Sir Ron Priestley can end Mark Johnston’s St Leger drought says jockey Franny Norton
Mark Johnston’s runner is the sole local entrant amongst the 11 horses declared for the 2019 renewal of the world’s oldest Classic.
Though well-beaten at Royal Ascot when ridden by Andrea Atzeni, Sir Ron Priestley and Norton are unbeaten in their last three starts – a Haydock handicap, competitive race at Glorious Goodwood and then the March Stakes, a noted St Leger trial, at the Sussex track.
“Sir Ron Priestley has done nothing wrong apart from one blip at Royal Ascot,” said Norton.
“It’s a massive step between what he’s done so far and what he’s got to do in the St Leger, but we haven’t got to the bottom of this horse just yet. He always pulls it out, and has every right to be in the race.
“Sir Ron Priestley is a lovely big individual, and managed to cope with the twists and turns and ups and downs of Goodwood.
“I think Doncaster will be right up his street. Wherever he’s gone he’s galloped with no complications. Doncaster should be ideal.”
Though no trainer has won more races than Middleham-based Johnston, he’s made no secret of his desire to win the St Leger – one of the few long distance races to elude him.
However Logician, sired by the legendary Frankel, has been hugely impressive in winning each of his four starts to date under a resurgent Frankie Dettori and emerged as a red-hot favourite for the season’s final Classic with a comprehensive victory in the Great Voltigeur at York on his latest appearance.
Logician will on Saturday bid to provide trainer John Gosden with a fifth St Leger success – following his previous triumphs with Shantou (1996), Lucarno (2007), Arctic Cosmos (2010) and Masked Marvel (2011).
Aidan O’Brien already has six victories in the Town Moor showpiece to his credit, having struck gold with Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003), Scorpion (2005), Leading Light (2013), Capri (2017) and Kew Gardens (2018).
The Ballydoyle handler has whittled this year’s potential team down to six, with Sir Dragonet and Il Paradiso his two chief contenders.
Sir Dragonet finished a close-up fifth when favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom in June, but was beaten at odds-on when he returned from a midsummer break in the Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh last month.
Il Paradiso, on the other hand, is set to line up off the back of a career-best performance in third behind star older stayer Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup at York.
The O’Brien squad is completed by Barbados, Norway, South Pacific and Western Australia.
Sir Ron Priestley has won five of his six starts this season – his only blip coming at Royal Ascot. Mark Johnston’s charge is unbeaten in three subsequent appearances and is set to step up to Group One level for the first time.
Martyn Meade’s Geoffrey Free winner Technician and Royal Ascot winner Dashing Willoughby from Andrew Balding’s yard complete the acceptors.
But the aforementioned Gosden is hoping the Doncaster showpiece will prove the perfect test for Logician.
“He has been in great form since York,” he said last night.
“He is a very relaxed character and he has a lovely big, long, loping stride.
“I thought (back in May) this might be a Leger horse. “He has come a long way in a short time.
“The nice long straight at Doncaster should suit him well.
“But it will not just be Aidan and our one horse – there are other horses in play, and I’ve mentioned one that won at Goodwood (Sir Ron Priestley). “It has more depth to the field than people are making out.”