Another St Leger for Aidan O'Brien
Another St Leger for Aidan O'Brien

Saturday analysis | Royalty and Frankie Dettori have to watch on as Aidan O'Brien is king of the St Leger again

Ryan Moore is usually in Ireland on St Leger day, but this season’s scheduling saw the Irish Champions Festival run a week before Doncaster. How the king of racing, Frankie Dettori, and the actual King, who made the trip to Town Moor with Her Majesty The Queen, wish that were the case again this year.

Although in all honesty, the skills of Moore were hardly the defining factor here. His mount Continuous was so dominant you would think any of the four chosen jockeys for Ballydoyle could’ve steered him to victory, his potent blend of class and stamina ensuring a third St Leger for Moore – not bad considering his usual appearances at Leopardstown – and a seventh for Aidan O’Brien.

You need that mixture of class and stamina to win a good St Leger – and the 2023 renewal looked a good St Leger. We had a trio of horses from John & Thady Gosden’s all-conquering Clarehaven yard, themselves going for a sixth win in the race, including the mount of Dettori on his final Classic ride. We had the one-two from the Gordon Stakes, including the popular Royal runner. We had six horses rated 124 and above on Timeform ratings – a better class of race than has been the case in many of the last 25 renewals.

But only Continuous had the required ingredients to come out on top in such a contest and he did it decisively, marking himself out not just as a horse for the present, but a horse for the future, as well.

The way he did it – by two-and-three-quarter lengths at the line following a performance that was even more dominant than that – makes you question the depth of the field. Perhaps this wasn’t a vintage St Leger after all, time will tell. But the winner looks out of the top drawer.

It was the way he quickened to take control of the race in a flash that caught the eye, an attribute that suggests he will have no problem in dropping back to a mile and a half next season, or even before that if he is supplemented for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in two weeks’ time.

With Auguste Rodin having a preference for faster ground, the Ballydoyle Arc challenge was looking thin assuming conditions turn up soft like they usually do at Paris in the autumn. But here O’Brien has unearthed a contender, his midsummer break lending itself to a busier end-of-season campaign, his constitution not looking an issue the way he is taking his racing now.

Continuous is in complete control of the Betfred St Leger
FULL REPORT: Continuous all class in the Leger

At York in the spring he looked a work in progress in the Dante, the Derby coming too soon. But he went to the French Derby, the King Edward VII Stakes and then the Great Voltigeur, the same St Leger route taken by O’Brien’s Milan 22 years ago, and he improved with each and every run.

The Voltigeur performance screamed Doncaster and the York race retains its status as the preeminent St Leger trial, Continuous now the 10th horse this century to triumph on Town Moor having taken in his prep on the Knavesmire.

And for all the possible storylines the St Leger could’ve thrown up – the Royal silks prevailing in a Classic for the first time since Dunfermline in this race in 1977, Frankie winning his 24th Classic on his final go – it is O’Brien who we are talking about once again. It was ever thus.

Hot on the heels of training his 4,000th winner, this was his 43rd British Classic. And he’s doing it differently now, significantly winning three Classics this year with horses bred by Japanese sires, Auguste Rodin being by Deep Impact and Continuous by Heart’s Cry.

Racing fans in Japan will cheer on Continuous like one of their own if he does line up at Longchamp, the bookies tentatively pricing him up at around 12/1 given the up in the air situation regarding his participation. If he runs there he could go very well indeed.

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Alas it wasn’t to be for Frankie, who did at least choose the right one in jumping off the Voltigeur third, Gregory, in favour of the mud-loving Arrest. The son of Frankel ran well in second, but what he has in stamina he’s probably lacking in class a little, the rain not quite coming down in large enough quantities to swing things in his favour.

He looks a stayer to keep on the right side of though, particularly when he gets genuine testing ground, and well done to the person who bought Frankie’s Oaks trophy for £5,000 at auction in the summer, Soul Sister now confirmed as his final Classic winner. A shrewd investment!

Of the others Desert Hero didn’t seem to stay the trip and he could be an interesting older horse for next year over 1m4f, while Gregory lacked a gear on this ground. He could come into his own in the Cup races next year but softer conditions don’t look his bag at all.

Quite a few of these have been mentioned as possible Melbourne Cup horses, but Tower Of London looks the best candidate for that race from the Leger crew. A son of Galileo who prefers faster ground, he ran well in fourth here on conditions that probably went against him, and it wouldn’t surprise if he showed up well Down Under.

He’s trained by Aidan O’Brien, after all. Of course, with that in mind, nothing should surprise.

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