Leger Picture Crystal Clear

Now that the ground has dried at Doncaster, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Crystal Ocean (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) looks poised for a peak effort in Saturday’s G1 William Hill St Leger. Steadily encouraged so far in 2017 by Sir Michael Stoute, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild’s homebred has built towards this race with increasing momentum and comes here on the back of an impressive success in the G3 Gordon S. in more testing conditions at Goodwood on Aug. 5. Ulysses’s rider Jim Crowley is on the bay, who was also third in the May 18 G2 Dante S. and G2 King Edward VII S. at Royal Ascot on June 23, and he said, “He was probably a little unlucky at Ascot, but he looked very good last time in the Gordon S. and it looks like he’s improving. 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.” Stoute’s assistant James Horton added, “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.”

The Leger is always strengthened by a Classic winner in its line-up and when it comes from Ballydoyle it is particularly significant. This time, it is the G1 Irish Derby hero Capri (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who is looking for a special double following his spirited defeat of Cracksman (GB) (Frankel {GB}) and the Epsom Derby winner Wings of Eagles (Fr) (Pour Moi {Ire}) in that July 1 Curragh feature and his subsequent absence has done nothing to dampen the hopes of connections. “Capri is a horse we always thought would stay further than a mile and a half and he’s in good form,” Aidan O’Brien commented. “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 five-pound penalty and his scope wasn’t 100%, 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.”

John Gosden has won three of the last 10 editions and saddles Bjorn Nielsen’s June 23 G2 Queen’s Vase and Aug. 1 G1 Goodwood Cup hero Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}), who would be completing a unique treble if successful here, and also the ‘TDN Rising Star’ Coronet (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). The latter, who races for her breeder Prince Faisal Salman’s Denford Stud, took the G2 Ribblesdale S. at Royal Ascot on June 22 before trailing her esteemed stablemate Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) when fourth in the G1 Irish Oaks at The Curragh on July 15 and when runner-up in the Aug. 24 G1 Yorkshire Oaks. Frankie Dettori has swung to the filly this week and there is a growing confidence behind her. “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,” Denford Stud’s Richard Evans said. “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.”

One who has crept up onto the scene is Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s Defoe (Ire) (Dalakhani {Ire}), who last tasted defeat on his 2-year-old finale when 11th of 12 in the Listed Zetland S. at Newmarket in October won by Coronet and in which Permian (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) and Wings of Eagles (Fr) (Pour Moi {Ire}) took part. On his penultimate outing, he beat the subsequent black-type winners Frankuus (Ire) (Frankel {GB}) and Call To Mind (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) in the 11-furlong Listed Glasgow S. at Hamilton on July 21 before upstaging his elders in the G3 Geoffrey Freer S. over an extended 13 furlongs at Newbury on Aug. 19. “My little horse is genuine and has done nothing wrong all season,” jockey Andrea Atzeni said. “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 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. It’s hard to tell how good he is, or when we are going to get to the bottom of him.”

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