AIDAN O’BRIEN believes Kew Gardens is a worthy favourite for the William Hill St Leger, Flat racing’s final Classic of 2018.
The Ballydoyle trainer’s smart stayer heads 16 entries for Doncaster’s showpiece race on Saturday after Andrew Balding supplemented the filly Maid Up.
O’Brien, who is seeking a sixth win in the race following Capri’s triumph 12 months ago, has been enduring a quiet season by his own high standards after his stables were hit by a virus.
However Ireland’s multiple champion trainer was encouraged by the run of Kew Gardens in last month’s Great Voltigeur Stakes at York when finishing third to Charlie Appleby’s Old Persian who is set to head the home challenge. He also believes the colt will be better suited by Doncaster than other tracks – Kew Gardens was surprisingly beaten in Lingfield’s Derby Trial before being unplaced in the blue riband race at Epsom.
O’Brien said: “We were delighted with Kew Gardens at York. He had to have the run and we just thought that was the perfect place to give him his prep.
“Ryan (Moore) was delighted with him, he obviously stays further and we always thought that Doncaster would suit him.
He has a lot of experience, and we’ve got a bit of time between now and the race and hopefully he stays well and we get him there.”Aidan O’Brien
“He had one disappointing run and that was in the Derby and he disappointed us a little bit at Lingfield so maybe he’s a horse that just likes a level track.
“We rode him forward enough in the Derby too and maybe if we’d taken our time with him that might have suited him better.
“He has a lot of experience, and we’ve got a bit of time between now and the race and hopefully he stays well and we get him there.”
O’Brien has also entered The Pentagon, Southern France and Nelson while his son Joseph has declared Irish Derby winner Latrobe.
Unplaced in York’s Juddmonte International Stakes over 10 furlongs, it is hoped the St Leger test over a mile and three quarters will play to the strengths of Latrobe.
“It’s a hugely competitive race but he is an Irish Derby winner and entitled to take his place.
“He should get the trip and we’ll see what happens,” said O’Brien junior.
“His sire Camelot was second in the race but he’s out of a quick mare.
“It wouldn’t be guaranteed he will stay but you’d have to be quite hopeful.”
With Tim Easterby’s Wells Farhh Go on the injury sidelines, Yorkshire hopes rest with Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee.
Though second in the Epsom Derby, he could ideally do with softer ground – and little rain is forecast. Final declarations are confirmed at 10am on Thursday.
Next year’s Epsom Derby favourite Too Darn Hot features among a list of 17 horses left in contention for the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on Saturday.
The impeccably-bred son of Dubawi confirmed his potential when winning Sandown’s Solario Stakes at the start of the month for jockey Frankie Dettori and trainer John Gosden.
Middleham’s Mark Johnston, now the country’s winning-most trainer, has left in his emphatic Goodwood scorer Dark Vision, plus Marie’s Diamond and Victory Command.
Charlie Appleby can call on Quorto, who looked a smart prospect when winning the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket, while Charles Hills is represented by Phoenix Of Spain, a good winner of last month’s Acomb Stakes at York.