Enjoying one of his best preparations to date, Fastnet Rock gelding Ninth Legion took his career to the next level on Saturday, claiming the Group Two Villiers Stakes on the Kensington track at Randwick, the first stakes win for the Segenhoe-owned four-year-old.
Having always showed tremendous ability, Ninth Legion spent his early years chasing home the likes of Pierro, All Too Hard, Snitzerland, It's A Dundeel and Epaulette, but for whatever reason, he was just not giving 100%.
Transferred to the Hawkes camp at the beginning of his last preparation, the then entire was gelded in his most recent spell and it appears everything is starting to fall into place.
"He is still a work in progress but all credit goes to Segenhoe for agreeing to geld him," Michael Hawkes said.
"He makes his own luck and since he was gelded he's much more focused,"
"We set him for this race from day one this time in. A lot of owners don't want to geld these Fastnet Rock colts, but full credit to Segenhoe for taking the right decision."
A winner two starts back over 1350m at Rosehill Gardens, not all right out next time out when striking trouble and finishing about six lengths from the eventual winner White Sage in the Listed Festival Stakes.
In what was a great ride from jockey Peter Robl, Ninth Legion was hunted forward from his wide gate in the Group Two contest to sit about a length off race leader Listen Son, and when the field rounded the home turn, the Inglis Easter graduated pounced on the lead and kept going.
Holding out Darley's Limes by three-quarters-of-a-length, it was the same margin back to the third placed Alma's Fury.
Taking his record to five wins and three placed efforts from 18 starts, Ninth Legion's career earnings passed the $430,000 mark after the victory.
Having now had six rides on Ninth Legion for four victories, Robl felt prior to the race that Ninth Legion would be extremely hard to beat.
"This horse was spot-on today. He was humming going to the barriers and there's no reason he can't step up again."
A $110,000 purchase from the draft of Edinglassie Stud at the 2011 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, Ninth legion is out of the Xaar mare Xaar's Jewel, herself a half-sister to the stakes-winning Kidlat as well as to the dam of the Group One New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas winner Tell A Tale.
"I don't want to give away my age but I also won on his mother Xaar's Jewel who was trained by the late Roger Hoysted," Robl said.
The victory for Ninth Legion means that he is now exempt from ballot for the $3 million Group One Doncaster Handicap in the Autumn, a race his jockey feels he can measure up to.
"If he continues to progress like he has this preparation, then he would be a genuine lightweight chance in the Doncaster,'' Robl said.
Congratulations to all concerned with the victory of Ninth Legion – John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes as well as jockey Peter Robl and the staff at Segenhoe Stud where the horse spells.
Images courtesy of Bradley Photos.