Vinnie Roe will bid to firmly entrench himself in the history books at the Curragh tomorrow when trying to land the Irish Field St Leger for the fifth consecutive year.
Dermot Weld’s perennial seven-year-old warmed up for this term’s renewal by finishing third behind Chelsea Rose and Shalapour in the Ballyroan Stakes.
He was partnered on that occasion, as he has been for all 13 of his career successes by Pat Smullen, and he is confident Weld’s stalwart can again take top honours.
“Without a doubt I think he can win again. Shalapour is going there and has to be respected but I think he has a real live strong chance of winning his fifth back-to-back St Leger,” he told At The Races.
“If there is one horse who can do it, it’s Vinnie Roe and I have been very pleased with everything he has shown this year.
“He gave weight to the horses in Leopardstown the last day and he was beaten by a Group One winner in Chelsea Rose. His run was very good and it left me looking forward to the Irish Leger.
“I think he is a better horse at the Curragh than anywhere else. He is inclined to lug a little bit right-handed and he likes to go right-handed. It will be a smart horse who beats him on the day.”
Vinnie Roe started his career by landing a seven-furlong Leopardstown maiden in June 2000, and Smullen knew from an early stage Weld had something special on his hands.
He continued: “He is an unbelievable horse and we have held him in high regard since day one – we always thought he would be something special but not anything like he has turned out to be.
“He has great courage and is a stayer with a great turn of foot.
“It is very difficult to know if he is as good as he was as you never learn anything from his homework. He is a very relaxed and laid-back type of horse and never overexerts himself in the mornings, which is probably why he is so good in the afternoons.”
The John Oxx-trained Shalapour finished a length and a half in front of Vinnie Roe in Leopardstown after chasing home Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe favourite and St Leger winner Scorpion in the Irish Derby.
“We were happy with him in the run up to the Irish Derby. He’d improved a good bit – we expected him to run in the first four and he didn’t let us down,” said Oxx.
“He’s a nice horse who should stay well. He’s bred to go in excess of a mile and a half so we think he’s ready to run a good race.
“I was happy with his run in Leopardstown. Vinnie Roe was giving him weight but our fellow was a bit rusty and hadn’t been working quite as well as he was before the Irish Derby.”
Oxx will also be represented by dual Curragh Cup winner Mkuzi, who was last seen finishing third over the mile-and-six-furlong trip at Fairyhouse.
Favourite for the race is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Yeats, who looked the finished article when slamming a useful field in the Coronation Cup but subsequently disappointed in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
The home defence is completed by rank outsider Liss Ard with 2003 runner-up Gamut heading a four-strong British challenge.
Geoff Wragg’s nine-year-old The Whistling Teal will make the journey to the County Kildare track while Collier Hill takes takes his chance with trainer Alan Swinbank hoping to use the race as a springboard to the Emirates Melbourne Cup on November 1.
A good performance would see the seven-year-old go into quarantine on Monday ahead of the Australian race, although a below-par effort may see the whole expedition scrapped.
“The race is a tough call. We’re going there with Collier Hill to see how we fare with Vinnie Roe as regards going for the Melbourne Cup,” said the Richmond trainer.
“If he disappoints on Saturday and we decide to scrap the Australian trip then there’s a Group Two race for him in Cologne.”
Swinbank’s charge had plied his trade in Dubai earlier in the year, landing a valuable handicap and also finishing third to Phoenix Reach in the Dubai Sheema Classic.
“He’s very, very well. He’s in as good a form as he was before the Sheema Classic,” added Swinbank. “We don’t want a lot of rain though.”
Mark Tompkins believes Franklins Gardens’ light campaign this season could play to his advantage after limiting his charge to three just three runs this term.
“He won the Yorkshire Cup but probably didn’t stay in the Gold Cup, although he was going as well as anything at the two-mile point,” he said.
“I am hoping to get a good run at he weekend as we have missed a few runs on purpose. I hope it rains over there as that will suit us even more.”
Like Collier Hill, Franklins Gardens will head Down Under following the race, in a bid to capture the Melbourne Cup.
Irish Field St Leger betting:
Ladbrokes: 9-4 Yeats, 5-2 Vinnie Roe, 3-1 Shalapour, 8-1 Gamut, 11-1 Collier Hill, 14-1 Franklins Gardens, 16-1 Mkuzi, 66-1 The Whistling Teal, 150-1 Liss Ard.
William Hill: 2-1 Yeats, 5-2 Vinnie Roe, 3-1 Shalapour, 10-1 Gamut, 11-1 Collier Hill, 14-1 Franklins Gardens, 20-1 Mkuzi, 50-1 The Whistling Teal, 150-1 Liss Ard.