By Geoffrey Riddle at Doncaster
Capri’s William Hill St Leger success at Doncaster on Saturday was not enough to send a shiver down the spine of Enable’s supporters ahead of the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in a fortnight, but even winning jockey Ryan Moore was struck by the tenacity of it.
The 3-1 favourite was all guts to hold off the sustained challenge of Sir Michael Stoute’s Crystal Ocean and Jim Crowley by half a length in what was a brutal test of stamina in the world’s oldest Classic.
Aidan O’Brien was so struck by how Capri had built on his Irish Derby victory 77 days earlier that he is seriously considering a tilt at the Chantilly feature on October 1.
How Capri fares against Enable, who is no better than Betway’s 11-10, is open to debate, but quite why he is more than twice the price of Irish Derby runner-up Cracksman at 25-1 is anybody’s guess.
Capri beat Cracksman fair and square in Ireland and this was a St Leger that looked the most competitive for a long time. Stradivarius, who was third, was a fellow Group One winner, while there were a brace of Group Two winners and a quintet of Group Three winners left trailing in the grey's wake.
It made Cracksman’s victory on Arc Trials day looks distinctly weak and should O’Brien decide to pitch Capri into Europe’s showpiece event alongside stable companions Highland Reel and Order Of St George then Enable is going to at least have to prove she is one tough filly.
“I think there is one exceptional filly, and taking her out it is an open Arc and he is a very good horse,” Moore said. “That was as strong a Leger as you’d see. So we will see how he is and we’ll go from there.
“He was very brave – Crystal Ocean came to me with a very good run and my horse showed plenty of heart to fend him off.”
Moore had never won the St Leger previously, and has now accumulated the full house of British Classics. He was even fairly eager, by his standards, to don the famous St Leger cap which was handed to him from last year’s winning rider George Baker, much to the mirth of the crowd and photographers.
He reverted to type, however, when asked what it meant to him to get his hands on the final Classic of the season.
“It means you have to win it again, really," he said dryly.
In contrast, O’Brien is no stranger to victory in the extended 1m 6f contest and Capri was adding to the triumphs of Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003), Scorpion (2005) and Leading Light (2013).
Brian Boru is the only one of that quartet who missed out on a subsequent Arc run, with Milan finishing eighth, Scorpion tenth and Leading Light 12th.
Capri is also entered in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup, for which he is 20-1 with Paddy Power, but O’Brien revealed that a trip across the Channel was the plan.
“He had a blip before York [registered a dirty scope] so we were a little bit worried coming here that he would improve for the run,” he said.Ryan Moore sports the St Leger cap after success in the final Classic of the season (FocusInRacing)
“So we had it in our head that if everything goes well he is in the Arc but we will let the lads decide that. He’s probably a mile and a half horse with class, but he could go a mile and a quarter, he has a great cruising speed.”
The last horse to win the St Leger and then the Arc was Ballymoss in 1958, and even then it took him 12 months between those two wins.
Capri became the first horse since Triple Crown hero Nijinsky in 1970 to win both the Irish Derby and the St Leger, and that after an 11-week absence. It was not an easy return.
The Anvil soon established a big lead from his three O'Brien-trained stablemates, led by Douglas Macarthur with Venice Beach and Capri just behind. Then there was a gap to John Gosden's pair of Stradivarius and Coronet.
The Anvil quickly became was a spent force turning for home into the long straight, where Douglas Macarthur briefly took over.
Stradivarius looked a real threat on the far rail, but Capri was already close to the pace and set sail for home inside the final quarter-mile. Crystal Ocean made a strong run from the rear, but Capri was just too determined.
“He is a horse that has a lot of class and when Ryan really wanted him and he gave it to him,” O’Brien said. “You never know what is going to happen and I was worried all the way until he crossed the line.”
If O’Brien was not sure who would win a furlong from home, then Sir Michael Stoute was convinced Crystal Ocean had come with a triumphant surge.
“I thought he was going to win, but we won’t run him over a mile and a half again,” Stoute said. “I would prefer to have won it. It was always the danger. You saw it in those mile and a half races and that is his trip. It was a lovely ride. He won’t run again this season.”
Gosden said of his two runners: "He (Stradivarius) has run a cracker. It was a relentless pace, very strong and there was no hiding place. Coronet has run a lovely race (fifth) and she will go to Champions Day for the Fillies & Mares race.
"This fellow (Stradivarius) got isolated, he was coming back in the last 50 yards but they were racing away from him and he wasn't racing against anything.
"If he comes out of it well he will go to Ascot for the Stayers' race (the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup)."