Ballydoyle handler Aidan O’Brien could launch a four-pronged assault on the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday September 15 as he eyes further G1 glory in the final British Classic of the season.
Britain and Ireland’s champion Flat trainer has an excellent record in the 14-furlong contest, which included victory with Capri in last year’s renewal.
His leading hope in this year’s edition is Kew Gardens, the 5/4 favourite with the sponsor William Hill.
The three-year-old son of Galileo has already tasted G1 success this year after winning the Grand Prix de Paris, whilst he also captured the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
Following a short break, the imposing colt, who was paraded before the cameras at Ballydoyle this morning, finished a staying on third in the Great Voltigeur last time, despite carrying a 5lb penalty.
O’Brien is relishing the opportunity to step his star back up to 14 furlongs at Doncaster as he targets further G1 riches in what has been a below par year for the master trainer following a bug which hit the yard during the early stages of the season.
O’Brien, accommodating as ever with the media spoke to our man Danny Archer at Ballydoyle and revealed: “I was delighted with Kew Gardens’ run [York].
“It was not ideal having a penalty, but we felt we had to have a run and we thought that was the perfect place to give him a prep.
“Ryan Moore was delighted with him and obviously he stays further. We always thought Doncaster would suit and hopefully the ground will be nice for him.”
O’Brien could also be represented on Town Moor by Nelson and The Pentagon, who could be likely pace angles in the St Leger.
The chief threat to Kew Gardens could come from another stablemate, the progressive Southern France., who chased him home at Ascot when a four and a half-length second in the Queen’s Vase.
Southern France returned from a break with an eye-catching fourth in the Irish St Leger Trial behind fellow stable companion Flag Of Honour over the St Leger trip in August and O’Brien is expecting further improvement from the unexposed colt.
He continued: “Nelson stays very well and could even stay further than the Leger trip, whilst The Pentagon could also run.
“Southern France is a lovely, big horse. He will be an even better four-year-old and he ran well at the Curragh last time. It was his first run back for a while and Seamie Heffernan was delighted with him. You would have to think that Doncaster, a big, flat, galloping track would really suit him.
“Kew Gardens is the horse who has won the G1. He had one disappointing run when down the field in the Derby but maybe he is a horse who likes a level track. We took our time with him at Ascot holding him up and he is a lovely laid-back horse. He is very relaxed and has a great mind.”
O’Brien also spoke at length about a number of his other stable stars, including 2017 St Leger winner Capri, who has been off the track with a shoulder injury following a winning reappearance in the Alleged Stakes in April
The G2 Prix Foy at Longchamp is on the agenda for the four-year-old before a possible tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at the Paris venue on October 7.
O’Brien said: “The plan with Capri is to go to France for the Prix Foy and then if that goes well, we might go back to the Arc.
“He had a racecourse gallop last week and he’s been back in full work for about eight weeks.”
QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Saxon Warrior, fourth in this year’s Investec Derby, finished fourth in the Juddmonte International behind the John Gosden-trained Roaring Lion last time out and the 10-furlong QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, for which he is a general 4/1 chance, could be next on the agenda. Ryan Moore is expected to fly from Doncaster following the St Leger to Leopardstown next Saturday to take the ride on the three-year-old son of Deep Impact.
O’Brien said: “Saxon Warrior came back very sick from his second-placed finish in the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown and all we wanted to do was get him healthy and get a run into him, so that is why we went to York.
“We wanted to be very gentle with him and we were very happy. He was badly sick but the Irish Champion is next up for him and we’ve been very happy with his first bit of work since York.”
O’Brien has five entries in this weekend’s Sprint Cup at Haydock Park including Gustav Klimt. Who could drop down to six furlongs for the time in his career since his debut as a two-year-old. The master of Ballydoyle also has Sioux Nation, Intelligence Cross, Spirit Of Valor and Fleet Review.
“We haven’t fully decided who will go to Haydock yet, but we are playing with the idea of bringing Gustav Klimt back to six furlongs”, said O’Brien. “He worked yesterday and we were very happy with him. He is by Galileo and is out of a very fast mare so it is quite possible he could run. Speaking to the people at Haydock, it looks like the ground could be on the easy side of good.
“Intelligence Cross and Spirit Of Valor could possibly run. We have five entered and some of the horses that don’t run at Haydock could go into quarantine for Australia as there are a few sprint races down there in the next few months. Things will probably depend on what way the ground goes in the next couple of days.”
G1 July Cup winner U S Navy Flag is scheduled to run in the Everest Stakes at Randwick Racecourse in Australia on October 13 and enters quarantine on Thursday following a piece of work at Naas yesterday.
Ten Sovereigns looks a colt with an exciting future as he extended his unbeaten record to two wins in as many starts when justifying 1/3 favouritism in a G3 event at the Curragh earlier this month. O’Brien commented: “The Middle Park is the plan with him. We were very happy with his two runs and we ran him again quickly as he needed some experience. There were a lot of reasons to run him and it worked out well. During the spring, he was working with the top horses in his work and had always shown class from an early stage. We think there’s a good chance he will stay a mile – he is a good mover and has a clear mind. You’re never sure they will stay until you step them up but he has the attributes needed to stay.
Anthony Van Dyck won the G2 Futurity Stakes and heads for G1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes next, whilst Flag Of Honour, unbeaten in his last two starts could be the yard’s leading representative in the G1 Irish St Leger at Leopardstown on September 16, due to former G1 Gold Cup winner Order Of St George starting to “feel a little bit of age at the moment” according to O’Brien.
Mendelssohn lit up Meydan in March with an 18 and a half-length win in the G2 UAE Derby and following two below par efforts, he returned to form with an excellent four-length second in the G1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August under an aggressive front-running ride from Ryan Moore.
The G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park is next on the agenda for the three-year-old son of Scat Daddy before a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 3. “We were very happy with his run at Saratoga”, said O’Brien. “That was the first race of a three-race programme. We feel he will improve again and there is a five-week gap between the race at Belmont and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”
The William Hill St Leger Festival runs from Wednesday 12 August through to Saturday 15 August at Doncaster Racecourse.