While Rahystrada’s feat of four Arlington Million runs is definitely worth celebrating this weekend, perhaps even more impressive is the fact that Wigmore Hall is also making his fourth start at the International Festival of Racing – in his third different race. In 2010, a 3-year-old version of the High Chaparral gelding ran a huge race to finish second to Paddy O’Prado in the Grade I Secretariat Stakes. In 2011 and 2012, the Michael Bell-trainee ran commendable closing races in the Million to finish fourth and seventh, respectively, losing by just over three lengths each time. This year, he attempts the $400,000 American St. Leger (morning line of 7-2).
“I hope he gets (the win) this time. I think we probably got Dandino to beat. We’ve raced against him. I don’t know too much about the Americans,” assistant trainer Gillian Dolman said. “He definitely knows he’s back here (at Arlington). He loves it here and at Woodbine. He’s feeling really well. He’s going around there bucking and squealing.”
The two-time Grade I winner has twice left Arlington to subsequently win consecutive runnings of the Northern Dancer Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack in Canada. That race is at 12 furlongs over an undulating course that can be testing for any horse. On Saturday, when he enters the American St. Leger, he will have to run 1 11/16-miles (or 13½ furlongs) – 1½ furlongs farther than he ever has attempted. Despite the novelty of such, Dolman is confident in her charge’s ability to get the conditions.
“He’s only been 2400 meters, but I think he can get the extra ground (of the St. Leger). He won the Northern Dancer at 2400 meters and he doesn’t really have a preference on ground. He wouldn’t want it rock-hard, but good to firm is perfect,” she explained.
On Saturday, Wigmore Hall will be ridden by Jamie Spencer – a champion jockey in both Ireland and England – and will be well supported at the windows (morning line odds are 7-2). “I don’t know what the riding plans are, yet. We’ll leave that to (Bell) and Jamie. He does always seem to fall out of the stalls. I would think Jamie would track him across and drop behind – that’s his usual style of running. Hopefully he’ll finish fast late. We are hoping there will be a bit of early pace. He usually likes to come off a faster pace.”
No matter what happens, Dolman adores her horse and greatly appreciates what he has done for the Bell stable. “I just wish in the beginning I would have made a Facebook page or something for him. He’s taken us so many places and people seem to really like him.”