Although he is only a three-year-old, Ottoman Emperor is already taking his trainer, Johnny Murtagh and his owners on the ride of a lifetime. On Saturday, that will continue when the colt lines up against the best of Europe’s staying three-year-olds in the St Leger at Doncaster.
Ottoman Emperor’s win in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at the Glorious Goodwood meeting confirmed his status as a legitimate contender for the St Leger. That win followed three wins in his only other starts on turf. His only defeat was on the synthetic at Dundalk, where he finished 6th on debut.
The son of Excelebration, Ottoman Emperor is not classically bred. In fact, he was sold for only €7,500 as a yearling. He was then withdrawn from a couple of sales later that season before being spotted by agent Stuart Boman after running second in a Dundalk jump out. Johnny Murtagh then inspected the colt for OTI, liked him and a deal was the done.
Since the Gordon Stakes, Ottoman Emperor has gone about his usual training regime. Last weekend he had his last serious gallop, with Johnny commenting afterwards that “the colt was as good as I can get him”. He felt that with the large crowd experience of Goodwood under his belt, he would be all the more settled at Doncaster.
Hurricane Lane, the winner of both the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris, is the deserved short priced favourite. However Ottoman Emperor’s position as second favourite for the great race is equally well deserved. It will be his first experience at 2800m, however Murtagh considers that he will be up to the task. Despite his quiet demeanour the colt’s jockey, Ben Coen, who has ridden him in all but one of his races, has said the same.
Being the oldest of the five classics on the English calendar, the race will be the first time OTI colours have been carried in an English Classic. There will be no shortage of adrenaline flowing for his connections in the early hours of Sunday morning as the colt loads into to the barriers. With luck, three minutes later, corks will pop!