Andy Stephens studies the credentials of the St Leger runners and predicts how each will fare in Saturday's renewal.
The two horses at the head of the betting for the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday provide one of racing’s glorious contrasts. The mighty versus the minnows - and then some.
Santiago walks among the bluebloods at Ballydoyle, is owned by racing’s most powerful men and is trained by Aidan O’Brien, who is seeking a 39th British Classic success and has already landed this year’s Derby, Oaks and 1000 Guineas.
Meanwhile, Frankie Dettori is seeking a sixth St Leger triumph and already has 258 Group One triumphs on his decorated CV.
And then, there is Pyledriver, the son of an unfashionable sire that everybody spurned at the sales and owned by two brothers and their long-time friend.
Trainer William Muir has been in the game longer than O'Brien but is still seeking a first Group One triumph, while the last time jockey Martin Dwyer, 45, struck at the highest level in Britain was 14 years ago aboard Sir Percy in the Derby. By his own admission, he thought his days at the top table were over.
Pyledriver and Santiago will dominate much of the build-up and carry much of the cash bet on the race. The heart says the former, the head the latter, but I fancy both may be upstaged. Here’s my predicted finishing order.
1ST GALILEO CHROME (Best odds: 6-1)
He’s slipped in here under the radar but Joseph O’Brien’s softly-softly approach with the imposing son of Australia can be rewarded. His emphatic win in Listed company at Navan last time (watch above) suggests he is peaking at just the right time and it’s clear that stamina is his strong suit. He’s taking a big jump in class but did have the Derby winner behind when winning his maiden at the Curragh in June.
2ND SANTIAGO (Odds: 3-1)
Looked all over a St Leger horse when winning the Queen’s Vase on his return and he followed up in the Irish Derby just eight days later, albeit in a weak renewal. He wasn’t seen to best advantage when third behind Stradivarius in a tactical Goodwood Cup last time but it was still a creditable effort and has had time to be freshened up.
3RD MOHICAN HEIGHTS (Odds: 33-1)
Bred for time and distance, so it was encouraging he won both his races as a two-year-old and his latter effort, when winning at Salisbury, reads well. He wasn’t seen to best advantage when third to Pyledriver on his return at Royal Ascot, when his stable was also quiet, and his heavy defeat in the Derby soon after is also easy to forgive. Small leap of faith needed but trainer now in fine form and isn’t one to tilt at windmills.
4TH PYLEDRIVER (Odds: 3-1)
Martin Dwyer told Niall Hannity the latest on Pyledriver on Thursday
I don’t think anyone can dispute he’s a Group One winner in waiting after his impressive Great Voltigeur Stakes win last time, carrying a penalty, but this test of stamina seems unlikely to prove ideal and I can see him being outstayed. He’s going to have to gallop for about 35 seconds more than at York and it’s interesting that his trainer has already stated his next run will be in the Champion Stakes, run over half a mile less.
5TH HUKUM (Odds: 4-1)
His maiden win at Kempton in November was striking and he arrives here on an upward curve after wins at Royal Ascot, off a handicap mark of 90, and then the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury. He promises to stay and we don’t know yet where his ceiling is, but he’s going to need another personal best to make a serious impact.
6TH SUBJECTIVIST (Odds: 14-1)
It’s remarkable that Mark Johnston hasn’t trained a St Leger winner because smart middle-distance staying three-year-olds are his stock in trade. The colt is one of his typically likeable front-running gallopers who usually ensures there are no hiding places. I fancy he will give it another good go but prove vulnerable in the closing stages.
7TH BERKSHIRE ROCCO (Odds: 40-1)
He’s become something of a “yardstick” horse, for all that his form is fair and that he promises to be well served by the demands of the race. He chased home English King and Santiago in his first two races this term, being readily put in his place each time, and lastly got left behind by Pyledriver in the Great Voltigeur. He lacks a finishing punch, and even Leger winners need a bit of toe.
8TH DAWN PATROL (Odds: 18-1)
He was an eye-catcher in the Irish Derby when a staying-on third but he then made hard work of losing maiden tag and last time was only third in Listed company latest over the Leger trip, form admittedly franked by the winner when she followed up in Park Hill. He has a bigger performance in him somewhere down the line and interesting to see which way he travels in the betting.
9th MYTHICAL (Odds: 50-1)
It’s not really happened for him this year and I wonder if the Derby-winning jockey will be invited to try and reprise what he did at Epsom, to ensure a true gallop for stablemate Santiago and expose stamina chinks in one or two others. Put up a better effort when third in the Ballyroan last time but a lot more needed.
10TH SUNCHART (Odds: 80-1)
He made no impact in the Irish Derby and his subsequent near-misses have been in handicap/Listed company. In truth, he’s done nothing to suggest he will be anything but a support player.
11TH TYSON FURY (Odds: 80-1)
The only unbeaten runner in the line-up but he’s had only the one race, when winning a maiden over 1m4f here in July. The horses who chased him home have gone down the handicap route (winning off 78 and 80 respectively last time) but Tyson Fury is in at the deep end and going to have to ride a few punches to figure. His pedigree suggests this trip is way beyond him but, then again, offered little encouragement he would stay 12f, either. Lack of experience no help.
Non-runner? English King – Trainer says he is more likely to head for an alternative race in France on Sunday
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