Don’t underestimate Venice Beach in open St Leger


The final British Classic of the season has got a wide open feel to it as the Aidan O’Brien-trained Capri heads the betting at 7/2 for the St Leger 2017 at Doncaster on Saturday.

Winner of the Irish Derby at the Curragh in June, Capri has the standout form on offer and has the services of Ryan Moore for the Town Moor showpiece.

Capri’s defeat of subsequent dual Group 2 winner Cracksman to win the Irish Derby gives him fair claims but this remains the only British Classic to have eluded Moore, while O’Brien’s all-conquering Ballydoyle team has triumphed just once in the previous 11 renewals. Perhaps these are mitigating factors in Capri being relatively easy to back.

In such circumstances, it can often prove profitable to look away from O’Brien’s perceived first-string – see Winter in the 1,000 Guineas already this season. On that basis, 11/1 chance Venice Beach might be underestimated currently.

He finished (a distant) second to Cracksman in last months’ Great Voltigeur at York, one of the key trials for this race and Seamie Heffernan’s mount seems almost certain to relish the exacting test of stamina in the St Leger making him an appealing each-way proposition.

The Leger has been dominated by British trainers in recent times and Roger Varian will be aiming to land this race for a second time after Kingston Hill triumphed in 2014.

Defoe is unbeaten in four starts this season – the only one of the 11 contenders with an unblemished three-year-old record – and continues to improve with every run.

Last time out he won the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury, rubberstamping his stamina for this test. Andrea Atzeni, Leger winner in 2014 and 2015, has formidable Doncaster record and has been waxing lyrical this week on the potential for further improvement from the strong-travelling 9/2 chance Defoe.

Fillies have a strong record in the St Leger and five-time winner Frankie Dettori partners 11/2 chance Coronet – the sole filly in the field – for John Gosden.

Since winning the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, Coronet has twice raced in behind the superlative filly Enable and she should appreciate both this longer trip and the absence of her wonderful stablemate, ensuring she has decent claims of carrying Dettori towards another Doncaster challenge.

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