Ryan Moore completed the full set of British Classics when Capri, the Irish Derby winner sent off the 3-1 favourite, won the 242nd St Leger at Doncaster yesterday. It was trainer Aidan O'Brien's fifth victory in the world's oldest Classic.
For as long as William Hill sponsor the Leger - this was their first year - the bookmaker may be pushed to improve upon the quality of yesterday's race, which was widely agreed to be the best edition for ages.
It was the undoubted class of O'Brien's grey colt, by Galileo of course, that won the day as he came home half a length in front of Gordon Stakes winner Crystal Ocean with Stradivarius, the Goodwood Cup winner, a short-head back in third in a driving finish between the first three in the betting.
As he can, O'Brien had packed the field with four runners and sent The Anvil off with instructions to make it a proper test of stamina. The risk there, of course, was that it would set it up for Stradivarius, already proven over two miles, but the plan could not have worked better.
Moore had Capri in the first four the whole way but when The Anvil had folded, he was able to keep Capri in the front rank but kept managing to find a lead to 2 1/2 furlongs out. James Doyle had had to go on with Stradivarius but when Moore asked Capri to start digging deep and go on, his class took him past his stamina-laden rival.
Behind Capri nothing was going better than Crystal Ocean, which had ghosted into contention, but inside those long last two furlongs he could never quite get beyond Capri, and Michael Stoute's colt did well to hold on to second as Stradivarius fought back on the rail.
Rekindling, trained by Joseph O'Brien, was fourth, with Coronet, Frankie Dettori's mount, in fifth, while Defoe, tasting defeat for the first time this season, was the one disappointment, finishing second last.
Moore, whose nine previous domestic Classics (2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Derby and Oaks) include at least two wins in each, was pleased to have finally cracked the Leger despite this being only his eighth ride in it.
"I think it was a very good Leger," he said. "This horse won an Irish Derby, he won a Group Two at two, he's not done a lot wrong in his life. It was hard work but that didn't bother him. It was a hard race but he didn't look like a horse who had killed himself afterwards. Any of the first three would have been very worthy winners but the form of the Irish Derby has worked out well. He was the best horse on the day and he fought them off when he had to. He was very brave when the second came to me - he has plenty of heart."
For O'Brien, Classics do grow on trees - it was his 29th British one - but he appeared genuinely thrilled. "I can't tell you how delighted I am," he said. "[Capri] had a blip at York time and the worry coming here was that he'd improve a bit for the race. Ryan gave him a class ride and when Ryan really wanted, he gave.
"I'm always worried until they've crossed the line. But Seamus [Heffernan] always said he was brave. Ryan hadn't ridden him since the Beresford at two, which was a worry, but the professional he is it all went right."
Capri, who becomes the first horse since Nijinsky to double up in the Irish Derby and St Leger, now enters the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe equation. The race at Chantilly, in which O'Brien famously had the one-two-three last year, is two weeks today and beyond the red-hot favourite Enable, to say it looks open is being kind.
The way he is going you would not put it past Capri to give Enable a run for her money, and he is anything between 8-1 and 20-1 for the race.
Finishing second in the race for a second time, Jim Crowley, on Crystal Ocean, was pleased with his colt. "For a moment I thought I had it," he said. "It went like clockwork but the other horse just pulled out that bit more inside the last furlong."
John Gosden was pleased with Stradivarius (third). "He [Stradivarius] was a bit isolated out on his own but he's a horse that stays so he couldn't wait. He did nothing wrong. It was a hell of a Leger."
Telegraph Media Group Limited