Sir Dragonet and Il Paradiso give Aidan O’Brien a strong hand in the William Hill St Leger at Doncaster.
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.”