This Thursday a classic on the Australian racing calendar will take place at Flemington Racecourse with the 2013 VRC St Leger, a race Euroa-based horseman David Hayes hopes to win for a third time saddling up his smart filly Green Roller.
An important event for trainers to uncover the staying potential of three-year-olds that could grow into Melbourne Cup contenders in the spring, the $150,000 Listed VRC St Leger (2800m) this year has drawn a final field of 13 hopefuls.
While early VRC St Leger odds are led by Gai Waterhouse’s rails-drawn Hippopus, the High Chaparral colt out to improve on their fifth to superstar Kiwi It’s A Dundeel in the Australian Derby, Hall of Famer Hayes is confident his runner Green Roller can also step up and deliver.
Drawn nicely in barrier four the Flying Spur filly is one of the single-figure chances to win the VRC St Leger following her good last-start third to Shoreham in the Listed Galilee Series Final (2500m) which was her first look at a distance over 2100m.
Hayes said he set Green Roller on the VRC St Leger path right back in February when she travelled to Tasmanian and enjoyed a strong two length victory in the Listed Strutt Stakes (2100m) at Hobart.
“I always thought she was a good, young stayer and we had this in the back of our minds ever since she won she won well in Tassie,” Hayes said.
“She will be a nice open-class stayer of the future. She’ll be tested at the distance a little, but she’s well and truly capable of running it.”
The VRC St Leger may have seemingly lost some of its impact and prestige over the years but to Hayes it is still a crucial race for any three-year-old he believes has Melbourne Cup potential.
“It’s an important race because I don’t think there are enough three-year-old races over the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup distances,” Hayes, who won the race with Dark Ksar (1992) and again with Berlioz (2009), said.
“This gives you your first real opportunity to see if you’ve got a two-miler.
“So I would say it’s a race that should always be maintained, especially with the emphasis on us having to get non-Australian bred stayers.
“It’s becoming more and more important that you have a horse for it at three, because as soon it turns four it’s got to run against all of these Europeans that are out here.
“The St Leger certainly has got its place and I think there should be more of them.”
Indeed throughout history 14 Melbourne Cup winners also won the VRC St Leger including Poseidon, Comic Court, Delta, Tulloch and most recently Gurner’s Lane who completed the double in 1982.
Among the other notable VRC St Leger contenders are SA Derby-bound Serpent, the Michael Kent-trained McNulty and Waterhouse’s other chance of a maiden win in the race King Of Olympia.
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