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Tuesday, 13 November, 2018

Lah Ti Dar still in Leger mix as Hornby is Maid Up ahead of first Classic ride

Maid Up and Rob Hornby land the March Stakes at Goodwood in August
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The build-up to the William Hill St Leger has been dominated by colts, but Monday marked a definite shift in emphasis.

Highly progressive filly Maid Up was added to the field for £50,000 and star filly Lah Ti Dar remains in the running for Doncaster despite the rival attraction of the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp 24 hours later. 

While connections of Lah Ti Dar stressed they will wait until "we've got as many of the facts together as we can," the Andrew Balding team have no such concerns about Maid Up, who will be a first Classic ride for Rob Hornby. 

"It’s massive," said Hornby, who made an instant impression on his Group 1 debut when guiding Donjuan Triumphant to a fine fourth in the Haydock Sprint Cup on Saturday.

"It’s been a year when things have been going very well and I’ve ridden in more Group races and my first Group 1 last weekend, so this tops it off. It’s a very exciting week ahead."

Rob Hornby will ride in his first Classic when climbing aboard Maid Up in Saturday's William Hill St Leger

Maid Up began a rapid ascent up the ranks at Doncaster on June 1 when scoring in a Class 5 fillies' handicap off a mark of 69, the first of four successes from five runs.

The homebred daughter of Mastercraftsman landed the Group 3 March Stakes at Goodwood on her most recent start and has been installed a general 16-1 chance for Saturday, when she will receive 3lb from her male rivals.

William Hill St Leger, card, form and betting

In a season when most of the star performers have been female – Alpha Centauri, Enable and Sea Of Class springing most readily to mind, along with Lah Ti Dar – it would be no surprise were plenty of punters prepared to back another filly to win the St Leger following Simple Verse three years ago, albeit it took an appeal to have her reinstated as the winner.

Hornby added: "Maid Up's had an incredible year and it’s strange because she's so laid back at home, and even in a race you worry for the first half because she gives you no feel at all. But as soon as you ask her to be there for you, she jumps into the bridle.

"It’s hard to know how good she is because she only does enough and whatever is in front of her, she just goes and runs them down."

Jeffrey Hobby (second right) and wife Phoebe (second left) with Maid Up in the Goodwood winner's enclosure after the Group 3 March Stakes

Maid Up was bred by her owners, Jeffrey and Phoebe Hobby of Brightwalton Stud, who have opted to roll the dice rather than take up her existing entry in the DFS Park Hill Stakes on Thursday.

"It's never an easy decision, as it's an expensive supplementary, but she's won a Leger trial cosily and has come on quite a long way," said Balding.

"The owners are very sporting people and you get only one opportunity to run in the St Leger, so they were quite keen on it.

Watch Maid Up win the March Stakes here

"The alternatives were later in the year and we'll probably give her only one more run this season. She's in great form, so we thought we'd give it a go."

Lah Ti Dar, one-time favourite for the Oaks and deeply impressive in her comeback victory at York last month, was cut across the board as she featured among 16 names to go forward for the £700,000 final Classic. 

The race sponsor made Kew Gardens their 5-4 favourite and went 7-2 (from 9-2) about Lah Ti Dar, whom connections last week had said was under serious consideration for the Vermeille.

Lah Ti Dar winning easily under Frankie Dettori

With trainer John Gosden at the Keeneland yearling sales, Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber's racing manager Simon Marsh reported both races remain on the table. 

"We're monitoring everything to see what the ground is like in France and what it does in England," he said on Monday. "John's in Kentucky and we’ll leave her in both races.

"We’ll make a decision when we've got as many of the facts together as we can. She doesn’t want fast ground."

The forecast in Paris is largely set fair – a factor that will aid Longchamp officials in planning when, and if, to water – while the Met Office is predicting only light showers for the Doncaster area in the run-up to the St Leger. 

A spokesperson said on Monday: "Overnight [into Tuesday] we could see some patchy light rain, which could stay until the morning before moving south. Tuesday will then be largely dry with some bright spells and quite breezy.

"Wednesday and Thursday are largely dry and then on Friday there's the increased risk of a shower or two, but on the light side and with sunny spells in between. For Saturday, there are some showers pushing in through the afternoon."

The going at Doncaster on Monday was described as good to soft, good in places.

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It’s been a year when things have been going very well and I’ve ridden in more Group races and my first Group 1 last weekend, so this tops it off
E.W. Terms
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