Andy Stephens hit the target with his nap at Doncaster on Friday, Desert Skyline, who won at 2-1 after being available at 4-1 in the morning.
By Andy Stephens
There is depth to the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster but Capri has long looked tailor-made for the world’s oldest Classic and rates a decent bet, at 5-1 with the sponsor from 8.30am on Saturday, to keep Aidan O’Brien on course for what could be a record-breaking year.
O’Brien has secured 17 Group One triumphs since May and requires nine more to overhaul the record 25 that Bobby Frankel achieved at the highest level in 2003.
The champion trainer is going to need the rub of the green to get there and is owed a bit of good fortune in the final Classic of the season. Last year, Idaho was moving strongly and looked likely to justify odds-on favouritism when unseating his rider three out and 12 months before that Bondi Beach was announced the winner only to subsequently lose the race.
O’Brien will saddle four of the 11 runners on Town Moor but Capri, winner of the Irish Derby last time and open to improvement stepping up in distance, looks by far his strongest candidate.
The Galileo colt again showed an excellent attitude to prevail at the Curragh at the expense of Cracksman and Wings Of Eagles, having previously finished behind that pair at Epsom when he did not appear totally at home on the track.
Cracksman has thrived since and there is no reason why Capri, a big strong colt who seems well served by some give underfoot, will not do likewise.
The galloping track at Doncaster will play to his strengths and everything about him, since his days as a two-year-old when he won in Group Two company over a mile and was placed over 10 furlongs at the highest level, points to him being well served by the stiffest test of stamina he has encountered.Capri edges out Cracksman in the Irish Derby (PA)
Defoe and Stradivarius have already had a chance to show what they can do granted a stamina test and may have reached a ceiling whereas Capri, who has been mixing it with the best of his generation, has scope to take another jump forwards.
Crystal Ocean has more on his plate than when winning in fluent style at Goodwood last time and it could be that Rekindling, trained by Aidan’s son Joseph, represents the main danger. He had the misfortune to bump into Order Of St George last time but ticks several boxes and, in what promises to be a truly-run renewal, his hold-up style could prove advantageous.
O’Brien Sr saddles two in the main supporting race, the Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes (3.00), but neither jump off the page and it is not a race he seems to run his best juveniles in.
Give yourself a point if you can recall his only previous winner of the race; and a bonus mark if you can remember what it was subsequently called when continuing his career in Hong Kong. Answers at foot of the column.
Mythical Magic is a fantastic young specimen and looks the right favourite but, at a general 25-1, I cannot resist Grand Koonta.
The Clive Cox-trained colt failed to figure in the July Stakes at Newmarket last time but I’m not sure he gave his true running that day - not being helped by running in the middle of the track - and it is probably no coincidence he has been off two months.
He had previously won in emphatic style at Windsor after an excellent effort at Newmarket, when beaten a neck by Glorious Journey (still unbeaten and a subsequent Group Three winner) with Take Me With You (who finished a close third in the Coventry 13 days later) a length and a half back in third.
That effort at Headquarters puts him firmly in the mix and he should relish stepping up to seven furlongs.
Cox also had him entered for a Listed race at Doncaster on Friday and the fact he shunned that for this Group Two assignment is another positive. The trainer has his horses in fantastic form, winning with all four of his runners on Friday.
Adam Kirby, the jockey of Grand Koonta, can click on Vibrant Chords in the opening William Hill Portland Handicap (1.50). He is number eight on the card, drawn eight and a general 8-1, so the optimist in me thinks he’s going to win by eight lengths!
The four-year-old gelding has been something of a slow burner but progressed again when beating all bar Desert Law in a competitive 5f handicap at Doncaster on his latest start.
The winner franked the form when running a cracker in the Beverley Bullet next time and Vibrant Chords, fully effective at 6f, is only 2lb higher and will appreciate the extra half a furlong he has to tackle.
In addition, he looks ideally drawn because there is plenty of pace among those drawn low and it looked the place to be on Friday. Also, Henry Candy, his trainer, has his team firing on all cylinders.
Aclaim has plenty going for him in the Alan Wood Plumbing and Heating Park Stakes (2.25), even if odds of 3-1 leave little margin for error. He was a big eye-catcher in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood on his penultimate start, when getting no sort of run, and ran another cracker just five days later when chasing home Brando in the Prix Maurice De Gheest at Deauville.
Richard Fahey’s three-year-old, who is at home on soft ground, is related to crack sprinter Profitable on the dam’s side of his pedigree and has been a revelation this year since being gelded.
He is 13lb higher than when a seven-length winner on softish going over course and distance last time but he looked capable of performing at a higher level that day and Connor Murtagh (only able to claim 3lb that afternoon because it was an apprentices’ race) eases his burden by 7lb.
How to Bet £20 on St Leger Day:
(prices correct 4.45pm on Friday)
1.50 Doncaster: Vibrant Chords £3 win at 10-1 with BoyleSports
2.25 Doncaster: Aclaim £3 win at 100-30 with BoyleSports
3.00 Doncaster: Grand Koonta £3 each-way at 33-1 with Stan James
70p Win Super Yankee and 90p each-way accumulator
(general odds in brackets)
1.50 Doncaster: Vibrant Chords (8-1)
2.25 Doncaster: Aclaim (3-1)
3.00 Doncaster: Grand Koonta (25-1)
3.15 Chester: Dan Troop (5-1)
3.35 Doncaster: Capri (4-1)
Answers: Westphalia in 2008. His name was changed to Super Pistachio.