ROXHOLME KRISTOF was again quickest in the semi-finals of the RPGTV St Leger at Perry Barr on Thursday as Hayley Keightley’s star avenged his Derby final night defeat by Blue Tick George in the first semi of the stayers’ Classic.

Led-up by Jim Daly’s dog, this time a strong-running effort from 3 Steps To Victory winner Roxholme Kristof saw him collar the RPGTV Stayers Trophy hero at the sixth bend before drawing away to win by over four lengths in 42.75sec (-25) for the 710m.

Mark Keightley, husband of the trainer, said: “I think we learned something else about Kristof last night – that probably he’s not a straightforward point-and-shoot individual.

“Most people seemed to think, or expect, that once he stepped up in trip, he’d trap in front and make all. But as we’re beginning to find out, it’s never that straightforward!

“On what we’ve seen so far, since his own step up in distance, Blue Tick George is proving a great early paced benchmark for others to aim at over a trip – something Kristof in his two attempts hasn’t been able to equal.

“However, unlike Nottingham, our boy secured a clear run and, while I always felt confident he’d turn the tables, he still had plenty to do going over the winning line first time. Turning into the back-straight, however, he was in full flight and it was just a question of tracking cleverly round bends five and six, which he did.

“He wasn’t going to be denied this time and, in all truth, looked impressive and was still running through the line, increasing his winning margin with every stride.

“There’ll be nights where he does lead off over this sort of trip and smashes a track record, but there are going to be nights like this where he becomes the bigger man by doing it from off the pace. Either way, if he stays sound, he’s a joy to behold and a delight to be involved with.”

The Keightleys secured a second St Leger finalist in the third semi-final as their Ballydoyle Bee chased home the John Mullins-trained Champion Stakes winner Smallmead, who bounced back impressively from her heat effort when making all to score by three and a half lengths in 43.17sec (-25).

Of the runner-up, Mark Keightley added: “I thought, as last week, Bee put up another great performance. To say she’s been going through the motions would be very harsh because she’s a bitch proving really consistent having been in two Cat One finals already – without truly firing.

“It’s therefore credit to her true ability that she’s now made three major finals and, thankfully, Hayley and Craig (Morris, assistant trainer) have now opened the door to her very best. Trapping well but stumbling badly after a stride, she was left in a hopeless position in her semi.

“However, her performance from the second bend to the winning line was fantastic and very much of a bitch that’s giving us everything now. She deserves her place in a St Leger final.”

Keightley also had news of Roxholme Olaf, who was withdrawn from his semi-final of the M Lambe Construction Birmingham Cup after an impressive heat success.

“Olaf is fine, but won’t be seen again this year,” he said. “Given the type of injury it is, however, he’ll be given every chance. He’s a proper dog.”

Back to the St Leger and, in terms of performances to the eye, the success of Aayamza Royale was up there with the very best seen this year as Mark Wallis’s Cesarewitch champion produced a brilliant effort to win the second semi.

Halted in her tracks on several occasions, Aayamza Royale nevertheless came through powerfully to catch longtime leader Salacres Pippy by the sixth bend and score by two and a half lengths in 43.29sec (-25.)

Her delighted champion trainer said: “It was a great performance in the circumstances. She has a turn of pace that is a joy to watch and she thrilled us all last night – and I’m sure those watching on RPGTV too.

“Of course it’ll not be easy to beat five other great rivals in the final, but we’re pleased to be there and I’m certain connections of whoever leads in the final will be pretty quickly looking to see where Lydia is!

“Either way, this event was always a bonus as the [Coral] TV Trophy starting next month at Hove is her main target.”


Form and trap draw for Thursday’s finals:—perry-barr-adv.pdf