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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Cornelius Lysaght column
Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

The apparent stranglehold trainer Aidan O'Brien has on Britain's final Classic race of the year, the St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday, is so great that the sponsors make him 2-1 ON to win.

Aidan O'Brien and Honolulu
Will the sun shine on Aidan O'Brien and Honolulu?

O'Brien, who's won the world's oldest Classic three times before - with Milan (2001), Brian Boru (2003) and Scorpion two years ago - will have four representatives.

Honolulu, runner up in York's Ebor Handicap in August, and Royal Ascot winner Mahler head the charge from the famous Ballydoyle stables in County Tipperary.

Here O'Brien, number one trainer to the Irish-based Coolmore racing operation, owner of his big-race runners, gives his St Leger thoughts.


Q: You have four in the race - Honolulu, Mahler, Macarthur and Acapulco...

A: Yes that's the plan with [Irish Derby winner] Soldier Of Fortune missing the race to go to France on Sunday for the Arc Trials day.

Q: Let's deal with them in betting order. Honolulu was second in the Ebor, with 9st 2lbs - how big a step would it be to go on and maybe win the St Leger?

A: The horse has improved with every run this year, and you have to remember he won a [better] Listed race before the Ebor. He is progressing all the time, and we have been very happy with him since York last month.

ST LEGER BETTING
The Leger returns to Doncaster after the course's 32m revamp
9-4 Honolulu
9-2 Lucarno
11-2 Mahler
6-1 Macarthur
10-1 Raincoat, Regal Flush, Veracity
14-1 Bar
Odds: Ladbrokes 12 Sep

Q: What about Mahler?

A: Again I am very happy with him. He had a break after beating Veracity in the Queen's Vase at Ascot, because he had been busy enough up to then.

He was fifth in the Great Voltigeur (at York's Ebor Festival) and that was a good prep race for the Leger, and he's really come forward since then. He stays the [mile and three quarter] distance well, and handles the fast ground we are expecting.

Q: I personally have always liked Macarthur since he won his maiden well last autumn. He was your big Epsom Derby hope then, so is it a bit disappointing, he hasn't won again?

A: We thought he'd improve for his first run, and then he ran in the Derrinstown (Derby Trial at Leopardstown) and came back very sore afterwards. So he had to have a rest, and was off for a long time before coming back very well in third place in the Voltigeur. I've been happy with him since then.

Q: Do you think that he will finally come good again?

A: He has lots of quality and is a good mover that will handle the fast ground at Doncaster, and I remain confident it will happen for him. We are lucky to have had the time to give him, and he is going the right way.

606: DEBATE
BL
Q: The last of the big four is Acapulco, who was fourth in the Voltigeur...

A: He had a good long break after the [Epsom] Derby, and he should also have come on for his run at York. He gets the trip well, and I am very happy with him.

Q: How do you see the St Leger in the general scheme of things?

A: It is a seriously important race for the staying type of three-year-old. It is prestigious and run at a good track, and I think sets up a horse for the rest of its life. You need speed and to be able to stay, and I cannot say enough about how much I personally rate the race.

Q: Just finally, George Washington ran third in France last weekend, so another defeat for last year's 2000 Guineas winner - is he going to be Gorgeous George again soon?

A: I was very happy with George. Kieren's (Fallon) first priority was to get him anchored and relaxed, and he did end up further back than we all wanted, and didn't get to make his move until the race was really over.

But he flew home, and looked the next day like he hadn't had a race, so we are looking forward very much to next time (a likely attempt for a repeat win in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, 29 September.)


CORNELIUS LYSAGHT'S VERDICT:
People at Coolmore are positive Macarthur will eventually come up trumps. After a sound return when third in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York,he may represent best value of the O'Brien runners in the race.

Follow commentary of the Ladbrokes St Leger, 1515 BST Saturday, on BBC 5Live.



SEE ALSO
Racecourse open after 32m revamp
17 Aug 07 |  South Yorkshire
Sixties Icon romps to Leger win
09 Sep 06 |  Horse Racing


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