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Unlucky Space Jet fails to launch in the St Leger as Rioja Joey sets the Birmingham Cup standard at Perry Barr.

Space Jet’s bid to win the St Leger for a second time in her career came to a disappointing end at Perry Barr tonight. The superstar, who has really captured the imagination of race-goers with her breath-taking last to first finishes, got into trouble heading into the first bend and could not recover enough to mount enough of a challenge to qualify.

Space Jet receives love and adulation after winning the PGR Recency at Hove in August. Photo: Paul Blake

Although he failed to qualify, it was great to see Signet Denver back in action for Kevin Hutton in Heat 1 of the Birmingham Cup tonight. Cuckoo Fund ran a stormer to pick up Hawkfield Ozark with Warzone Tom finishing like an express train in 3rd. 4-2-5

Ballymac Katie finished powerfully to win the first of the St Leger heats as the Ladbrokes Summer Stayers finalist, Havana Top Note, could only bring up the rear. In sensational fashion, Ballymac Katie, dropped herself out the back for the entirety of the first circuit before making her move down the back straight. It looked like her chance had gone when she was crowded at the fifth turn. However, she found some room on the rail to head Savana Jazz and Lightfoot Clark on the run-in. 3-4-2

Ladbrokes Gold Cup runner-up Churchfield Syd made a faultless start to the competition in Heat 2 of the Birmingham Cup. Trapping smartly, the others were playing catch up from the first bend. Trouble at the third bend enabled Goldies Perryman and Maiden Derby winner, Drive On Lad, to qualify in second and third respectively. 4-2-3

Jacktavern Bella led from the boxes to win Heat 2 of the St Leger and qualify for the next round. The surprise of the race was that Belinda Green’s Kent St Leger winner, Low Pressure, was unable to qualify from what looked like a quite straightforward heat. Liz McNair’s Hunt Cup winner and the defending champion, Havana Lover, ran solidly to finish second and qualify ahead of Snooty Rose in third. 1-6-5

Low Pressure (Larry) photo: Paul Blake

Bockos Crystal was an impressive winner of Heat 3 of the Birmingham Cup for Graham Holland. The brindled bitch found some room outside of the two inside traps at the first bend. Bandit Billy in Trap 1 and Glenmalure Flyer in Trap 2 both pinged the lids, forcing Bockos Crystal to earn any advantage around the first bend. Any doubts about her ability vanished once she got going along the back straight and stretched her lead. 3-1-2

Ballymac Taylor justified her ante post favouritism for the St Leger with a scintillating late charge, despite being crowded on the majority of bends. Her incredible pace, stamina and track craft enabled her to pass her rivals with ease at the finish. Cooladerry Habs ran well from the front to finish second ahead of Tory Bellatrix in third. 2-3-5

Rioja Joey made light work of Heat 4 of the Birmingham Cup, leading from the lids to the finish line. Kantoher Jack and Chelms Greatest qualified in second and third respectively. Rioja Joey’s 28.03 was the fastest of the competition at the time of writing.

In Heat 4, amidst an air of expectation at Perry Barr, 2021 winner Space Jet entered the St Leger fray.  Sadly, the expectant crowd were disappointed as Space Jet promptly got into a tangle with Longacres Bullet going into the first bend and failed to recover. Graham Holland’s Garfiney Blaze went on to win ahead of Nathan Hunt’s Teds Dexter and Dianne Henry’s Savana Heross.  3-6-1

My Nap of the meeting, Ivanexile, got off to an absolute flyer in the fifth heat of the Birmingham Cup and never looked in any trouble. Havana Bale Out was drawn in Trap 2 and proceeded to run so widely around the final bend that she almost ran off the track in pursuit. Trouble Shooter ran well to qualify in third. 5-2-6

Millridge Tanic ran superbly in Heat 5 of the St Leger to lead from the boxes to the line. Once out, Pat Curtin’s white and black was not for catching. Terry Kibble’s Ballymac Mags ran strongly down the back straight but never challenged the leader on the run-in. Longacres Serta finished third and may well improve for this run.    5-2-3

Brookside Richie made all to win the last of the Birmingham Cup Heats as Pall Mall runner up Eze failed to qualify after finding trouble at the first bend. Liam Dowling’s Ballymac Run and Kevin Hutton’s wide running Forest Icon crossed the line together to qualify ahead of the unfortunate Eze. 2-6-1

Eze on parade at Oxford. Photo: Paul Blake

Droopys Clue shared his credentials in the final heat of the St Leger with a blistering run from the front. Lively Lauren, in Trap 1, missed the break but had plenty in hand to qualify in third behind Coonough Crow. Lively Lauren was an eye-catcher, showing that she gets the 710m trip. The winner posted the fastest time of the night for the St Leger trip with a time of 42.76 seconds. 3-4-1

Droopys Clue now looks like the one to beat in the St. Leger. However, with Ballymac Taylor and Ballymac Katie both running into trouble in the first round, it’s hard to judge exactly how close they are to Seamus Cahill’s kennel star, on times alone.

Despite Space Jet’s unlucky early exit, the 2023 St. Leger looks odds-on to be an absolutely classic renewal.

The Birmingham Cup may not be the strongest of competitions this year. The notable absence of Tom Heilbron’s Links Maverick and Graham Holland’s premier trio of Clona Duke, Swords Rex, and Gaytime Nemo has left the door open for the likes of Churchfield Syd, Rioja Joey, and Bockos Crystal to put their names on this year’s list of Category 1 winners.

These three, perhaps with the addition of Ivanexile and Hawkfield Ozark, look the most likely to be leaving Perry Barr £20,000 better off in a fortnight.

Two that caught my eye on the night were Birmingham Cup Heat 1 winner, Cuckoo Fund, and Lively Lauren, who missed the break, in Heat 6 of the St. Leger.

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