Idaho spearheads O’Brien’s St Leger team
Aidan O'Brien feels Idaho has all the credentials to provide him with a fifth victory in Saturday's Ladbrokes St Leger.
Since breaking his duck in the world's oldest Classic with Milan in 2001, the master of Ballydoyle has struck gold with Brian Boru (2003), Scorpion (2005) and Leading Light (2013).
The O'Brien-trained Bondi Beach was controversially awarded the race by the stewards 12 months ago, but first-past-the-post Simple Verse subsequently regained victory on appeal.
"I think Idaho is in the same category as my four previous winners. He has a very high level of form over 10 and 12 furlongs and is an uncomplicated horse," said the trainer.
"Everything has gone well and we have been looking forward to the Leger with him."
Idaho is odds-on across the board having mixed it with the best of his generation all year, most notably placing in both the Derby at Epsom and the Irish Derby at the Curragh.
He secured the big-race victory his consistency deserved in last month's Great Voltigeur at York and now tackles a mile and three-quarters for the first time.
O'Brien said: "He won his maiden very nicely at the Curragh and we've always liked him.
"He was then probably a bit green when he ran in the Group One (Criterium de Saint-Cloud), but he still ran very well in it.
"We were very happy with his first run (of the season) in the Ballysax and he ran very well in the Derrinstown, then he went to Epsom and ran very well there.
"He ran another good race at the Curragh and had a little break, then won the Volitgeur.
"That was the plan, to take time with him (in the Voltigeur). Seamus (Heffernan) was very happy with him and he quickened well.
"He seems to relax, he is a full-brother to Highland Reel and he gets a mile and a half well."
Idaho is one of three runners for O'Brien, with Sword Fighter and Housesofparliament also in the mix.
Sword Fighter won the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot and the Curragh Cup before finishing fifth in the Goodwood Cup, while Housesofparliament landed Newmarket's Bahrain Trophy before beating all bar Idaho in the Great Voltigeur.
"Sword Fighter stays well. He won well at Ascot and he won nicely at the Curragh and he ran well at Goodwood," said O'Brien.
"It was a big step up for him at Goodwood, but he would have learnt a lot from that.
"Housesofparliament is a very straightforward horse. He ran very well in the Voltigeur and won a nice race at Newmarket and he stays very well.
"The Leger is a very important race. The three-year-olds have categories – milers, mile-and-a-quarter horses and mile-and-a-half horses.
"The Leger is the last category to be filled in for the three-year-old stayers, so it's very important."
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Heading the home challenge is John Gosden's progressive colt Muntahaa.
Following a couple of promising efforts in defeat, the Dansili colt made it third time lucky in some style at Kempton before raising his game to finish third in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The grey got back on the winning trail in a Listed event at Chester three weeks ago, and Gosden feels that test should stand him in good stead for his Classic assignment.
"This horse never raced at two. He is babyish and he was caught out by greenness in the King Edward," said the Newmarket handler.
"At Chester, they are turning all the way and, funnily enough, you have to stay round there. He learnt a lot that day – it was Ladies Day and there was plenty of noise but he handled it fine.
"He is a grand horse, but the race is coming quite soon enough. He has only breezed once since Chester. He is a frame and has had one breeze with Paul Hanagan on top.
"He will get the trip – I just don't know if he will get the trip quick enough.
"The Leger is a fabulous race on a great day. The staying races are so important."
Trainer Laura Mongan believes the St Leger is the "perfect race" for stable star Harbour Law, who was runner-up in the Queen's Vase before finishing fourth in the Bahrain Trophy.
Mongan said: "Everyone at the yard is really excited to be involved in the Leger. Hopefully there will be a drop more rain to bring Harbour Law's stamina into play and he will do us proud.
"It's the perfect race for him – he's an out-and-out stayer who has matured as the year has progressed.
"He's professional in everything he does, a joy to train, and if he runs up to the level that he has previously been running this year, then he's good enough to be in the frame."
The Richard Hannon-trained Ventura Storm arrives in fine form having won a Listed prize at Hamilton and a Group Three at Deauville on his last couple of starts.
Champion jockey Silvestre de Sousa takes the ride.
Tom Palin of owners Middleham Park Racing said: "Last time out in Deauville he dominated the field and we had not seen a performance quite like that from him. He really put his opponents to the sword.
"You could maybe crib Ventura Storm's form a little bit – he was hit and miss in the middle part of the season – but, at the moment, he is a horse who is in fine fettle.
"Silvestre is champion jockey and likely to be so again. Going back a few years, when he came across to work for Dandy Nicholls, we helped out and it is nice we can continue our association."
Hannon believes his charge deserves his place in the field.
"He'll get the trip no problem and he's massively improving. He's worth taking his chance with," said the trainer.
"I'd love to see him run well and to be placed would be great."
Ormito was second to Ventura Storm at Hamilton before filling the runner-up spot once more in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury.
Trainer Andrew Balding said: "Ormito is an outsider but he has been pretty consistent this year – he has been placed in the Predominate, the Glasgow Stakes and the Geoffrey Freer. He is a solid horse who stays well and is versatile regarding ground conditions.
"He is a grand horse, probably just a little bit short of top class, but there is good place prize-money.
"He certainly deserves a place in the field."
Mick Channon's Harrison was not far behind Housesofparliament in the Bahrain Trophy and was fourth in the Great Voltigeur.
"We think we are good enough to be in the race, but whether we are good enough to win the race is another matter," said Channon.
"Harrison has done nothing wrong really. He has a bit to find and obviously Idaho gave us a good beating last time in the Voltigeur.
"With some softer ground and by riding him a bit differently, we hope we can find a bit of improvement."
Pat Shanahan's 100-1 shot The Tartan Spartan completes the field.
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