Ninth Legion will be returning to Group 1 level for the first time since 2012 in the 2014 George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens this weekend and co-trainer Michael Hawkes believes that the $1 million event is a nice race for the talented gelding.
Ninth Legion made his Group 1 debut as a two-year-old when he finished fifth behind Zoustar in The T.J. Smith (1600m) at Eagle Farm during the 2012 Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival and was far from disgraced when fourth behind Epaulette in the 2012 Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens.
The son of Fastnet Rock joined the stable of Team Hawkes at the end of his 2012 Spring Racing Carnival campaign and they worked the gelding through the grades until he earnt ballot exempt entry into the 2014 Doncaster Mile with an impressive win in the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1550m) at the Randwick Kensington track in December last year.
Ninth Legion started his 2014 Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival with a fast-finishing third behind Terravista and El Roca in the Group 3 Liverpool City Cup (1300m) and Hawkes told TVN that the four-year-old had done everything right in the lead-up to his Group 1 return in the George Ryder Stakes on Saturday.
“He is obviously going back to weight-for-age, but his run the other day was super,” Hawkes said.
“He got back, hit the line solid and it was very good for a first-up run.
“He trialed at Rosehill last Friday and went very well.
“He has done everything right and he has continued to please.
“It looks like a really nice race for him, obviously there is a bit of depth in it, but he is on forward to the target, which is the Doncaster.”
Bookmakers don’t share the optimism of Hawkes and Ninth Legion is currently available at George Ryder Stakes odds of $71; with renowned wet tracer Red Tracer ($3.40) a clear favourite from stablemates Boban ($4.80) and Sacred Falls ($8.50) as well as classy colts El Roca ($8.50) and Eurozone ($9.50).
The Hawkes team has had plenty of success in the George Ryder Stakes, winning the Group 1 event with Lord Essex (2002) and Lonhro (2003 and 2004), while they were narrowly denied victory with Love Conquers All (2011), Dao Dao (2010), Mentality (2007) and Paratroopers (2006).