Hayley Turner is still actively involved in racing, riding out for some stables and race riding in France where she benefits from the 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) weight allowance across the board for lady jockeys. So she might not have the breeding of Francesca Cumani but I value her opinion more than any other member of the ITV racing team. Hayley believes Defoe will score in the St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday and that’s good enough for me but Coronet is right there in the mix.
Its clear that Turner is still closely connected in racing circles and has the substance to go with the style. Ms. Cumani is knowledagble and knows her onions but its more theory than practice. Ed Chamberlain might hang on her every word like a schoolboy with a crush but it will always be Hayley for me when it comes to information and tips. She fancies the horse named after the Bournemouth striker to win the St Leger.
The race is the oldest Classic in the world and was first run in 1776. It is a one mile six furlongs Group 1 contest for three-year-old colts and fillies. Coronet is the only female horse declared to run and she receives three pounds from the male horses. Coronet gets in the staking plan and with Defoe is one of my two against the field in which Capri looks a vulnerable favourite.
The Aidan O’Brien horse won the Irish Derby beating Cracksman and Wings Of Eagles by narrow margins. On paper beating the English Derby third and winner makes Capri the best three-year-old colt in training. However, Cracksman was not given the best ride at the Curragh and looked like the best horse in the race. That impression has been confirmed by an impressive win at York and in an Arc trial in France. Wing Of Eagles was retired before running again after the Derby.
O’Brien has won the St Leger four times and had 12 horses still entered earlier this week. Presumably he knows the pecking order of his three-year-old stayer’s and Capri is his best chance of winning the race again. On ratings Capri is just about the most likely winner and Ryan Moore has ignored two stable mates to ride the favourite. Interestingly Rekindling trained by O’Brien Junior has the best rating after his Dad’s horse. The horse will be ridden by Donnacha O’Brien, the trainer’s sibling.
I can see where Hayley Turner is coming from because Defoe is improving with every run and finishing races with something in the tank. The horse has progressed through the ratings and could find the improvement to win the final Classic of the season. The race is not always won by a blue blood and in Roger Varian Defoe is trained by someone who knows the time of day. It would not be a great surprise if Defoe won the St Leger. The jockey, Andrea Atzeni, won the two runnings before last year.
The allowances in Group races have stood the test of time but a championship race must surely identify the best horse. Coronet could win the St Leger by one length carrying three pounds less than the runner-up so which is the best horse? Enable has been getting rave reviews but she carried a stone less than Highland Reel in the King George. The horse gets all the allowances in the Arc which looks like a penalty kick. Coronet is favoured by the conditions of the St Leger.
If Enable is the best horse in training and a superstar Coronet isn’t bad and not too far behind. Enable beat Coronet by five lengths off level weights at York which in theory is the best form on offer in the St Leger. Capri is rated at 132 by the Racing Post and Coronet is one pound less. The relative ratings are weight adjusted but there is little to choose between the two horses. Assuming Capri was flattered by the Irish Derby win Coronet must be the form pick but you have to respect Defoe.
Stradivarius could be the fly in the ointment because the horse is bound to stay and other runners don’t have form over the distance. However, the John Gosden trained runner does not have quite the class that Capri and Coronet have displaced at the highest level. Crystal Ocean could still be anything but faces a tough ask on all known form. That leaves Defoe and Coronet on a very short list and the latter is just preferred. The three pounds weight advantage can be crucial but Hayley could be spot on again!