The world oldest Classic, the Ladbrokes St Leger, will be run for the 240th time at 3.45pm on Saturday 10th September at Doncaster, with this year’s renewal attracting a great entry of 42 (up from 29 in 2015).
Boasting record total prize money of £700,000 (£650,000 last year), the Ladbrokes St Leger takes place over one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards and is the highlight of the four-day Ladbrokes St Leger Festival from Wednesday 7th September to Saturday 10th September on Town Moor.
Ireland’s champion Flat trainer Aidan O’Brien is seeking his fifth Ladbrokes St Leger success and has a total of 16 entries, the most of any trainer. The Ballydoyle contingent includes Investec Derby second US Army Ranger and Idaho, who was third in the Epsom Downs Classic before going on to fill the runner-up position in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.
Also among the Ballydoyle hopefuls is Sword Fighter, who has already proved his stamina by landing both the two-mile Listed Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the G2 Curragh Cup over a mile and three quarters. Bhutan, a Galileo colt who was impressive when beating stable companion Housesofparliament by three lengths on his only start in a 10-furlong Leopardstown maiden on heavy ground in April, is another O’Brien-trained entry.
O’Brien captured an early trial for the Ladbrokes St Leger when Housesofparliament was successful in the 13-furlong G3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket on 7th July, with Harrison (Mick Channon) in third and Harbour View (Laura Mongan) fourth.
There could also be a first British Classic runner for O’Brien’s son Joseph, who is in his rookie season as a trainer. O’Brien junior, who won the Ladbrokes St Leger as a jockey on Leading Light in 2013, has entered recent 14-furlong Leopardstown Listed scorerArya Tara. The Dylan Thomas filly is owned by his mother Anne-Marie and ridden by his sister Ana.
Another filly with an entry is dual Classic-placed Harlequeen, trained by Mick Channon, who finished third in the Investec Oaks at Epsom Downs on June 3 and then took the same position in the Darley Irish Oaks on 16th July.
Aidan O’Brien has also entered one his star fillies, Even Song, who was successful in the G2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot before disappointing in seventh when the odds-on favourite for the Darley Irish Oaks.
Newmarket-based John Gosden has a fine Ladbrokes St Leger record, gaining glory four times in the final of Britain’s five Classics. His pair of entries this year are Investec Derby fourth Wings Of Desire, who is set to contest the G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 12 furlongs at Ascot on Saturday, and Muntahaa, third to Across The Stars (Sir Michael Stoute) in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes, also run at a mile and a half, at Royal Ascot.
One trainer yet to saddle a runner in the Ladbrokes St Leger is Lambourn-based Harry Dunlop. His father John trained the winner of the final Classic three times, most recently with Millenary in 2000.
Dunlop is considering the Ladbrokes St Leger for his stable star Robin Of Navan, who landed the G1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in 2015. The French-bred colt returned to action this year when a staying-on second to old adversary Cloth Of Stars in the 10-furlong Group Two Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud on 8th May, but has been on the sidelines since picking up an injury in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) over an extended 10 furlongs on 5th June.
Dunlop commented: “I felt that we should give Robin Of Navan an entry in the Ladbrokes St Leger because it is the final Classic of the season and it would be lovely to build him up towards the race.
“He sustained an injury in the Prix du Jockey Club, which we think he may have done in the parade before the race when he whipped round as they were playing music.
“He pulled a ligament but it seems to be all good now and we are just quietly getting him back going again. He is back in normal work and is making good progress. We are going to see how he goes and we could look at running him beforehand, possibly in France again.
“The Ladbrokes St Leger is a big target to aim at, providing he is ready in time.
“We honestly thought that he was going best of anything in the Prix du Jockey Club and then he suddenly lost his action. We had beaten Apilobar, who was fifth, quite nicely in the Prix Greffulhe and I think Robin Of Navan had every right to be in the first three.
“He doesn’t need soft ground and is pretty versatile. It was actually good to firm in the Prix Greffulhe – it was very hot weather and the time was quick for a French race – and genuine good ground is fine for him. The main thing is that he likes a strongly-run race.
“He won us an absolute fortune last year and ran a super race in the Prix Greffulhe. It would be lovely to get him back for the latter part of the season, but if we have to wait until next year with him, so be it.”
Dunlop’s brother Ed also has a Ladbrokes St Leger entry – Red Verdon, who was last seen out when the excellent runner-up in the G1 Grand Prix de Paris at Saint-Cloud on 14th July, a neck ahead of Cloth Of Stars.
Other eye-catching entries include Algometer (David Simcock), successful in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood in May, and the French-trained Shalakar(Mikel Delzangles), winner of a 15-furlong Chantilly conditions race.
Godolphin, successful in the Ladbrokes St Leger six times, has two entries this year with Prize Money (Saeed bin Suroor) and Twilight Payment (Jim Bolger).
Doncaster Racecourse Clerk of the Course, Roderick Duncan, reacted to the bountiful entries.
He said: “We are delighted with the number of entries for the 2016 Ladbrokes St Leger and are equally pleased to see top-quality horses from major yards across Britain, Ireland and France entered. 2016 should be a fantastic renewal of the world’s oldest Classic.”