SATURDAY 16TH SEPTEMBER
The St Leger is the oldest Classic in the world. It's a Group 1 contest run over 1m6f and is for 3yo's only...
TRENDS (since 2005)
All of the last 14 winners had made the top 4 in a Group race
All of the last 14 winners had a maximum of 4 runs as a 2yo
All of the last 14 winners had a sire with a stamina index of 8.5 or higher
All of the last 14 winners had made the top 2 over 1m4f or further
All of the last 14 winners had made the top 4 on their last start
All of the last 14 winners had raced at least 3 times that season
All of the last 14 winners had raced 5-8 times in their career
All of the last 14 winners had a top 2 in at least 1 of their last 2 starts
All of the last 14 winners had won at least 2 races in their career
13 of the last 14 winners had raced within the previous 2 months
Prior to Simple Verse, the last filly to win the St Leger was User Friendly in 1992. The last French trained winner of the St Leger was Toulon in 1991. The last maiden to win the St Leger was Snurge in 1990.
14 of the last 20 winners ran in the Gordon Stakes (Goodwood) or Great Voltigeur Stakes (York) last time out.
2017 Gordon Stakes result:
1st: Crystal Ocean 6/4f 2nd: Khalidi 9/4 3rd: Mount Mariah 10/3
2017 Great Voltigeur result:
1st: Cracksman 4/6f 2nd: Venice Beach 9/2 3rd: Mirage Dancer 5/1
TRAINER (Since 1997)
Aiden O'Brien has won the St Leger 5 times since 2000 from 37 runners in the race. He has also had a further 6 horses make the frame. He sent out 18 consecutive losers between 2005 and 2013.
Saeed Bin Suroor comes next in the list with 4 wins and two places from 11 runners but he hasn't won the race since 2009
John Gosden is 3 wins and 2 places from 13 runners but his last 8 runners since his back-to-back winners of 2010/2011 have been beaten (2 placed)
Sir Michael Stoute has had one winner and 5 places from 19 runners.
CAPRI – Top 2yo who was sent off odds on for a highly competitive French Group 1 race last October. Could only manage 3rd to Waldgeist that day but had Douglas Macarthur, Wings Of Eagles and Rekindling behind. Began this season running in a couple of Irish Derby trials in the Spring but no match for Rekindling at Leopardstown when giving that one 5lb and then a neck second to Douglas Macarthur on firmish ground next time out. Only 6th in the Epsom Derby behind Wings Of Eagles but got his act together at the Curragh when taking the Irish Derby on his fourth start of the year (Wings Of Eagles, Waldgeist and Douglas Macarthur all behind). If nothing else it proved that the 3yo colts this year are much of a muchness and no one horse has emerged the star amongst them. He hasn't run since that win and has yet to race beyond 1m4f but on the plus side he's the top rated horse in the field and he does like soft ground.
COUNT OCTAVE – Had just the one start as a 2yo when 3rd at Goodwood in early October but won first time up in a maiden this Season on the all weather. After a 5 length 5th in the Chester Vase behind Venice Beach he ran a neck second to Stradivarius in the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot. He was pulled out of the Great Voltigeur because of the soft ground and instead had his Leger prep run in a Listed contest at Goodwood where he was a one paced second of 5 to the 107 rated Call in Mind. He looks a little short of class for a race of this nature, has been behind a number of these previously and probably won't like the ground. Enough negatives to look elsewhere.
CRYSTAL OCEAN – After a close up second on his only start as a 2yo and an easy win in a Nottingham maiden first time up at three he was talked up as a possible Derby horse. He ran a very decent third in the Dante on just his third start but subsequently skipped Epsom for the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Sent off favourite he finished about the same distance behind the Dante winner Permian as he had done at York. He finally looked to have achieved his potential when easily winning the informative Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood in the style of a serious staying prospect. With similar ground expected at Doncaster this weekend this highly rated horse has a lot going for him.
DEFOE – Finished off his three race 2yo campaign with a tailed off 11th behind the filly Coronet at Newmarket in early October of last year. That obviously wasn't his running as his form this Season has shown him to be a top class 3yo stayer. He began the year winning the highly competitive London Gold Cup Handicap at Newbury in May, followed up in another top handicap at York before handling the step up to Listed company when comfortably beating subsequent group race winner Frankuus at Hamilton in mid July. On his next run he was very impressive when beating his elders in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer stakes including the Group 1 Coronation Cup runner up Frontiersman who was over 4 lengths adrift in third. That last win came over an extended 1m5f trip on soft ground, which are similar to the conditions he'll face on Saturday, and we may not have yet seen the best of this currently 113 rated 3yo.
DOUGLAS MACARTHUR – A fairly decent 2yo who ran his best juvenile race when beaten just under 2 lengths by Waldgeist in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint Cloud. Finished second to Rekindling but in front of Capri in the Ballysax before winning the Derrinstown with Capri a close up third earlier this Spring but after kicking clear 3 out in the Derby before being swamped in the final furlong his season has taken a downturn. Beaten over 4 lengths by Capri in the Irish Derby he followed that up with a very disappointing 4th of 6 to Cracksman in the Great Voltigeur. He'd have a chance if returning to the form he showed in the Spring but on what we've seen recently he looks up against it here over a distance not sure to suit.
RAHEEN HOUSE – He took a while to find his feet as a 2yo and won his maiden at the third time of asking before running a respectable 4th in the Group 1 Racing Post Mile at Doncaster at the end of last Season. This year he finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th to some decent horses before gaining his first victory of the Season at the Newmarket July meeting when taking the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy. That's a race that hasn't really worked out with all subsequent runners getting beat and although he looks sure to appreciate the step up in trip again, on his form from earlier this year, he doesn't quite look up to a race of this class having been off the track for over 2 months.
REKINDLING – Stone cold last in the Criterium when with David Wachman he showed remarkable improvement from 2 to 3 when opening his account at 16/1 for new trainer Joseph O'Brien on his first start in the Ballysax. His next start came in the Dante where he finished a respectable 4th although he was 2 lengths adrift of Crystal Ocean before running well down the field in the Derby. He came back to form by winning a Group 2 over 1m6f against his elders at the Curragh and then running crack stayer Order of St George to just under 5 lengths in another Curragh Group race. We know he stays, we know he likes the ground and we know he's already beaten the favourite Capri. There's just that slight niggle that after those two runs in the Criterium and the Derby, he may not be up to Group 1 class.
STRADIVARIUS – A 6 length 4th to his classy stablemate Cracksman as a 2yo he picked up a late season all weather maiden before beginning this season as a 78 rated handicapper. A 6 length win at Beverley and a narrow defeat off top weight at Chester saw his rating improve to 94 and a tilt at the Group 2 Queens Prize at Royal Ascot. He took that by a neck from Count Octave before taking full advantage of the 13lb he received from the older and Gold Cup winning Big Orange to win the Goodwood Cup over 2 miles in early August. That marks him down as a serious contender and a strong stayer but the ground is the uncertainty with him.
THE ANVIL – Ran some fairly good races in Group company as a 2yo maiden but ended his juvenile season with a last place in the Doncaster Racing Post Trophy. He picked up his maiden at long odds on first time up this year but after a close third in the Chester Vase he's been beaten a very long way in both the Irish and Epsom Derby's. He's not looked like a stayer, has no form on soft ground and is the lowest rated of the O'Brien quartet. Not for me!
VENICE BEACH – Just the one run as a 2yo when finishing second at Leopardstown but got off the mark with an easy success on his third start. He followed that up with victory over the subsequent Derby winner, Wings OF Eagles, in the Chester Vase but didn't handle Epsom and under a poor ride finished well behind that rival. He bounced back to form to run 3rd in a Group 1 at Saint Cloud in mid July (Permian just in front of him) and then ran a staying on second to Cracksman in the Great Voltigeur last time out. Stamina shouldn't be a problem but he's another one looking to recapture his form from the Spring.
CORONET – The only filly in the line up, she was 2 from 2 as a juvenile including a victory over the colts in a 10 furlong Listed race at Newmarket last October (Permian and Wings of Eagles behind). She began this year with a 3rd in a French Group 1 over 10f before running 5th in the Oaks behind stablemate and top 3yo Enable. She bounced back to form at Royal Ascot when taking the Ribblesdale but has subsequently been beaten twice again by Enable, first in the Irish and then the Yorkshire Oaks. She's looked a filly who would improve for the step up in trip and Dettori fancies her over Stradivarius but even with her fillies allowance she's a little short of a few of these and the ground isn't sure to suit
The O'Brien horses have been taking it in turns to beat each other all Season and it's difficult to know which horse of his four will perform best on the day. Add to that, that a lot of these are relying on recapturing form from the Spring to be competitive here and a few of the remainder aren't certain to appreciate the likely soft ground we can narrow our list down to just a handful with a serious chance.
The two with no worries regarding the ground and current form are Crystal Ocean and Defoe. Slight preference is for the Sir Michael Stoute horse as he has long been held in high regard by connections and won a serious trial for this race last time out. Defoe has done nothing but improve all Season and beat his elders in the style of a very good horse last time out. He looks a big danger to the selection.
For those looking for a bigger price I think the one most likely to out-run his odds is O'Brien's Venice Beach who appears to have few stamina doubts and ran a nice staying on second in the Great Voltigeur. His only poor run this year came at Epsom but he wouldn't be the first horse to fail to act around that unique track.
Selection: CRYSTAL OCEAN 9/2
Danger: DEFOE 13/2
Each Way: VENICE BEACH 12/1