Cracksman star turn as Frankel progeny make up half the field
Betway Great Voltigeur Stakes l 1m4f l G2 l ITV/RUK
Stand by for a Frankel fest five years on from the superstar's devastating triumph in the Juddmonte International as four of his offspring do battle in this intriguing warm-up for the main event.
Of the quartet, who make up half the field, most eyes will be on Cracksman, who is many people's idea of an Ebor meeting banker.
John Gosden has long had this race in mind for Sir Anthony Oppenheimer's homebred, who is a bit unlucky not to be billed a Derby winner having finished third at Epsom before going even closer when a neck second to Capri at the Curragh.
After a break in July, Cracksman has looked better than ever in his recent work on the Newmarket training grounds and Gosden is already playing the long game by suggesting this could be his last outing of 2017.
There is no Capri lying in wait this time as he scoped poorly at the weekend – and the pair will not clash in the St Leger either as Cracksman is not entered for Doncaster.
Cracksman was available at 7-4 over the weekend for the Voltigeur but is now odds-on – something that dismays Gosden.
He said: "Cracksman is a stupid price as there are some nice colts in the race and he shouldn't be odds-on. He's happy and well in himself and we freshened him up after his race in Ireland.
"It's always been the plan to come here and he won't mind if they get any showers before racing "
Dancer steps into unknown
Of the other three Frankels, Mirage Dancer is very much stepping into the unknown for Sir Michael Stoute after his third in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes last time.
Running for the same combination that landed the spoils with Sea Moon in 2011, Khalid Abdullah's colt is the least experienced in the field and is not bred to get the trip as his dam is by sprinter Green Desert.
Stoute said: "We’re just leaving nice gaps between his races. He's progressive. We like the horse and he keeps improving but this trip would be as far as he'd ever want to go.”
Also bringing Royal Ascot form to the table – and nailed on to get the distance – is the Andrew Balding-trained Count Octave, who turned in his best effort when chasing home subsequent Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius in the Queen's Vase.
Balding said: "He's in good form at home and looks to be improving all the time. Dropping back from a mile and six would be my main worry."
Making up the Frankel four is Atty Persse, who got the sire on the Royal Ascot scoreboard for the first time when landing the King George V Handicap.
He has fared less well since and trainer Roger Charlton said: "He's becoming a little bit difficult to place and it looks a competitive race. However, the fast ground and galloping track should suit him well."
O'Brien bids for repeat with trio
Venice Beach, who stayed on well for third place in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris on his most recent start, heads a trio of Aidan O'Brien-trained colts in a race he has won three times, most recently with Idaho a year ago.
O'Brien said of Ryan Moore's mount: "We were delighted with his run at Saint-Cloud. He's been in good form since and we think York should suit him well."
Seamie Heffernan, successful on Idaho 12 months ago, partners Spanish Steps, of whom O'Brien said: "He was very green when we ran him in a Group 1 in France two runs back but he learned a lot and won the Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown last time, when we let him roll along. We think he's improving."
Completing the Ballydoyle challenge is the Wayne Lordan-ridden Douglas Macarthur.
O'Brien added: "He had a break after running fifth in the Irish Derby and is just ready to start back. We're putting on a hood to keep him relaxed."
Seen you before
Khalidi takes on former stablemate Cracksman on his first start since his recent move from Gosden to Clive Cox.
Owner Nizar Aswar decided on a change of scenery for the Royal Ascot runner-up after his second to Crystal Ocean in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
Cox said: "We're just getting to know the horse really but this looks the right race for him, and we know he stays well."
VOLTIGEUR WINNERS IN ST LEGER
Year Horse Doncaster position
2001 Milan WON
2002 Bandari 3rd
2004 Rule Of Law WON
2005 Hard Top 5th
2007 Lucarno WON
2009 Monitor Closely 3rd
2010 Rewilding 6th
2011 Sea Moon 3rd
2012 Thought Worthy 6th
2015 Storm The Stars 4th
2016 Idaho Unseated rider
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