The unbeaten Logician heads a final field of eight for the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday. The world’s oldest Classic, first run in 1776, forms part of the Long Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series.
Logician was unraced as a two-year-old but the grey, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah and trained by John Gosden, has made great strides in four races this campaign, preserving his 100 per cent record with a commanding success in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last month.
He is the general evens favourite and, if successful, will become the first St Leger winner to have an unblemished record since the mighty Nijinsky prevailed at Town Moor in 1970. Nijinsky was winning his 11th race in succession at Doncaster but subsequently suffered defeats in the Prix de l’Arc De Triomphe and Champion Stakes.
Logician will attempt to become the first colt sired by the mighty Frankel to win a Classic. Frankel’s previous progeny to have won a Classic have been fillies, with Soul Stirring landing the Japanese Oaks in 2017 and Anapurna scooping this year’s Investec Oaks.
Frankie Dettori, who has already enjoyed 14 Group 1 winners this campaign, is seeking a sixth St Leger triumph and will partner Logician. The 48-year-old has won 11 of the 28 QIPCO British Champions Series races run this year – nine of them for Gosden – and after guiding Logician home in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes, he said: “He’s a typical Frankel in that he covers a lot of ground. He’s still learning but he hit the line well and this will bring him on further.”
Gosden is seeking a fifth St Leger success after previous triumphs with Shantou (1996), Lucarno (2007), Arctic Cosmos (2010) and Masked Marvel (2011).
By contrast, Mark Johnston has yet to have a St Leger winner and is hopeful either Sir Ron Priestley or Nayef Road will rectify that.
Nayef Road won the Group 3 Qatar Gordon Stakes last month but his main hope is Sir Ron Priestley, who has won five of his six starts this year and put up a career-best to land the Group 3 Ladbrokes March Stakes at Goodwood on his latest start.
The Australia colt is owned by Paul Dean, one of Johnston’s longest-standing patrons, and will be ridden by 49-year-old Franny Norton, whose decorated CV is missing a Group 1 winner.
Johnston said: “Sir Ron Priestley is going to have to up his game considerably but he’s done everything else we’ve asked of him and so he’s got to have a shot at the St Leger.
“We are under no illusions about the fact he will need a personal best to win. He won a Group 3 race on his last outing, while this is a Group 1 with Classic horses in there and a much taller order. But he stays the trip well and it’s not impossible he could bridge the gap.”
Britain’s winning-most trainer added: “The St Leger is a race I would dearly love to win and it would be fantastic for Paul [Dean] and Franny, who’s as good as ever, to get a big one.
“Paul’s a tremendous owner and has been with us almost as long as I’ve been training. I always say bookmakers make great owners because they’ve made their living out of the fact that we don’t know what is going to win.
“Most of his horses have been called after friends and he gives them a knighthood that they didn’t actually have. I tried to call one Sir Paul Dean but he heard about it just before and asked me not to. The name’s been reserved and there will be a Sir Paul Dean one day.”
Aidan O’Brien has struck six times in the race with Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003), Scorpion (2005), Leading Light (2013), Capri (2017) and Kew Gardens (2018). This time, he is represented by Sir Dragonet, Il Paradiso and Western Australia.
His principal contenders look to be Sir Dragonet, beaten by under a length when fifth in the Investec Derby at Epsom in June, and Il Paradiso, who finished closely behind star older stayers Stradivarius and Dee Ex Bee in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup at York last time out.
The field is completed by the Martyn Meade-trained Technician, who won the Group 3 Unibet Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on his latest start, and Dashing Willoughby, winner of the Group 2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in June.
HOW THIS YEAR’S CLASSICS HAVE UNFOLDED
A feature of this year’s Classics, which all form part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, is that stable “second” or “third” strings have upstaged better fancied stablemates.
In the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas, Ten Sovereigns went off 9/4 favourite for Aidan O’Brien but it was his stablemate, Magna Grecia, who took the honours. The following day Just Wonderful and Fairyland went off at single-figure odds for O’Brien in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas but it was Hermosa, at 14/1, who proved the trainer’s ace.
John Gosden saddled the 11/4 favourite in the Investec Oaks in the shape of Mehdaayih but she could finish only seventh and it was Gosden’s other runner Anapurna, sent off at 8/1, who took the spoils. Twenty-four hours later, Sir Dragonet (11/4 favourite) and Broome (4/1) were the shortest-priced of O’Brien’s seven runners in the Investec Derby but it was Anthony Van Dyck who proved the ace in his pack.
The trend could continue in the William Hill St Leger on Saturday as O’Brien and Mark Johnston both have more than one runner.
QIPCO 2000 Guineas
1st Magna Grecia 11/2 (Aidan O’Brien/Donnacha O’Brien)
2nd King Of Change 66/1
3rd Skardu 8/1
A record tenth winner of the 2000 Guineas for Aidan O’Brien with Magna Grecia, ridden by his son, Donnacha, tracking the pace on the stands’ side before easing two-and-a-half lengths clear of King Of Change, trained by Richard Hannon.
Skardu was first home in the centre group, to claim third, just ahead of the staying-on Madhmoon in fourth. Ten Sovereigns, a stablemate of Magna Grecia, went off the 9/4 favourite under Ryan Moore but faded to be fifth.
QIPCO 1000 Guineas
1st Hermosa 14/1 (Aidan O’Brien/Wayne Lordan)
2nd Lady Kaya 11/1
3rd Qabala 7/2 fav
A fourth Guineas ‘double’ for Aidan O’Brien with Hermosa, ridden by Wayne Lordan, making all 24 hours after the triumph of Magna Grecia.
The daughter of Galileo dug deep and had a length to spare over Lady Kaya, a first Classic runner for Sheila Lavery. The previously unbeaten Qabala, the favourite, was another neck behind in third.
O’Brien ran three other contenders with Just Wonderful the shortest-priced of his contenders at 13/2. She finished sixth under Ryan Moore.
1st Anapurna 8/1 (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori)
2nd Pink Dogwood 3/1
3rd Fleeting 25/1
A first British Classic winner for Frankel, as a stallion, as his daughter Anapurna showed great resolution to win under an inspired Frankie Dettori.
It looked like Aidan O’Brien would stay on course for a clean sweep of all the Classics when Pink Dogwood quickened ahead inside the final two furlongs but Anapurna, trained by John Gosden, kept on stoutly to claw her back and win by a neck. Fleeting, another O’Brien runner, stayed on well to be third.
1st Anthony Van Dyck 13/2 (Aidan O’Brien/Seamus Heffernan)
2nd Madhmoon 10/1
3rd Japan 20/1
A thrilling Investec Derby with five runners all in with a chance of winning inside the final furlong and divided by little more than half a length at the line.
Anthony Van Dyck, ridden by Seamie Heffernan, kept closest to the far side and took the honours to give Aidan O’Brien a seventh success in the premier Classic.
Madhmoon, trained by Kevin Prendergast, was runner-up with the next four home – Japan, Broome, Sir Dragonet and Circus Maximus – all stablemates of the winner.