Godolphin handler Mahmood Al Zarooni is looking to crown an excellent first season as a trainer with victory in the £500,000 Group One Ladbrokes St Leger with Rewilding, who heads 16 remaining entries for the world’s oldest Classic at Doncaster on Saturday, 11 September, following the final scratchings deadline.
The Maktoum family’s racing operation boasts an enviable record in the season’s final Classic, staged over one and three quarter miles and 132 yards.
Godolphin enjoyed a fifth success in the Ladbrokes St Leger last year as the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Mastery got the better of stable companion Kite Wood in a thrilling finish.
The famous royal blue silks have also been carried to victory by Classic Cliche (1995), Nedawi (1998), Mutafaweq (1999) and Rule Of Law (2004).
Rewilding is the favourite for the Ladbrokes St Leger following a comprehensive four-length triumph in the leading trial for Doncaster, the Group Two Great Voltigeur Stakes at York on 17 August.
The three-year-old Tiger Hill colt had previously stayed on to take third in the fourth of the five British Classics, the Group One Investec Derby at Epsom Downs in June, having previously made an impressive British debut in May when easily winning a Listed contest at Goodwood.
Group One German Derby hero Buzzword and Vibrant Force, also trained by Al Zarooni, feature among those going forward for the Ladbrokes St Leger.
Al Zarooni commented: “Rewilding has been very well since the Great Voltigeur Stakes. The race didn’t take as much out of him compared to the Derby as he didn’t go to York fully wound up.
“The course at York suited him better than Epsom and Goodwood, where he didn’t look comfortable, and the strong pace also helped him.
“I think that he will enjoy the step up to an extended mile and three quarters because he is a light horse.
“We don’t do much with him at home and we pushed him too hard earlier in the season to get him ready for the Derby, which took a lot out of him. We know him better now and we know that we don’t have to be too hard on him. He has the class to run well.
“Buzzword will probably not head to Doncaster and he could go to Turkey for the Bosphorus Cup a week earlier. He stayed a mile and a half well in the German Derby but I don’t think that he would get the extra distance of the Ladbrokes St Leger.
“We also have Vibrant Force but any decision regarding pacemakers will be taken nearer the time. Rewilding needs a good pace to be at his best but it looks like there may be one or two horses remaining who will set the gallop.
“I was lucky enough to be at Doncaster when Mastery and Kite Wood finished first and second last year and it was a great day for Godolphin. We love to have Classic winners and I am hopeful that Rewilding can add to our success in the race.”
Like Rewilding, Snow Fairy also enhanced her claims for the Ladbrokes St Leger with an excellent performance at York’s Ebor meeting as she went down by three lengths to Midday in the Group One Yorkshire Oaks.
The Ed Dunlop-trained filly has already tasted Classic glory in both the English and Irish Oaks this season and is bidding to become the first filly to win the Ladbrokes St Leger since User Friendly in 1992.
Aidan O’Brien, Ireland’s champion trainer, has landed the Ladbrokes St Leger on three occasions, thanks to Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003) and Scorpion (2005).
The master of Ballydoyle is set to launch another strong challenge with his six remaining entries. Midas Touch was second in the Irish Derby and filled the same position behind Rewilding at York, once place ahead of Group Two winner Joshua Tree.
The sextet of O’Brien entries also includes Cape Blanco, who got the better of Midas Touch in the Irish Derby and was second to Harbinger in the Group One King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, Navan maiden victor Flying Cross, Await The Dawn and Bright Horizon.
James Given is bidding for a first Classic success with Dandino, who failed by a head to win the Group Three Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last month – a race that also featured third Arctic Cosmos, from the stable of John Gosden, the Mark Johnston-trained Corsica (fifth) and Theology (sixth), representing Jeremy Noseda. Gosden won the Ladbrokes St Leger with Shantou (1996) and Lucarno (2007), while Noseda triumphed with Sixties Icon (2006).
Mark Tompkins, who trains in Newmarket, has had the Ladbrokes St Leger in mind all season for Ted Spread, who scored in the Group Three Chester Vase in May and was fourth behind Rewilding at York. He won the Ladbrokes St Leger with Bob’s Return in 1993.
Total Command, third in the Group Three Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in June, represents Sir Michael Stoute who won the Ladbrokes St Leger with Conduit in 2008.
The five-day confirmation stage for the Ladbrokes St Leger on Monday, 6 September, is also the final chance for any horse to be supplemented, at a cost of £45,000.
The four-day Ladbrokes St Leger Festival runs from Wednesday, 8 September through Saturday, 11 September at Doncaster.