Hurricane Lane has strengthened his position at the top of the Cazoo St Leger market after emerging as the sole Godolphin contender for next month’s Classic.
The Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris winner is one of 18 remaining, following the latest forfeit stage for the centre piece of the St Leger Festival at Doncaster.
Stablemate Adayar, conqueror of Hurricane Lane in the Epsom Derby, will not be in opposition – one of 14 taken out of the reckoning on Tuesday, for the final Classic of the season on September 11, live on Sky Sports Racing.
While trainer Charlie Appleby is expected to prepare Adayar instead for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe three weeks later, Hurricane Lane may once again face Richard Hannon’s Mojo Star – who finished one place ahead of him when second in the Derby but was then only fifth in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh.
Also prominent among the remaining hopefuls are Johnny Murtagh’s fast-improving and prolific winner Ottoman Emperor – hero of the Group Three Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood – and Martyn Meade’s Irish Derby runner-up Lone Eagle.
Aidan O’Brien, a six-time winner of the St Leger, still has eight in contention this year – including Sir Lamorak and Sir Lucan. The latter was second to Ottoman Emperor at Goodwood and then fourth in the Great Voltigeur – in which stablemate The Mediterranean was runner-up, and may again re-oppose.
Great Voltigeur third Youth Spirit is one of two still in the mix for Andrew Balding, and the two fillies who have stood their ground to date are Roger Varian’s Save A Forest and Ralph Beckett’s Yesyes – both Listed winners.
Murtagh reports Ottoman Emperor, currently second favourite behind Hurricane Lane in the ante-post lists, to be in fine form as he begins to prepare for his big target.
“That is the plan so far – we’ve had no problems, touch wood,” said the Kildare trainer.
“I’ve not been speaking much to the OTI people (owners) since after Goodwood – (but) the English St Leger is the next stop.
“That last run was good, and the form of that race stood up at York.”
Murtagh admits requisite stamina remains the great unknown as Ottoman Emperor bids for the longest Classic, having been beaten just once in his career so far – on debut in a Dundalk maiden back in March.
He added: “I think he deserves his chance in the St Leger – whether he stays the mile and six is a question mark, but we’ll have to pay to find out!
“You won’t find out until the day, when he goes past that mile and a half.
“But he’s a relaxed horse, and he gives the impression that he will (stay).”