The St Leger, the oldest of the English Classics, was first run in 1776, but it didn’t reach it’s present venue on Town Moor until two years later. It was named for a local politician and soldier, Anthony St Leger and is the third leg of the Triple crown, a feat last completed by the immortal Nijinsky (pictured) in 1970. It’s a fair bet that none of Saturday’s handlers are going to get near the sixteen winners sent out by John Scott between 1827 and 1862 although John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien’s four previous victories is a fair tally. The son of the latter, Joseph O’Brien is attempting to emulate the feat of the great Harry Wragg and become the only man to both ride and train a St Leger Winner. Harry, also known as “The Head Waiter” for his ability to put a horses nose in front where it mattered, won on Sandwich in 1931 and trained Intermezzo to collect the prize in 1969. The young O’Brien rode Leading light to victory in 2013 and is hoping to bring off the elusive double on Rekindling on Saturday.
Trained as a two year old by the now retired David Watchman, he made a promising start to his three year old career when beating Douglas Macarthur in a Leopardstown Group3 (10f) in April, and then ran a reasonable race to finish fourth in the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes. He was out the back in the Derby but showed that staying was his game when beating last year’s Irish St Leger winner, Wicklow Brave in a Group2 over fourteen furlongs in his next race. Last time, he finished second to the great Order of St George, (14f Curragh Aug19 yielding) albeit at a respectable distance of 4 3/4L. He needs to improve to trouble the principals on Saturday but in the hands of the talented O’Brien it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if he did.
Dad, Aidan’s, best chance of adding to his tally of four would seem to lie with his Irish Derby hero, Capri. He put up a decent performance when finishing 6th in The Epsom Derby but then emphatically reversed the form with the Epsom 3rd, Cracksman, when beating him by a neck in The Irish Derby. Capri is by Galileo, whose progeny generally stay well, out of the French mare, Dialafara, who only raced the once, (unsuccessfully) but is quite stoutly bred. There can be no guarantees about Capri’s ability to stay Saturday’s trip, but he was clearly much better suited by the galloping nature of the track at the Curragh, and his genius of a trainer certainly knows what is required.
The Roger Varian trained Defoe, is undefeated in all of his four races this term, and the further he has gone the better he has looked. He confirmed that he was a high class stayer in the making when taking the 1m5 1/2f Group3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury last time by 3/4L from the good yardstick Wall Of Fire. By the strong influence for Stamina Dalakhani, out of the Pivotal mare Dulkashe, who won over 10f he should find Saturday’s trip ideal and as soft ground won’t pose any problems, is well worth considering.
Sir Michael Stoute won with Conduit in 2008, and following the impressive win of his contender, Crystal Ocean, in The Gordon Stakes at Goodwood (1m4f soft) must be harbouring strong hopes of landing another. Backward and immature, he did really well to get within 1 3/4L of Permian in the Dante stakes last May, and there was nothing wrong with his third to the same animal in the King Edward V11 Stakes at Royal Ascot. By Sea The Stars, whose progeny stay well out of the Mark Of Esteem Mare, Crystal Star, who was rated 104 at her best. She won twice and was placed second in a Newbury Group3 all over 7f so wouldn’t be the most likely dam of a St Leger winner. However the manner of Crystal Ocean’s Goodwood win suggests that this backward colt is now beginning to reach his full potential, and as his erstwhile stable companion, Conduit, brought off the Gordon Stakes/ St Leger double for the yard in 2008 we may well see history repeat itself.
Only a length behind Crystal Ocean in The King Edward V11 Stakes at Royal Ascot, Brian Meehan’s Raheen House took another step forward next time when winning The Bahrain Trophy, a 1m5f Newmarket Group3 by a length from Desert Skyline. The race was won by Masked Marvel prior to his St Leger win in 2012, and last year’s Doncaster hero, Harbour Law finished fourth in the same heat. Following his win trainer Meehan decided to by pass The Great Voltigeur and go straight to the St Leger. By Sea The Stars out of a Monsun mare, he is certainly bred for the job and as he handles soft ground is another to consider.
John Gosden is hoping to land his fifth St Leger with Stradivarius, and as the winner of the Group1 Goodwood Cup over two miles last time, there are absolutely no doubts about his stamina for Saturday’s test. He won at Goodwood from the redoubtable Big Orange with a strong staying performance, all the more meritorious, as he was the first of the classic generation to win since John Dunlop’s Lucky Moon came home in front in 1990. He had previously won the 1m6f Queen’s Vase at The Royal Meeting, where he quickened up nicely to collar Saturday’s opponent, Count Octave in the shadow of the post. By Sea The Stars out of the Bering mare, Private Life, stamina is assured but the only slight reservation I would have is that Stradivarius has yet to race on a testing surface, and his half brother, Rembrandt Van Rijn didn’t seem to perform on it.
Selection : Defoe
E.W. : Rekindling