Profiling the five key contenders for this year's St Leger

Serpentine was a runaway winner of this year's Epsom Derby.
Serpentine was a runaway winner of this year's Epsom Derby.

With exactly one month to go until this year’s St Leger, Nick Seddon takes a look at the current picture for the final classic of the season, and profiles the five main contenders at the time of writing…

This year will forever be remembered as the 12 months which morphed the racing calendar beyond recognition, though after a few strange scenarios, we’re now firmly back on track, and the St Leger is suddenly starting to loom Doncaster.

Run over a trip of one mile and six furlongs, the final classic of the season is a stern examination of a three-year-old’s stamina, and a horse needs generally different qualities to win this compared to those shown when winning either the 2000 Guineas or the Derby. 

Unlike with Newmarket and Epsom, the traditional routes to Town Moor are largely intact, and while it is rather dominated by Aidan O’Brien-trained runners, there’s plenty of substance in the current market for the St Leger. With that in mind, we’ve taken a look at the five market leaders at the time of writing, and assessed their chances. 

Santiago (Aidan O'Brien)

The current favourite for the race is the Irish Derby winner Santiago, who's looked every inch a Leger contender judged on his three starts so far this campaign. He's the only horse of the five in this article with any experience over the trip to date, having won the Queen's Vase in really taking style at Royal Ascot in June. That race has produced plenty of smart stayers in the past decade, including two Leger winners in Kew Gardens (2018) and Leading Light (2013) as well as two Ascot Gold Cup winners in Estimate and Stradivarius, though Santiago proved he also has plenty of speed to go with that stamina when successfully dropping back to a mile and a half to win the Irish Derby on his next start - showing good battling qualities to hold off the challenge of stablemate Tiger Moth (who's currently a 10/1 chance for the Leger). He lost nothing in defeat when third behind two older rivals in Stradivarius and Nayef Road in the Goodwood Cup over two miles last time out, and his versatility should play into his hands at Doncaster. Indeed, he's a worthy favourite here based on what he's shown over staying trips to date, and he should prove to be a tough nut to crack - regardless of how things pan out. Verdict: Key player

Love (Aidan O'Brien)

Only nine fillies have ever completed the 'Fillies' Triple Crown', which requires victories in each of the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks and the St Leger - with the last horse to do it being Oh So Sharp in 1985. At the time of writing, it seems unlikely that we will see that record being taken into double figures this year, but the inclusion of Love on Town Moor would be a fascinating one. A game winner of the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh as a two-year-old, Love built on a busy juvenile campaign by routing her opponents on reappearance in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and took control of her division in the process. An even more impressive demolition job in the Epsom Oaks followed, and while her trainer has yet to completely rule out a tilt at the Leger, her entry in the Yorkshire Oaks would suggest that she has other plans.

Indeed, a date in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with Enable looks to be firmly on her agenda this autumn, though were plans to be changed, she would have to be taken seriously if taking her chance here. She's strictly unproven over this trip, though the way she kept finding in a frenetic renewal of the Oaks would suggest that the extra two furlongs here would hold no fears, and while it's likely she has battles to fight elsewhere, she would have a huge chance should those plans change. Verdict: Unlikely to run

Serpentine (Aidan O'Brien)

Another Epsom classic winner who's in the mix for the Leger is the Epsom Derby winner Serpentine, who caused a 25/1 shock under a pillar-to-post ride from Emmet McNamara. That represented a career best effort from the colt, but he came into the race as a typically unexposed three-year-old from the yard; as a well-bred son of Galileo who had bolted up in a maiden on his previous start. While there's no doubt that the Derby was a muddling race, there were some notable names in behind, including the 2000 Guineas winner Kameko and the likes of English King and Mogul (who we'll mention later), and it will certainly be interesting to see whether Serpentine can back this effort up on his next start.

Reports seem to suggest that he could be heading for the Grand Prix de Paris over a mile and a half, which would rule him out of the Leger as it falls on the same weekend, but he'll be a player wherever we see him next. Of course, he almost certainly won't be allowed as much rope as he was at Epsom wherever he heads next, but there's reason to expect a similar level of performance, and if he heads here it's unlikely that a mile and three quarters would be out of reach. Santiago would likely be his stable's first string here if he does take his chance, though that didn't stop him at Epsom... Verdict: May not run

Mogul (Aidan O'Brien)

As mentioned above, Aidan O'Brien-trained runners dominate the market for the St Leger, and Mogul is the current fourth favourite for the race at the time of writing. A full-brother to last year's International Stakes winner Japan, it's clear that he's highly regarded by his connections, but he's been slow to show that talent on the course; disappointing in the King Edward VII Stakes before never really getting into things when sixth in the Epsom Derby. However, things clicked to place on his most recent outing in the Gordon Stakes over a mile and a half at Goodwood, when he showed plenty of stamina reserves to reel in the front-running Subjectivist (with English King back in fourth). He looked better the further he went that day, and there's reasons to believe that he'll be suited by the extra two furlongs that the St Leger provides.

Unlike in his three previous starts this campaign, he's unlikely to have the assistance of Ryan Moore here, but we know that the O'Brien second string have a habit of winning when it comes to the big occasion, and he boasts a top-class pedigree. Mogul certainly can't be ignored if a stern test of stamina unlocks some further improvement - particularly when you bear in mind that he already has some smart form under his belt. Verdict: Potential fly in the ointment

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English King (Ed Walker)

It feels like a long time ago now since English King announced himself on the middle distance scene with a taking victory in the Lingfield Derby Trial in June, but while he's since suffered defeats in his two subsequent starts, he's still among the main protagonists for this year's St Leger. Indeed, he can be forgiven his effort to finish fifth in the Epsom Derby, staying on pretty well in the circumstances, though he will arrive here with something to prove after only finishing fourth behind Mogul in the Gordon Stakes.

Granted, the door was rather shut on English King at a crucial stage that day, and while he's certainly still open to improvement yet - especially if tried at a mile and three quarters - it's certainly fair to say that he hasn't taken the sort of steps forward from Lingfield that we expected him to. With that being said, he's certainly got plenty of qualities that tick boxes when it comes to the St Leger; in that he's a strong traveller with stamina in abundance, while he showed at Lingfield that he's able to change gear when required. It's certainly plausible that the Leger will bring out the best in English King, though he could well need a career best effort to take this. Verdict: Something to prove

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