Marzocco to boost Classic claims
Matt Brocklebank runs through the Neptune Investment Great Voltigeur Stakes entries and highlights which horses may be of interest for the St Leger.
Also holds an entry in the Juddmonte International over 10 furlongs but the mile and a half trip of the Voltigeur looks ideal on what he has shown so far, including a runaway success in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. He didn't quite justify the move to supplement him for the King George last month but it was still a highly creditable effort to finish fourth, in front of the likes of Trading Leather and Magician. Tops the market for the Leger on account of that excellent form against older horses, but it's hard to consider him a good wager until connections make it clear Doncaster is the intended destination.
Aidan O'Brien is not known for running his main Doncaster hope at York but Milan completed the Voltigeur/Leger double for the yard in 2001 and this son of Galileo consigned the form of his debut sixth firmly to the past when dotting up by 19 lengths in a Tipperary maiden in late-June. Mixed messages from that form but it's safe to say it wasn't a red-hot contest and he'll face a far sterner test of his Classic credentials if turning up on the Knavesmire.
Progressive performer at two and although he didn't live up to expectations early on this year, he wasn't beaten far by Snow Sky in the Lingfield Derby Trial and his form has taken off since. Toughed it out to win the Queen's Vase over two miles at Royal Ascot and proved his class with an all-the-way success dropped back to a mile and five in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket. Mark Johnston suggested it could be straight to the Leger following that win but the Voltigeur seems a perfect fit beforehand, despite the fact he was thrashed on debut on his only previous run at York last summer.
Another entry from the O'Brien yard who retains tons of potential based on last year's form when he won two from two, including a Listed success. Reported to be stiff behind following his disappointing comeback run at Leopardstown back in March and not seen since, but his string of entries suggest he's over those problems and could be in for a busy autumn campaign. Participation in the Voltigeur and Leger must be in some doubt, hence the long odds, but a fascinating three-year-old who could yet reach the top.
The same price as Granddukeoftuscany for the St Leger but there's no doubting while that O'Brien inmate has potential, Kingfisher has much the best form in the book already. He doesn't have a perfect CV by any means but the pick of his efforts, namely his Dee Stakes victory and Irish Derby second to Australia last time, mark him down as a very smart colt and he was staying on strongly at the finish at the Curragh. Has a number of options in the coming weeks so hard to pin down exactly where he will run but a strong gallop over a mile and a half plays to his strengths so the step up in distance at Doncaster should suit.
Runs for the same connections as Snow Sky and looks the likelier of the two to line up on the Knavesmire given he scored at York on his penultimate start and his stablemate won the principal Leger trial at Glorious Goodwood. Won despite showing signs of immaturity when getting the better of strong Ebor contender Mighty Yar at York and still looked a horse on the up despite being beaten by Double Bluff in a Goodwood handicap. His trainer has won two of the past three Voltigeurs and it would be no surprise to see the 16/1 for the Leger disappear at some stage soon.
One of the best two-year-olds around last term and although without a win in three starts this season, it's fair to say he's been swimming in the fast lane. Shaped like a stiffer test was required when beaten five lengths in the 2000 Guineas and duly posted a fine second behind Australia in the Derby. Slightly disappointing when asked to tackle older horses for the first time in the Coral-Eclipse but the race didn't seem to be run to suit and it would be no surprise to see him given another chance to prove himself over 10 furlongs in the Juddmonte International, rather than take up his Voltigeur entry. That would therefore make him a risky ante-post proposition for the St Leger.
John Gosden has a habit of improving his three-year-olds quite dramatically at this stage of the season, winning three Voltigeurs and four St Legers, including Lucarno, who did the double in 2007. Marzocco therefore demands a great deal of respect as a matter of course and although he was beaten a couple of lengths by Hartnell in the Queen's Vase, there was plenty of encouragement in his subsequent fifth from a wide draw in the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. Has the Ebor as an alternative York engagement but the Voltigeur looks tailor-made and he's another whose St Leger odds could be tumbling after this stellar meeting.
Form ties in with a few of these as he beat Marzocco a neck in the Cocked Hat Stakes but let down favourite-backers subsequently when a well-held sixth of seven in the Gordon Stakes, won by Snow Sky, at Glorious Goodwood. There's a strong chance the fast ground was against him last time as it was soft when he won back in May so connections will be keeping a close eye on the weather. Clearly not much between he and Marzocco and I'd rather be with the latter at the current odds for the St Leger.
Only raced once as a juvenile but he made no mistake in a Redcar maiden on his seasonal bow and has run well in decent company without really setting the world alight in three starts since. There was promise in his Dante effort but he was adrift of Eagle Top and Snow Sky at Ascot and was probably too keen for his own good in a Hamilton Listed race last time. Leger odds aren't too tempting for all that a thorough stamina test could be just what's required to unlock some improvement.
Postponed (not entered in St Leger)
Kept to seven furlongs last season but posted three solid efforts when stepped up in trip earlier this year and the move to an extended mile and three furlongs saw him return to winning ways in a Hamilton Listed race last month. Numbered Odeon and subsequent Goodwood winner Double Bluff among his victims in Scotland and he was never stronger than at the finish. Unlike plenty of these entrants, he heads to York on the back of a career-best and although not yet in the Leger, a strong showing on the Knavesmire will no doubt change things in that respect.
Belied expectations when fifth in the Derby at 100/1 but that effort looked too good to be true based on his earlier form and the fact his only run since yielded a 50-length seventh of seven behind Snow Sky at Goodwood doesn't do much to dispel those suspicions. Layers not taking many chances around the 25/1 mark for the Leger and he can only be watched if declared for the Voltigeur.
Red Rocks Point (not entered in St Leger)
The fourth and final Aidan O'Brien-trained Voltigeur entrant and by no means the least interesting. Beaten in a handicap off a mark of 102 at Gowran Park last time but he was conceding plenty of weight to the winner and simply looked touch short of experience to complete the job having made the running. Likely to have learnt a great deal from that outing but whether he's up to competing in races such as the Voltigeur or the Leger remains to be seen and he isn't even entered in the latter yet.
As touched upon above, the most likely scenario at this stage is for Kings Fete to represent Sir Michael Stoute and Khalid Abdullah in the Great Voltigeur, with Snow Sky going straight for the Leger. This is far from set in stone, however, and this son of Nayef would have to be high on the list if taking up his engagement at York. Has developed gradually this season having missed the Derby due to a minor setback but he looked good value for his neck victory over Windshear in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Could yet have more to offer and there's plenty of stamina on the dam's side of his pedigree to suggest the Leger trip should be within his compass. There could still be a spot of value in the 10/1 for the Classic.
It will be fascinating to see how many of the Aidan O'Brien quartet make the final field for the Great Voltigeur, likewise which of Sir Michael Stoute's duo line up. However, John Gosden's fantastic record in both the Voltigeur and St Leger means Eagle Top and MARZOCCO must be considered seriously and the latter has the potential to shorten considerably in the market with a positive showing at York. He looked stretched by the marathon trip when third to Hartnell in the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot but posted a decent effort from a wide draw in atrocious conditions in the Group One Grand Prix de Paris last month. He looks a typical improver from the Gosden yard and is worth an each-way ante-post investment for the Leger.