Ninth Legion charged home to secure a comfortable two-length victory in the Listed Carrington Stakes (1400m) first-up on January 24th, and has taken valuable condition and experience from the performance ahead of Saturday’s featured Group 2 Apollo Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick.
Jumping from the gates well, jockey James McDonald settled the Fastnet Rock gelding three back and on the fence; cutting through the inside of the pack rounding onto the straight and charging clear over the final 200m.
Thrilled with the way he has taken to work over the last three weeks, co-trainer Wayne Hawkes told Racing Ahead the team is confident Ninth Legion has the skill to take out the 2015 Apollo Stakes, but conceded he will need luck to overcome the wide and awkward barrier 14.
“He’s done a really good job,” Hawkes said.
“He doesn’t win very often – it can be a long time in between drinks for this bloke but it was a great effort first-up and he’s done everything right since.
“If he can produce that form again well he can win again, it’s as simple as that.
“It’s a terrible gate. At double-figure barriers we need more luck than you could possibly imagine. You basically don’t win from those barriers so you just have to hope you can slot in somewhere, go back and just be hitting the line.
“In an average race you wouldn’t run; you’d scratch and run in a different race, but if we don’t run him we’re going to end up getting behind the eight ball going towards races like the Doncaster.”
Posting six wins and as many minor places from his 16 competitive starts to date, Ninth Legion returned in 2014 for a credible third in the Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m) on March 8th; progressing to a luckless eighth when blocked for a run in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) and returning to the paddock following an impressive performance for fifth in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) on Day 1 of The Championships.
Quickly building to the task upon resuming in spring, the five-year-old ran seventh in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) first-up before placing third in each of the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1400m) and Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m); ending his campaign a close fourth in the featured Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m).
Charged with carrying 59kgs, Ninth Legion is currently rated a $9 chance for success in the 2015 Apollo Stakes with Ladbrokes Australia.