Saturday’s St Leger is set to be an absolute cracker, with many of the 11 starters looking to have a realistic chance of landing the season’s final Classic.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Capri and Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean currently head the market at around 4/1. Ballydoyle’s leading hope captured the Irish Derby at the beginning of July, beating the Great Voltigeur winner Cracksman in the process. It was a gutsy performance that day, suggesting he’ll likely cope with the demands of the extended St Leger trip. He’s proven on all types of ground and there’s no doubting that the Irish Derby victory is the strongest piece of form of any contenders.
Crystal Ocean was a comfortable winner of the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood last time. That win came on soft ground, and he looks a progressive sort who ought to get the trip. He was placed in the Group Two Dante at York earlier in the campaign, and then placed again in the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. The slight concern is the trainer’s insistence that the horse needs to ‘fill his frame’, and that he remains somewhat weak. Such comments suggest he may not be ready for a gruelling 1m6f war of attrition.
Throughout the week money has piled in for Defoe. Roger Varian won the St Leger of 2014 with Kingston Hill, and has had a terrific meeting thus far. In Andrea Atzeni he has a jockey who simply loves Town Moor. The horse is yet to be beaten as a three-year-old, and was a stylish winner of the Geoffrey Freer last time. He travelled powerfully in testing conditions, and kept on strongly to see out the mile and five furlongs. The St Leger distance holds no fears, and punters must now decide whether this son of Dalakhani is classy enough to land the Donny showpiece.
John Gosden has won three of the last 10, and is double-handed this time round. Stradivarius looked to be his main contender, though Frankie Dettori has chosen to ride stable companion Coronet. James Doyle comes in for the ride, and must be thrilled to be on one of the market leaders. The colt won the Goodwood Cup last time and the Queen’s Vase prior to that. His abundance of stamina is undoubted, but the worry for punters, and clearly Dettori, is how he will cope with soft ground. The Italian’s defection has to be seen as a huge negative.
Coronet is the beneficiary, and the only filly in the race. She’s seen the back end of Enable several times this season, but has been getting closer on each occasion. She battled on bravely to finish runner-up in the Yorkshire Oaks last time, handling soft ground well. She looks a gutsy sort, and I fancy this extended trip should suit. I’m not convinced she has the gears to win a Leger, and she may have to settle for a place finish at best.
Joseph O’Brien took the race as a jockey in 2013, and has a decent contender in Irish St Leger runner-up Rekindling. He took a beating from Order Of St George at the Curragh, but there’s no shame in that. He was a place behind Crystal Ocean in the Dante at York before disappointing at Epsom. With trip and ground to suit, my concern would be whether he is able to stay close enough when the taps are turned on. He may find himself outpaced at some stage before staying-on again at the death.
A St Leger contender that has finished ahead of Enable this season is the Brian Meehan trained Raheen House. That came in April, when runner-up to Shutter Speed at Newbury. He was a close fourth in the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot, when a place behind Crystal Ocean. His last run came at Newmarket, when winning the Bahrain Trophy. That form looks a little shy of what’s required to win this, and though Meehan appeared bullish in the week, I’m less convinced that his horse is good enough.
In an ultra-competitive renewal, Capri has the outstanding form and I’m taking him to have the class and the battling spirit to win this St Leger, despite slight reservations over the trip. Crystal Ocean may prove to be the best of these in the long term, but he remains a work in progress, and susceptible to a ‘hardier’ type. I fancy Defoe will prove the biggest danger, though he may just lack the class to get the job done.
Best of luck to all those having a punt.