Logician (right) ridden by Frankie Dettori wins the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur Stakes
John Gosden admits Logician faces a step into unknown territory as he bids to provide him with a fifth victory in the William Hill St Leger.
It is 23 years since the master of Clarehaven first landed the world’s oldest Classic with Shantou. He has since added to his tally with three wins in five years courtesy of Lucarno (2007), Arctic Cosmos (2010) Masked Marvel (2011).
The Khalid Abdullah-owned Logician made his racecourse debut only in May, but created a big impression in winning his first three starts – with a pair of emphatic wins at Newbury sandwiching a similarly dominant display at Newmarket.
The son of Frankel graduated to Group Two class with a facile success in the the Great Voltigeur at York last month and will line up at Doncaster on Saturday as a red-hot favourite in the hands of five-time Leger-winning jockey Frankie Dettori.
“He has been in great form since York. He is very much a work in progress and didn’t start racing until late in life,” said Gosden.
“I thought back in May he might be a Leger horse. He won a maiden down at Newbury, then a novice over a mile and a quarter at the July course and then a 0-90 handicap back at Newbury, when it was the first time Frankie rode him. He has come a long way in a short time.
“He stepped up again in the Great Voltigeur, and we were very happy with him.
“He’s fine on top of the ground, there’s no doubt he’s a better horse on good, easy side of good, but that might go for a few others.”
Gosden believes the decision not to run Logician as a two-year-old and instead give him time to mature has been key in his development.
He said: “He came to us pretty late, and I think giving him that time has benefited him.
“He is a nice horse to be around. He is a very relaxed character and has a lovely, long loping stride.
“I think the nice, long straight at Doncaster should suit him well.”
The two obvious questions hanging over Logician heading into the Town Moor showpiece are whether his stamina will last out over the one-mile-six-furlong distance, and whether his lack of big-race experience could prove his undoing.
Assessing both aspects, Gosden added: “We’ve been lucky to win the Leger four times, and those horses were more seasoned than him. It is a proper test of a thoroughbred over that trip – the one-mile-six is something, and the last 185 yards could be quite telling.
“You always know you going into uncharted territories with a young horse like him. It is not like he has won a trial over a mile and three-quarters.
“He gives me the signs, as he is very relaxed, that he will stay well.”
As always, Gosden is respectful of the opposition – giving special mention to the Mark Johnston-trained Sir Ron Priestley, who claimed his fifth win from six starts this season in last month’s March Stakes at Goodwood.
He said: “I think it is a solid renewal. You have a horse in there that won the March Stakes and stayed on well. That was a race I watched carefully, because we were second in it (with Promissory).
“It will probably be an end-to-end gallop, and that is not a bad thing as it thins the field out.
“You can get trouble in running, and I remember a couple of horses that have been unlucky not to win there. I will leave all that to Frankie and the horse – they don’t need any instructions.
“When you see the horses that are still rolling between the two-furlong marker and the one, that will tell us what kind of quality Leger it is.”
Dragon to fire
Sir Dragonet and Il Paradiso give Aidan O’Brien a strong hand.
The Ballydoyle handler claimed his sixth victory in the Town Moor showpiece with Kew Gardens 12 months ago – adding to his previous triumphs with Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003), Scorpion (2005), Leading Light (2013) and Capri (2017).
Chester Vase winner Sir Dragonet has already had one tilt at Classic glory this season, finishing a close-up fifth when favourite for the Investec Derby at Epsom in early June.
He was beaten at odds-on on his return from a midsummer break in the Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh last month, but O’Brien believes his charge will strip much fitter on Saturday – and is confident the step up to a mile and three-quarters will not be an issue.
Assessing the main market rival to the John Gosden-trained Logician, O’Brien said: “Sir Dragonet is a horse that has plenty of class.
“He was just ready to start back at the Curragh. He got a little bit tired, which he was entitled to do. I was being very careful and gentle with him.
“He has never run anything less than a mile and a half, other than the last day over a mile and a quarter. We started him at a mile and a half and we think there is a good chance he will get the trip.
“I don’t think he is ground dependent. He only ran on soft ground before Epsom, and that was good ground, and he came out of that perfect.
“There is no doubt his best run was his Epsom run.”
Sir Dragonet’s stablemate Il Paradiso has already proved his stamina, having produced a career-best performance when third behind star older stayer Stradivarius in the Lonsdale Cup over two miles at York last month.
“He stays very well and looks like a horse that will get a Gold Cup trip – he looks like he will get two and a half miles,” O’Brien added.
“I think he will be happy enough. He doesn’t mind being ridden forward. You would be riding him like you are sure that he will stay and the other (Sir Dragonet) you will be taking your time with a little, I’d imagine.”
O’Brien also saddles rank outsider 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 steps up to Group One level for the first time.
Johnston, who has a second string to his bow in Nayef Road, said: “He (Sir Ron Priestley) has got a lot to find, and it would have to be a career-best, but he deserves to be there.
“He has done nearly everything right in the lower grades, with the exception of Royal Ascot. Now he has got to step up to the big one.
“I never underestimate the Leger, because I’ve run some top horses in it and they have been beaten. We know he gets the trip, so we have no doubts about him there.
“Most of them in there will be getting the trip – they are class horses, so they should do. He stays the trip very well and is a genuine horse.”
Martyn Meade’s Geoffrey Freer winner Technician and Dashing Willoughby, from Andrew Balding’s yard, complete the eight-strong field.
Balding said of his Royal Ascot winner: “He has run well at Newmarket on Goodwood on fast ground so he doesn’t have to have it soft.
“He’s run to a fair level all year and been really consistent, so I’d hope he’d run well.”