St Leger takes centre stage as Wallis closes on trainer record

HIGH HOPES: Rubys Rascal (pictured with Mark Wallis and kennel hand Justine Slater) is one of the favourites for the St Leger
HIGH HOPES: Rubys Rascal (pictured with Mark Wallis and kennel hand Justine Slater) is one of the favourites for the St Leger

Mark Wallis has high hopes for his four entrants in this year’s William Hill St Leger.

The 687m category one event is due to get under way this evening at Wimbledon, which will act as host of for the final time, following confirmation of its intended closure next year.

The 2015 finalist, Ferryforth Fran, has been picked to represent Lakenheath’s Wallis once again, as has the experienced Billys Bullet.

Ribble Atom — a semi-finalist 12 months ago — and the recently crowned Pinpoint Yorkshire St Leger and William Hill Great North Run champion, Rubys Rascal, make up the quartet.

“Rubys Rascal is in great form and will probably be the warm favourite,” said Wallis ahead of tonight’s heats in south-west London.

“But all four of them have won big races this year and have a decent chance of going far.

“They are four good ones and I would not enter any dog unless I believed they were capable of being competitive from the heats to the final.”

For Wallis, success in the St Leger would be the latest in a long line of triumphs so far this year.

The Lakenheath handler has collected in excess of £175,000 in prize money and currently holds a 300-point lead on his nearest challenger Paul Young, in the Trainer of the Year standings.

It is an accolade that Wallis has scooped for the last four years and if he can make it five in a row this time around, it will seal a record eighth trainer championship, having won his first in 2005.

However, while it is his name engraved on the trophy, Wallis is quick to praise the work of everyone at Imperial Kennels.

“Last week we broke the 1,000-point barrier, which in itself is a great achievement,” he added.

“It is tough getting to the top, but it is probably just as hard or perhaps even harder to stay there.

“We won our first-ever title 10 years ago and to still be up the top is a great credit to everyone here.

“The title is a prestigious one — a fine reward for all the huge effort the team puts in over the whole year.”

Aside from events at Wimbledon, Wallis will also have plenty of interest in the Henlow Derby semi-finals on Sunday.

In heat one, he has California drawn in trap five, while the second heat will see the East Anglian Derby hero Clondoty Alex go from trap three.

Should either of Wallis’ dogs progress, they will go into the final on Sunday, October 30.

On Tuesday, Calco Flyer will go in the final of the British Breeders Stakes in Nottingham after the 2012 dog came home second during a semi-final outing earlier this week.