Talented gelding Ninth Legion earned himself a start in the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) during the 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival by the winning the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1550m) in impressive fashion at the Randwick Kensington track on Saturday.
Jockey Peter Robl was forced to go forward from a wide barrier on Ninth Legion and he settled into a position behind the leader Listen Son, who made sure that the race was run at a generous tempo.
Ninth Legion hit the front with 300 metres left to run and worked home strongly to record his first victory at Group level; holding off Darley gelding Limes, who returned to his best form with a strong effort and Paul Murray-trained Alma’s Fury.
The winner of the Villiers Stakes is offered ballot-exempt entry into the Doncaster Handicap and although trainer John Hawkes refused to confirm that the $3 million race was on the agenda for the son of Fastnet Rock, he was still delighted with the victory.
”We don’t make decisions on race days and we will enjoy that win,” Hawkes said after the race.
”When the race was moved to the Kensington track I thought it would suit him a bit better.
”It was a great ride and I think he was very strong on the line.”
Robl has now steered Ninth Legion to four of his five wins and is hoping that he will be able to maintain the ride on a horse that he believes is a legitimate winning chance in the Doncaster Handicap next year.
The veteran jockey was delighted with the way that Ninth Legion finished the race and was surprised by how comfortably he was travelling in the early stages of the event, despite the strong tempo being set by Listen Son.
“They were running a genuine pace for the journey and I was surprised we were a couple in front of the third and fourth horse because I didn’t think we were going too hard,” Robl said after the race.
”I got a perfect run and he really let down when I asked him to go.
“He was very strong through the line and I don’t think it would be a problem if it was a little bit further.
”I’m disclosing my age but I had two rides on his mum for two wins, so they’ve been a good family.”
Ninth Legion is expected to be sent to the spelling paddock before returning to the races for an autumn campaign.
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2013 Villiers Stakes Finishing Order
|1||8||NINTH LEGION||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Peter Robl||–||11||54.5kg||$11|
|2||13||LIMES||Peter Snowden||Kerrin McEvoy||0.8L||10||53kg||$12|
|3||3||ALMA’S FURY||Paul Murray||Blake Shinn||1.6L||4||58kg||$15|
|4||6||MONTON||Ron Quinton||Sam Clipperton (a)||2.2L||1||55kg||$21|
|5||5||SAID COM (NZ)||Chris Waller||Hugh Bowman||2.5L||2||55.5kg||$10|
|6||4||DESTINY’S KISS||Joseph Pride||Christian Reith||2.6L||7||56kg||$12|
|7||7||STRIKE THE STARS (NZ)||Anthony Cummings||Glyn Schofield||2.9L||6||55kg||$12|
|8||11||SYSMO (FR)||Tony McEvoy||James McDonald||3.2L||9||54kg||$11|
|9||9||SCREAM MACHINE||Jason Coyle||Adam Hyeronimus||3.3L||14||54.5kg||$9|
|10||1||COUP AY TEE (NZ)||Chris Waller||Jason Collett||3.6L||5||59kg||$18|
|11||2||WESTERN SYMBOL (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse||Tommy Berry||4.1L||13||59kg||$18|
|12||14||ABSALON||Sam Kavanagh||Brenton Avdulla||4.7L||12||53kg||$11|
|13||12||TAXMEIFYOUCAN||Gregory Hickman||Tim Clark||9.6L||8||53kg||$5F|
|14||10||LISTEN SON||Tony Gollan||Ms Kathy O’Hara||11.8L||3||54kg||$18|