SOMEONE once told me the formbook never lies.
Well, if that’s the case, then there is only one winner of the St Leger (3.35pm) and that’s the Aidan O’Brien-trained CAPRI.
His defeat of Cracksman in the Irish Derby, with Investec Derby winner Wings Of Eagles back in third, is head and shoulders above any other piece of form on offer here.
The son of Galileo was a three-time winner as a juvenile, including the Group Two Beresford Stakes.
He rounded off that campaign with a close-up third in a soft ground 10-furlong French Group One, which flagged up early that stamina was going to be his forte.
He didn’t set the world alight in three starts over that same trip at the start of this season, but showed improvement when upped two furlongs to finish sixth in the Investec Derby before going on to land the Irish equivalent.
There is every chance that a further step-up in distance will bring about more improvement and he is bound to have plenty of supporters, even at a price as short as 10/3 with Ladbrokes.
However, my niggling concern is that we haven’t seen him in action since 1st July and he comes here on the back of an interrupted preparation without another racecourse appearance.
His class may help him overcome that rustiness, but in DEFOE, he meets a race-fit progressive stayer from a stable in red-hot form and he may just have too much for him here.
Roger Varian and jockey Andrea Atzeni teamed up to win this race three years ago and I fancy them to repeat the trick tomorrow.
Defoe has improved beyond all recognition from two to three and is unbeaten in all four starts to date this campaign.
His London Gold Cup victory at Newbury was followed by further success at York where he defied a 10lbs rise.
Stepping into Listed company at Hamilton, he proved too good for Frankuus before improving again to win the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury against older horses last time.
He was ultra-impressive that day, relishing both the soft ground and the step-up in trip.
His stable has been firing in the winners this week and at 5/1 in places, he looks the one to side with.
The two obvious dangers to focus on are Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius, but connections of both will be worried about the unsettled forecast.
Like Capri, Stradivarius brings Group One form to the table with a Goodwood Cup victory over two miles last time.
Tomorrow’s trip will therefore be of no concern at all and if the rain stays away, he is a serious contender.
The worry has to be genuinely soft ground though as this son of Sea The Stars looked ill at ease on those conditions as a juvenile.
As for Crystal Ocean, another son of Sea The Stars, he seemed okay on the ground at Goodwood but the trip has to be a slight concern with him.
Don’t get me wrong, he has stacks of potential, it’s just this could turn out to be a real slog and he is a short price considering his tank may empty late on.
Therefore, my final vote for third place was a toss-up between O’Brien’s VENICE BEACH and his son Joseph’s Rekindling, with a slight preference for the former at a general 12/1.
Venice Beach was firmly put in his place by Cracksman at York last time but has always shaped like this trip would see him in his best light.
He had Wings Of Eagles behind him at Chester in May where he shaped like a real stayer.
I expect him to outrun his price, but he may lack the class to lower the colours of Defoe or his teammate Capri.
As for Rekindling, if the rain stays away he could run well at a decent price as this seems to be his perfect trip.
More rain would be a worry though, as it won’t help him and will play to the strengths of others.
BILL ESDAILE’S DONCASTER ST LEGER 1-2-3
3. Venice Beach