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St Leger Preview: Unbeaten Frankel colt the logical choice

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James Cooper previews Saturday’s St Leger - the final British classic of the season - and picks out his best bet.

And so to the St Leger, the final classic of the season and a race for which the betting is dominated by Logician, who puts his unbeaten status on the line, and Sir Dragonet, who attempts to get back on the right path and provide Aidan O’Brien with a seventh win in the race. It’s notable that both failed to make it to the track at two years, starting out less than a month apart during the spring, though they have certainly taken a different route to Doncaster, the former a prime example of the softly-softly approach (having contested a maiden, minor race, handicap and Group 2), while the latter has already been exposed to a Derby on the back of a Group 2 demolition job on just his second start.

 

In Logician, it’s hard to recall a more progressive St Leger contender since Conduit, who started his three-year-old career with a handicap defeat off 78 before landing the 2008 renewal (recording a Timeform rating of 127 in the process, surpassed since by only Kew Gardens in last year’s renewal). To say Logician has passed each test with flying colours would be an understatement, recording Timeform ratings of 93, 102, 108 and 123 in his four wins. How he was allotted a BHA mark of 90 following Newmarket is pretty hard to fathom and connections were vindicated in their decision to take in Group 2 company on the back of Newbury when Logician kept the winning sequence intact in fine style with Dettori’s use of the whip minimal.

John Gosden's Frankel colt looks to have the raw ability to go all the way to the top judged on the manner of that success in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last month, still displaying signs of inexperience still (also a shade keen early), but impressing with the way in which he shrugged off Constantinople around two out. Thirteen previous winners of that Group 2 event on the Knavesmire have followed up in the St Leger, the latest of which being Lucarno in 2007 (also represented Gosden), so it’s clearly a key trial. Unsurprisingly, Logician was immediately installed as the short-priced favourite for this as he bids to provide his sire with a second domestic classic of the year following on from Anapurna in the Oaks.

Aidan O'Brien has won the last two renewals of the St Leger and is responsible for six of the 11 entries at this stage, though only Sir Dragonet and Il Paradiso make any appeal for win purposes. Sir Dragonet belied weakness in the market to get off the mark at the first attempt in a big-field maiden at Tipperary in April, value for more than the official three-length margin. Fast-tracked to the Chester Vase less than two weeks later, he hammered six rivals (including re-opposing stablemate Norway and Dashing Willoughby) by eight lengths. A wide course was charted by Donnacha O’Brien that day and that was probably in his favour, but it clearly wasn’t the defining factor given the ease in which he put the race to bed.

Supplemented for the Derby, he was sent off favourite for the Epsom showpiece and ran a fine race to finish fifth (three quarters of a length behind stablemate Anthony Van Dyck), losing out to more experienced rivals only in a bunched finish, and though subsequent events confirm that that wasn’t a vintage renewal, it’s still form to take very seriously in the context of this and Sir Dragonet still retains the Timeform 'p'.

An expensive reversal in the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh last month means Sir Dragonet has lost a little of his lustre, but excuses can be found, off 11 weeks after the Derby and not ideally placed as the race unfolded tackling the shortest trip he’d ever encountered. It’s worth pointing out that both Kew Gardens and Brian Boru tasted defeat in their final prep before Town Moor glory, though for the sake of balance, the other four O’Brien winners of this did arrive on the back of a success.

Given both Logician and Sir Dragonet attempt this trip for the first time, it seems prudent to put the pedigree of each under the microscope. Logician is a Frankel brother to the useful 9f-1½m winner Collide and a half-brother to three winners, including the smart winner up to 15f Suffused and the useful 7f/1m winner Battlement, while his dam Scuffle was a useful 1m/8.3f winner, herself a half-sister to the winner up to 9f Cityscape and the 5f/6f winner Bated Breath (both high-class performers for the owner). It should go without saying that is a talented Juddmonte pedigree, and as is often the case with high-profile runners in this race, most of the winning siblings performed over shorter trips, but there’s clear encouragement with regards stamina in that pedigree. On run-style, Logician promises to relish this step up in trip (certainly wasn’t stopping in the Great Voltigeur Stakes when faced with York’s long straight), and with each passing crop, Frankel’s progeny are improving as their stamina is drawn out.

Sir Dragonet is the first foal of a 2-y-o 6f winner (who stayed 9.5f), herself a half-sister to the 11.4f/1½m winner Wonder of Wonders and 1¼m/11f winner Victory Song (both smart) and out of the smart 1¼m/10.4f winner All Too Beautiful, so there’s certainly a middle-distance influence in his breeding. His sire Camelot has previous in the St Leger, surprisingly coming unstuck when 5-2 on in his quest for the Triple Crown in 2012, having been denied a clear run and failing to apply himself fully having conceded first run to Encke. With regards this trip, Camelot has produced Latrobe (whose dam was a sprinter) and he ran right up to his best on both tries over this trip, runner-up in the Irish St Leger in his classic year and the Curragh Cup the following summer. Given Sir Dragonet made his debut over 12.5f, he rates a very likely stayer on Saturday.

It would be remiss not to make a case of sorts for Il Paradiso given that his stamina is copper-bottomed following a 12-length annihilation on handicap debut and first crack at 2m at the Curragh last month. A one-and-a-quarter length third to Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup at York last month was a superb effort against two high-class older horses, so he unquestionably enhanced his reputation in defeat on the Knavesmire. The Timeform rating of 120 achieved by Il Paradiso puts him firmly in the picture, but the each-way juice has gone out of his price in the build up to this, with industry-best odds of 6/1 not particularly appealing at 1/5 of the odds given that the front two in the market appear to be pretty solid.

Conclusion

As can be the case in mature markets, the current odds look to be pretty much spot on with the feature of the ante-post exchanges being the each-way gamble on Il Paradiso straight after York, while Logician has hardened up in recent days to nearly even-money. Those on Logician at double-figure odds having been tipped up in our Long Ranger column are clearly on good terms with themselves, and given the vibes from John Gosden, he could easily go off a shade of odds-on.

Recommendation:

Back Logician at 11/10 in Saturday's St Leger at Doncaster

 

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AYR 15:30

Thursday 19 September
3. WHAT'S THE STORY 128
Joe Fanning silk Joe Fanning
Keith Dalgleish
2. BIG COUNTRY (IRE) 124
Alistair Rawlinson silk Alistair Rawlinson
Michael Appleby
1. FOREST RANGER (IRE) 121
Tony Hamilton silk Tony Hamilton
Richard Fahey
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18:45 KELSO

1st Jonjo O'Neill Jr. silk 5. NOTAWORDOFALIE (IRE) 5/23.5
2nd Thomas Dowson silk 1. BOWDEREK 15/28.5
J: Jonjo O'Neill Jr. (3)  
All 6 ran.
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18:30 NAAS

1st J. M. Sheridan silk 1. NOT NOW ZEB (IRE) 5/16
2nd C. D. Hayes silk ½ 7. THE KING OF KELLS (IRE) 25/126
3rd Donnacha O'Brien silk 5. TINKERBELLS EFFECT (IRE) 11/26.5
J: J. M. Sheridan (7)  
All 8 ran.
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18:15 KELSO

1st Richard Johnson silk 1. AYE RIGHT (IRE) 6/42.5
2nd Brian Hughes silk 1 2. ONE NIGHT IN MILAN (IRE) 10/111.9f
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18:00 NAAS

1st R. P. Whelan silk 1. DANIELLES DIAMOND (IRE) 5/16
2nd Siobhan Rutledge silk 6 3. ON TICK (IRE) 25/126
3rd Donnacha O'Brien silk nk 7. EDEN QUAY (IRE) 5/23.5f
J: R. P. Whelan  
10 ran. NRs: 5 
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17:45 KELSO

1st Aidan Coleman silk 2. THEFLYINGPORTRAIT (IRE) 4/15
2nd Jonjo O'Neill Jr. silk 6 1. TIDAL WATCH (IRE) 11/26.5
3rd Adam Wedge silk 7 8. BEAUTIFUL BEN (IRE) 12/113
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17:40 BEVERLEY

1st Toby Eley silk 1. AMITY ISLAND 6/42.5f
2nd Zak Wheatley silk 2 3. ELYSEE STAR 5/23.5
J: Toby Eley  
T: Ollie Pears  
7 ran. NRs: 10  2  6 
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17:35 SANDOWN PARK

1st Cieren Fallon silk 2. MINA VAGANTE 9/43.25jf
2nd Oisin Murphy silk 1. ANGEL'S WHISPER (IRE) 9/43.25jf
3rd Pat Dobbs silk nk 4. VENUSTA (IRE) 14/115
J: Cieren Fallon (3)  
T: Hugo Palmer  
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1st T. P. Madden silk 16. VALERIA MESSALINA (IRE) 9/110
2nd L. F. Roche silk ns 7. NOW THE KING (IRE) 11/26.5
3rd R. P. Cleary silk ½ 4. DAYLIGHT COME (IRE) 18/119
J: T. P. Madden (3)  
16 ran. NRs: 17  18 
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1st Brian Hughes silk 4. THE HERDS GARDEN 10/111
2nd Thomas Dowson silk 1 12. SNOWED IN (IRE) 12/113
3rd Thomas Willmott silk 7 6. IZZY'S CHAMPION (IRE) 17/29.5
J: Brian Hughes  
14 ran. NRs: 3 
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