The St Leger is the final classic of the season and this renewal poses a challenge for punters with no clear market leader at Doncaster (3.35pm Saturday live on ITV).
Capri and Crystal Ocean lead the St Leger betting at 4/1 closely pursued by Defoe but most of the field have some claims. The grey Capri is rated 4lb ahead of the field at 120 and already has a classic win under his belt, having taken the Irish Derby for Aidan O’Brien on good ground. That win was helped by Seamie Heffernan grabbing the rail when it mattered and Pat Smullen possibly giving Cracksman, the runner-up, too much to do. The Epsom Derby winner Wings Of Eagles finished third with physical damage that ended his career. That win was Capri’s only victory in his four starts this season, he finished three lengths behind his stablemate Wings Of Eagles at Epsom in sixth, keeping on well but lacking the necessary pace to challenge the leaders.
Capri does not look to be ground dependent, he obviously acts on soft scoring three times on testing ground as a juvenile, including at Group 2 level but, as a son of Galileo, should not be troubled by a quicker surface. This will be his first try beyond a mile and a half but Capri finishes his races in a style that suggests he is not short of stamina. Ryan Moore has chosen to partner him adding strength to his significant claims.
Crystal Ocean is also strongly fancied in the top bookies’ St Leger odds at 4/1. This son of Sea The Stars is a typical Sir Michael Stoute improver who has benefited from his patient approach. He started as the favourite in his only run as a juvenile but was narrowly beaten over seven furlongs. On his reappearance in April, Crystal Ocean won his maiden over a mile and a quarter at Nottingham.
His next outing was in the Dante and he was only beaten a length and a quarter into third by Permian. Crystal Ocean subsequently started 9/4 favourite for the King Edward at Royal Ascot, finishing third, slightly further behind Permian. His trainer said he had no idea why he was such a short price as he had done nothing at home to justify it.
Crystal Ocean rewarded his followers by winning comfortably next time out in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood over a mile and a half on soft ground. His jockey Ryan Moore said he would stay but had doubts that he was a St Leger horse. Jim Crowley takes the ride for the first time here and will hope to prove Moore wrong.
While Crystal Ocean is bred to enjoy a decent surface, the chances of Defoe (13/2) would be helped by the arrival of a shower or too. Trained by Roger Varian, this gorgeous iron grey colt is four from four this term and looks to be on an upward curve. His jockey Andrea Atzeni believes he has come forward since his Newbury win in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer. That was over a smidgeon short of this distance on soft ground, beating Hugo Palmer’s Wall Of Fire.
Further progression is needed for success at this level but Atzeni is riding with supreme confidence and seems to have a lot of faith in this son of Dalakhani. Defoe is rated just 1lb lower than Crystal Ocean and looks very likely to be in the frame if there is give in the ground.
John Gosden is double-handed saddling Stradivarius (7/1) and the only filly in the race, Coronet (6/1). Stradivarius is the second highest rated horse in the line up at 116. He beat Michael Bell’s star stayer Big Orange nearly two lengths in the Group 1 Goodwood Cup over two miles. Beating Big Orange is always an achievement but the ground was slower than ideal for him and he was giving Stradivarius just over a stone. Stradivarius was given a masterful ride by Atzeni, lobbing round the back and weaving his way through horses when it mattered on the good ground.
It was still an impressive performance but when the St Leger was discussed as an option for this chestnut son of Sea The Stars the view of one pundit was that he would lack the necessary speed. Another question mark surrounds Stradivarius’ ability to handle slower ground, he has the smooth, low action of a horse who would not enjoy too much give. The very capable James Doyle will partner him for the first time.
Frankie Dettori has presumably chosen to partner Coronet rather than Stradivarius raising further doubts about his claims. Coronet won a very fast Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot beating Sir Michael Stoute’s favourite, Mori, a neck. That was on good to firm but Coronet was last seen finishing second, beaten five lengths by the all-conquering Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks on good to soft.
This grey daughter of Dubawi might enjoy an extra two furlongs and her rating of 113 puts her into the mix. Dettori’s decision to ride her suggests that she is working well at home and Gosden has an excellent record with fillies.
One of the colts that Ryan Moore rejected in favour of Capri is also worth a look, Venice Beach (12/1) beat Wings Of Eagles in the Chester Vase. Venice Beach did not appear to handle Epsom but was only beaten a length in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, staying on well in the final furlong.
This son of Galileo was last seen finishing second, beaten six lengths by Cracksman in the Great Voltigeur at York. Venice Beach has a French Leger winner as his third dam and may well enjoy this longer trip if this does not prove to be one race too many after a busy season. Seamie Heffernan must have high hopes of making the frame at least.
Our St Leger Preview’s Each-Way Betting Tip
This is an open-looking renewal with all the horses mentioned holding claims. Venice Beach looks a decent value each-way prospect at 12/1 but our St Leger preference has to be for DEFOE to continue his winning run and give his trainer Roger Varian a second Leger win, back him each-way best priced at 13/2 with Betfair, SunBets and Unibet.
Compare St Leger Betting Odds from Best Bookies
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.