The World’s oldest Classic, the St Leger, takes place at Doncaster on Saturday, and may well prove to be one of the most competitive for many a year.
As ever, Aidan O’Brien is set to send a battalion across the Irish Sea, with Irish Derby winner Capri the leading hope. With the ground likely to stay on the soft side of good, conditions look to be ideal for the Ballydoyle hopeful.
It seems likely that he will be ridden by Ryan Moore, and speaking earlier in the week, the trainer appeared hopeful of a strong performance, saying: “Capri missed his intended run in the Great Voltigeur at York, but he seems fine now and I am happy with him. His work has been good at home. He won the Beresford last year on heavy and he has plenty of form with cut in the ground so I would say that the going at Doncaster, if there is some ease in it, will not be a problem to him.”
Venice Beach was thrashed by Cracksman in the Voltigeur, but O’Brien has said that the horse would ‘come-on’ for the run. He appeared confident that the Chester Vase winner would see out the extended trip well. Nevertheless, his form looks a fair bit shy of that of his stable companion.
As the rains came earlier in the week, so did the money for Roger Varian’s Geoffrey Freer winner Defoe. He was impressive that day, travelling powerfully through the testing ground and finishing off the race strongly. With a pair of winners on the opening day of the Leger Meeting, stable confidence will be high leading into the weekend showpiece.
Andrea Atzeni has won the Donny Classic on two of the last three occasions, and sounded confident when speaking to At The Races yesterday: “He's in great form, I'm looking forward to riding him. He needs to improve, which I think he has. The ground should suit him, and we'd be very hopeful.”
Roger Varian is convinced that conditions will favour his horse, saying: “Testing ground should suit our guy and I’ve been very happy with him since Newbury. I love how he’s come up through the ranks and he’s been very straightforward to train all year. He’s got good stamina, he’s got a great mind and he can quicken – he’s not just a galloper. We’ll find out on the day whether he is good enough, but I think that’s really the only question. Everything else ought to be in his favour.”
Sir Michael Stoute last won the race in 2008 and his Crystal Ocean is jostling for favouritism. He impressed on soft ground in the Gordon Stakes last time, yet the team believe better ground would aid his chances. Stoute's assistant James Horton said: “We were very pleased with Goodwood and we're very pleased with where he is now. He's still a big, weak, frame of a horse who we think is going to be a better horse next year. He won on soft ground at Goodwood, but stepping up against a better class of opposition, the better the ground the better for him.”
The bare form suggests Raheen House has a little to find with Crystal Ocean, yet Brian Meehan remains confident of a strong showing from the son of Sea The Stars. He looked impressive when winning the Bahrain Trophy last time at Newmarket, and the trainer said of his challenger: “He’s a very generous price. I thought he’d be shorter. He’s in great form at home, his preparation has been good and everything has gone to plan.”
Meehan added: “Raheen House doesn’t mind a bit of cut. Soft ground is fine for him but some of the others would want it better. Capri and Stradivarius stand out on form but my horse has a huge chance. Confidence is definitely high. We’ve been careful with him with this in mind. He has the pedigree for it and 12-1 is big.”
John Gosden has won three of the last 10 renewals, and looks set to fire two shots at the target. Stradivarius won the Goodwood Cup, though Gosden has voiced his concern over conditions should Town Moor get further rain. Coronet is the only filly in the race, and booked her place in this with a decent performance behind Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks. Speaking at a St Leger press event, Gosden's wife Rachel Hood said: “The plan is to run both Stradivarius and Coronet. We're not worried about the ground for her (Coronet). I think she's very ready for the race.”