FRANKIE DETTORI will be hoping that age is on his side when odds-on favourite Logician lines up in the Willliam Hill St Leger – Flat racing’s final domestic Classic of 2019.
Victory for the 48-year-old would be a sixth St Leger triumph – his first was on Classic Cliche in 1995 – in a year that has seen him dominate the big races thanks to horses like the equine superstar Enable and champion stayer Stradivarius who is unbeaten from 10 starts after yesterday’s Doncaster Cup win.
Yet the evergreen Dettori is junior to his fellow weighing room veteran Franny Norton, 49, who partners Sir Ron Priestley as Middleham’s Mark Johnston, the winner of more races than any other trainer, bids to land Doncaster’s signature race, part of the Qipco British Champions Series, for a first time.
It is hard to look beyond Logician who runs in the colours of Prince Khalid Abdullah. Sired by the legendary Frankel, he was imperious when winning York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes last month and the colt, like the all-conquering Enable and Stradivarius, is trained by John Gosden.
“He has been in great form since York. He is a very relaxed character and he has a lovely big long loping stride.
“I thought then (back in May) this might be a Leger horse,” said Gosden who is renowned for his patient approach to training. “He has come a long way in a short time.
“The nice long straight at Doncaster should suit him well.”
Dettori, who has already enjoyed 14 Group One winners this campaign, concurs. “He’s a typical Frankel in that he covers a lot of ground. He’s still learning but he hit the line well and this will bring him on further,” he ventured after the York win.
Unbeaten from four starts this year – Logician did not run as a two-year-old – his progress is emblematic of the success enjoyed by Gosden and Dettori, Flat racing’s dominant partnership, who never overface their horses in the early stages of their career.
Contrast this with Sir Ron Priestley – victorious in Goodwood’s March Stakes on his last outing – who will be racing for a ninth time. It is a regime which suits Johnston’s horses as the trainer bids to saddle the first Yorkshire winner of the St Leger since Tim Easterby’s Bollin Eric won in 2002.
The Australia colt is owned by Paul Dean, one of Johnston’s longest-standing patrons, and the trainer is realistic about his chances in this one mile six furlong race.
“Sir Ron Priestley is going to have to up his game considerably but he’s done everything else we’ve asked of him and so he’s got to have a shot at the St Leger,” said Johnston who also saddles the outsider Nayef Road in this eight runner race.
“We are under no illusions about the fact he will need a personal best to win. He won a Group Two race on his last outing, while this is a Group One with Classic horses in there and a much taller order. But he stays the trip well and it’s not impossible he could bridge the gap.”
He added: “The St Leger is a race I would dearly love to win. Paul’s a tremendous owner and has been with us almost as long as I’ve been training. I always say bookmakers make great owners because they’ve made their living out of the fact that we don’t know what is going to win.
“Most of his horses have been called after friends and he gives them a knighthood that they didn’t actually have. I tried to call one Sir Paul Dean but he heard about it just before and asked me not to. The name’s been reserved and there will be a Sir Paul Dean one day.”
Aidan O’Brien has struck six times in the race and is represented by Sir Dragonet, Il Paradiso and Western Australia. His principal contenders look to be Sir Dragonet, fifth in the Epsom Derby in June.
The field is completed by the Martyn Meade-trained Technician, winner at Newbury last time out, and Andrew Balding’s Royal Ascot hero Dashing Willoughby. Yet, while a Yorkshire win is long-overdue, the logical choice remains – as is so often the case – the seemingly ageless Frankie Dettori.