Ante-post favourite Kew Gardens heads a field of 16 horses standing their ground at the five-day stage for the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday.
The Queen’s Vase and Grand Prix de Paris hero enhanced his Classic claims in defeat last time out when finishing a staying-on third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, where he was burdened with a Group One penalty.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “We were delighted with Kew Gardens at York.
“It wasn’t ideal under the penalty, but he had to have the run and we just thought that was the perfect place to give him his prep.
“Ryan (Moore) was delighted with him, he obviously stays further and we always thought that Doncaster would suit him.
“He had one disappointing run and that was in the Derby and he disappointed us a little bit at Lingfield, so maybe he’s a horse that just likes a level track.
“We rode him forward enough in the Derby, too, and maybe if we’d taken our time with him that might have suited him better.”
Kew Gardens is one of seven possibles trained by O’Brien, who seeks a sixth win in the world’s oldest Classic.
The other Ballydoyle confirmations are Flag Of Honour, Southern France, The Pentagon, Nelson, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Zabriskie.
Joseph O’Brien, successful as a rider on Leading Light for his father in 2013, has a strong contender in Latrobe, winner of the Irish Derby.
Latrobe beat only one horse home in the Juddmonte International at York on his most recent outing, but O’Brien felt both tactics and the 10-furlong trip had been against his charge that day.
He said: “He’s in good form. We probably got our tactics wrong a bit at York, but obviously we also found out that we needed to go back up in trip.
“It was a bit of a fact-finding mission at York as we had the easier option of running him in the Great Voltigeur under a penalty. But I suppose it made more sense for us to find out exactly where we are with him. We had to rule it out or in.
“He didn’t run too badly at all and we were probably a bit too positive in a race where you wanted to be sitting a bit further back. He was a bit outpaced and he stayed on well, but after that we said we would go straight back up in trip.”
Great Voltigeur scorer Old Persian, trained by Charlie Appleby, is in the list along with two other Godolphin-owned colts, Loxley and Brundtland.
Appleby is keen to let Old Persian take his chance, but will be keeping a careful eye on the Town Moor weather.
He said: “As long as we get nice ground, then he’s a contender. I wouldn’t want him to be racing on anything bottomless as it just turns into a slog.
“We tried to give him a few easy days after York, but he didn’t appreciate that and was getting a little too fresh. He enjoys his work and is very straightforward.”
With Wells Farhh Go ruled out through injury, the big hope for the north is the Mark Johnston-trained Dee Ex Bee, who was runner-up in the Derby.
Charlie Johnston, assistant to his father, would welcome any rain at Doncaster for the Farhh colt, but is most buoyed by the Leger distance.
He told At The Races: “We think the ground is going to be an additional help, the main help is going to be the trip. He’s been crying out for a mile and six for quite some time now.
“The trip and as long as it’s not fast, which I don’t think it will be now, just good ground will be fine for him.
“This horse was second in the Derby, we’ve got a huge amount of respect for Kew Gardens after he beat us in France and how he ran at York, but outside him I think the Derby is the best piece of form in the race.
“If he runs to that level I think he’ll improve for the trip and he has to have a great chance.”
Lah Ti Dah, impressive winner of the Galtres Stakes at York last month in her first race since May, has been left in by trainer John Gosden.
A second filly, Maid Up, was added to the race at the supplementary stage. Andrew Balding’s charge showed her appreciation for a test of stamina when winning the Group Three March Stakes at Goodwood last month and connections have duly stumped up the £50,000 fee.
Raymond Tusk, trained by Richard Hannon, and Tom Dascombe’s Proschema complete the list.