunting was seeking a third Group 1 victory in succession to become the Dubai-based organisation’s sixth winner of the 2,937-metre contest, but unlike at Newmarket, when she won the English 1,000 Guineas, she could not last home into a strong headwind.
Much like last year, when Rewilding put in a limp performance behind Arctic Cosmos, Blue Bunting felt the effects of previous successes and folded tamely away to finish sixth ahead of stablemates Genius Beast, who was eighth, and Rumh, who finished last in the nine-horse field.
“It’s just one race too many after a long season,” Detorri said ruefully.
It was the second year in row that the trainer, John Gosden, and Buick had teamed up to take the Leger – the first time a trainer and jockey have done so in 41 years.
Gosden said that Masked Marvel’s success had been a long time in the planning. The son of Montjeu was purchased on behalf of the owner, Benny Nielsen, at the Arqana sale for an eye-popping €260,000 (Dh1.3 million) in 2009.
“From the day I saw him, when we purchased him at Deauville, he looked an ideal type for this race,” Gosden said. “We have planned this for almost two years. He’s got a high-cruising speed, and I told William to not attack too soon, as there was a really strong headwind. To break the course record in such conditions would be pretty good, I’d say.”
Unlike Blue Bunting, Masked Marvel had not raced for 65 days – the longest break of any horse in the race – having beaten yesterday’s rival Census by a head in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket.
It means that a full autumn programme is now open to the colt, who could line up against Godolphin’s Opinion Poll in the Long Distance Cup at Ascot’s inaugural British Champions Day next month, although Gosden is determined to keep his options open.
Gosden outmanoeuvred Godolphin by employing Buthelezi, owned by Princess Haya of Jordan, as his pacemaker, much to the chagrin of Richard Hills, who had been tasked by Godolphin to set the fractions aboard Rumh, the other filly in the race. The pair contributed to a searing pace, which resulted in Genius Beast coming off his bridle first under Silvestre de Sousa, 1,000m from home.
Brown Panther, owned by the footballer Michael Owen, was the next to look in trouble, and it was an extraordinary performance from the jockey, Kieren Fallon, to steer the colt to second place. Sea Moon, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, was third despite running into serious traffic problems.
“I’m very proud of the horse,” said Owen, who had special dispensation from Sir Alex Ferguson to be at Doncaster before having to rush off to the Reebok Stadium for Manchester United’s match with Bolton.
“I was always confident he would run well. Kieren said he might have been feeling the ground a bit, and he will be a better horse with more juice.
“He’s a dream horse for me.”