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William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1)
The final Classic of the 2017 season, it is run over the testing fourteen furlongs on Town Moor with cut in the ground looking more than likely following considerable rain in the last week. Eleven go to post chasing a first prize of nearly £400.000. Our runner by runner preview and expert tip for the 2017 St Leger is below.
IN SUMMARY: DEFOE has done nothing but improve this season, proven on soft ground and with no stamina doubts he is very much the one to beat in this field. Crystal Ocean produced a career best on soft ground last time, he should relish this step up in trip and looks the main danger to the selection with Capri another who holds strong claims in this contest. Coronet is the choice of Frankie Dettori over Stradivarius which has made her shorter than expected and the colt far bigger.
1 CAPRI – A winner of four of his nine races so far, the three year old by Galileo tasted his first group success when winning the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last September. Conditions were poor that day and his stamina proved too much for the field. He was only sixth in the Derby this season before enjoying himself back on Irish soil when landing the Irish Derby in July. The soft ground is certainly in his favour and with Aiden O’Brien looking to win his fifth St Leger, he has a very strong chance in this progressive horse.
2 COUNT OCTAVE – Disappointing when well behind Venice Beach in the Chester Vase, he proved that running to be all wrong when he was a close second to Stradivarius in the Queen’s Vase. He was a little disappointing again when he could only fill the same runner-up spot behind Call To Mind in the March Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. That was a small field and with this looking like there should be a stronger pace, he could outrun his price providing he copes with the softer ground.
3 CRYSTAL OCEAN – Improved every time he has stepped up in trip, improving further for his first go on genuinely soft ground when running riot in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He smacks of a cup horse next year over two miles plus so this further step up in trip on soft ground makes him the biggest danger in the field to Defoe. Sir Michael Stoute brings his horses along slowly so not only should there be further improvement to come now but more still in 2018.
4 DEFOE – Unbeaten in all four of his starts this season, he has been a joy to watch, bidding to land his biggest prize so far for Roger Varian. The sequence started with a success in the London Gold Cup at Newbury on soft ground, adding a second handicap success at York in very comfortable fashion. His latest victory in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury showed he was more than capable at Group level, winning cosily, only needing a hands and heels ride. A further step up in trip is only going to bring about further improvement and he can gain his first Group 1 prize with Andrea Atzeni looking for a third St Leger win in four years.
5 DOUGLAS MACARTHUR – Had plenty of use made of him at Epsom in the Derby, but didn’t look like he wanted a mile and half when he was ridden with more restraint in the Irish equivalent. Another two furlongs to go here looks a massive negative for him, but he could help to set a strong pace to turn this into as much of a stamina test as possible for Capri.
6 RAHEEN HOUSE – Consistent performer, he beat Enable on his 2017 debut at Newbury but hasn’t really progressed from there. He won over close to this trip last time in the Bahrain Trophy, beating a solid yardstick in Desert Skyline. His best run as a juvenile by a good half a stone came on soft ground, a surface he is yet to face in 2017. If it makes that much difference again as a three-year-old then he would have a leading chance but that is a big risk to take, might sneak the frame if one or two underperform.
7 REKINDLING – The step up to this trip has produced a career best from him when runner-up to Order Of St George last time out. He was two lengths behind Crystal Ocean in the Dante back in May over ten furlongs so he has a little ground to make up with that rival. Given however that the Sir Michael Stoute horse is a third of his price and the Joseph O’Brien colt is fully proven over this trip already, he could be considered by some a shade overpriced.
8 STRADIVARIUS – Taken huge strides forward this season, stepping up to this trip to land the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot. The neck margin there was not accurate in terms of his superiority over that field, finding trouble just after the home turn, extricating himself to get up in the last few strides. A step up in trip saw him take full advantage of the three year old allowance in the Goodwood Cup, coming clear of the field with the gallant runner up, Big Orange. The soft ground is a big concern however and he is passed over by Frankie Dettori.
9 THE ANVIL – Has been used as a pacemaker this season, his best run coming when only a length and a quarter behind stablemate Venice Beach in the Chester Vase. He is surely in here in a similar capacity so is a very unlikely winner.
10 VENICE BEACH – Picked up the win in the Chester Vase beating stablemate Wings Of Eagles. He didn’t enjoy the unique test that Epsom offers in the Derby but got back on track when runner-up in the Grand Prix de Paris before filling the same spot behind Cracksman in the Great Voltgeur. He has a little to find to break his way into the places here but if the step up in trip suits him, he should run his usual honest race.
11 CORONET – Flopped in the Oaks but she showed what she is capable of when winning the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. She has not been disgraced twice since when behind Enable with Frankie Dettori taking the ride on her rather than on Stradivarius so she has been trimmed considerably in the market. She shapes as if she will stay this trip with it interesting that she takes her chance here rather than in the fillies equivalent on Thursday in the Park Hill Stakes.