Since I’ve started previewing British racing’s showcase meetings two years ago, the St Leger is the only Classic in which I have chosen the winner on both occasions. Even within such a small sample, there is a running theme: both were Aidan O’Brien’s first string and both were second favourites for much of the build-up (Capri eventually went off a narrow favourite).
This year, one horse fits the bill of both once again. However, with an unbeaten favourite and a stablemate on the up, selecting is not as simple as following trends. Here’s a dissection of all eight runners for the final Classic of the season.
- Dashing Willoughby: Last year’s winner Kew Gardens took the Group Two Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot before triumphing at Doncaster three months on. Dashing Willoughby recorded a gutsy victory in that race back in June, but has been soundly beaten on both starts since, including when significantly further behind Stradivarius than Il Paradiso was a month after wards. He will probably stay better than most, but Sir Dragonet more than had his measure at Chester earlier in the season and a career record of 2/8 suggests his future won’t be spent in Group One company. 2/5
- Il Paradiso: Would never have been considered a Classic prospect this time last month and even more unusually, its taken a finishing position of third out of four for him to become the bookies’ third choice in this race. With the same weight allowance as the horse above, Il Paradiso forced the issue against Stradivarius and ran him to within a length-and-a-half. John Gosden’s immaculate stayer rarely does more than he requires, as evidenced today, but this Aidan O’Brien colt also finished alongside Dee Ex Bee, easily the second best stayer in Britain and Ireland this season. That is strong form and Padraig Beggy has proved himself a reliable man for the big occasion, judging the pace to perfection above Sovereign in this year’s Irish Derby. He may well move prominent again and look to expose any weakness in the favourite stamina-wise, a tactic both Capri and Kew Gardens’ jockeys used to perfection in the last two years. Very tempting. Too tempting. 5/5
- Logician: Unbeaten and doing all of the right things. Margin and comfort of the first three victories was what stood out as opposed to the quality of the contest, but he won likeably in the Great Voltigeur at York with Frankie not asking a lot at the end. There is a chance that the ease of that victory was exaggerated given his jockey’s semi-showboating in the final furlong. To me, it was more workmanlike than it may have been according to many reports. He still has star potential and there is no knowing the ceiling to the quality of his recent victory (runner-up Constantinople has since been sent to Australia). The St Leger has suited sure-fire stayers in recent renewals, however. Logician, for all his positives, might not be that. 4/5
- Nayef Road: Ran a rare howler when last of five in the Great Voltigeur. Before that, though, he had defeated Constantinople in brave fashion, sticking his neck out to win the Gordon Stakes. This trip is probably what he’s after in the long run and his third to Dashing Willoughby in his only attempt to date is good form. His price is not reflective of his best performances this season and he may be one for each-way multiples with class likely to run him out of victory. 3/5
- Sir Dragonet: The joint least inexperienced in the field with four runs. Wildly brilliant Chester Vase winner when scorching clear from off the pace on a slippery surface. Could not quite fulfil that promise in the Derby (though he was beaten less than a length that day), but his comeback was worryingly below par. An argument can be made that he needed the run, but he was more than effective on his racecourse debut, so fears remain that something else may be amiss. It could be that he needed further (that run was over 1m2f and he’s never faced shorter) and so the St Leger is a natural choice for this son of Camelot, a Leger runner-up. Nevertheless, enough doubts ensure that his stablemate is the more attractive O’Brien inmate. 3/5
- Sir Ron Priestley: The most progressive runner in the field and so it is impossible to rule out the necessary involvement to be a real player. Has won five times in 2019, seeing his mark go up 22lb with just a single blip coming at Royal Ascot in the middle. Took the step up to Group company in his stride at Goodwood three weeks ago albeit that race is nowhere near the quality that most of this field have contested in the past. Needs by far a career best and the transition from handicaps to genuine Group One company can provide a learning curve. Not the one for me today. 2/5
- Technician: Were it to rain, Martyn Meade’s charge could prove to be the forgotten grey in the line-up. Relished this new trip when defeating fellow soft-ground specialist Morando on such a surface in the Group Three Geoffrey Freer at Newbury last month. They pulled quite nicely clear of the remainder, although once more the quality has to be in serious doubt. The ground looks set to favour others before him, but rain would make Technician a similar each-way prospect to Nayef Road. 3/5
- Western Australia: Despite being the rank outsider, Western Australia is the only horse running this afternoon who boasts a place at the highest level. That came in last year’s Futurity Stakes as a juvenile at a massive price and he’ll need to replicate that level of surprise. He’s ultimately disappointed since being stepped up in trip, winning his first start beyond a mile-and-a-half in a Listed Navan race before finishing down the field in three latter outings. The level of his seventh to Twilight Payment at the Curragh is probably the most accurate to take in relation to his overall ability. That tells you all you need to know. 1/5
IL PARADISO’s form sets a standard given he may have genuinely tested Stradivarius’ resolve at Goodwood on his latest outing. His more certain stamina credentials highlight him as the danger to Logician and if setting sail with an advantage, he may prove too tough to reel in.