St Leger preview: Jim Crowley looking for Crystal to sparkle

Sat 16 Sep 2017

Watch vital galloping clues, analysis and interviews plus read what connections have to say before the final Classic of the year at Doncaster on Saturday.

By Racinguk.com staff

Jim Crowley aims to cap a stellar season with a first Classic success when he teams up with Crystal Ocean in the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.

The champion jockey has made the most of his new job as retained rider for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum by picking up a host of top spare rides that has seen him become a 'go to' jockey.

Two of his most significant victories have been on Ulysses in the Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International, and it is for that horse's trainer Sir Michael Stoute that Crowley has a great chance of glory in the world's oldest Classic.

Crystal Ocean has been brought along in typical Stoute style, with tremendous patience and foresight. Runner-up on his sole start as a two-year-old, the son of Sea The Stars enjoyed a cosy maiden success at Nottingham in April before being given a sterner test of his credentials in the Dante Stakes at York, where he went into many notebooks with an eyecatching third to Permian.

He occupied the same place behind that horse in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, before booking his place in the Leger with victory in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.

"I got a phone call from Sir Michael asking if I'd like to ride. Obviously, it's a great ride to pick up and I'm looking forward to it," Crowley said. "He was probably a little unlucky at Ascot, but he looked very good last time in the Gordon Stakes and it looks like he's improving."

Reflecting on a fine couple of weeks, he said: "I've been lucky enough to pick up a couple of nice rides for Sir Michael this year and I'm looking forward to riding this horse at Doncaster."

The Crystal Ocean team are optimistic he will stay the trip, although they would not want the ground too soft. "Ascot didn't quite go to plan, but he got beaten by two good horses on the day," said Stoute's assistant James Horton.

"We were expecting a big run from him at Goodwood. He'd been working very well going into it. We were very pleased with Goodwood and we're very pleased with where he is now.

"We think he'll stay. He got a mile and a half well at Goodwood and in the Dante he ran huge over a mile and a quarter. He was never nearer than at the line. We see no problem going up to a mile and six. Ideally we'd want good ground - he wouldn't want it too soft."

Standing in Crystal Ocean's way is the mighty battalion from the Aidan O'Brien stable, with Irish Derby hero Capri leading his four-horse assault.

"Capri is a horse we always thought would stay further than a mile and a half and he's in good form," the Ballydoyle trainer told At The Races. "He had a break after the Irish Derby. We were playing with the idea of running him in the Voltigeur, but we knew that he would have a 5lb penalty and his scope wasn't 100 per cent, so we just decided to leave him.

"The Irish Derby was a very truly-run race. He was handy all the way, he kicked and kept going. I don't think he was relenting at the line."

Venice Beach goes to Town Moor on the back of playing second fiddle to the impressive Cracksman in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.

"Venice Beach is a horse we always thought would stay further than a mile and a half as well," said O'Brien. "He had a very good run in France and we gave him a little bit of an easy time going to the Voltigeur, kind of using it to bring him on for the Leger, rather than the Voltigeur being the be-all and end-all.

"He ran a good race and he will have come forward. We look forward to seeing him the next day."

Douglas Macarthur has a bit to find after finishing fourth in the Voltigeur, but O'Brien is expecting an improved performance.

"Douglas Macarthur had an easy time after the Irish Derby and we were also using the Voltigeur as a stepping stone to Doncaster for him," he said. "He's well and we were very happy with his run. We put a hood on him so that he would be relaxed when we went a mile and six with him."

The Anvil has been well beaten in the English and Irish Derby since finishing third to Venice Beach in the Chester Vase. "The Anvil is a straightforward, solid horse who likes nice ground. He'll stay a mile and six and might even stay two miles," said O'Brien.

Andrea Atzeni has high hopes for Defoe as he goes for a third Leger triumph after Kingston Hill (2014) and Simple Verse (2015).

Roger Varian's colt is unbeaten in four starts this term, progressing to earn his place in the Classic, which is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series

"My little horse is genuine and has done nothing wrong all season," said Atzeni. "He's improved all year and has done so again since his last win at Newbury. He's never been flashy in his work, or in his races, but I rode him in his last piece of work and he was really good. He's ready to go again.

"He needs to improve because he's going to a different level, but I'm very happy and think he's going there with a big chance.

"The rain that's arrived has helped his chances because, while he's won on good ground, he's better on softer. He has a great mind on him and is straightforward to train and ride.

"He's got a different kind of profile to Kingston Hill (also trained by Varian) but, mentally, I'd say they are very similar. It's hard to tell how good he is, or when we are going to get to the bottom of him."

WHAT THEY SAY:

Richard Evans, owners Denford Stud, Coronet:

"Ideally we'll get some nice ground. That's not to say she won't run on the soft, but I think she'd prefer good. She ran a good race at York. We were quite happy to accept second behind Enable that day. I think the extra distance will definitely suit her and the track should suit her as well. We're hopeful of a decent run."

Brian Meehan, trainer Raheen House:

"Each year the Bahrain Trophy is looking like more and more of a pointer for the St Leger. He won it so well and possibly even idled a bit when he got to the front, so I think maybe he had a bit in hand. He's a big horse and I just felt it was always going to be better to leave him until the St Leger."

Joseph O'Brien, trainer, Rekindling:

"He's in good form and gets the trip well. He ran well the last day at the Curragh. We're just hoping the ground isn't too soft for him. It's a very good race but we're hopeful."

Andrew Balding, trainer, Count Octave:

"He ran a pretty good race in the circumstances at Goodwood last time. We're very happy with him. His run at Ascot (behind Stradivarius) would give him a good each-way shot."

_Click here for a runner-by-runner guide to the St Leger _

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