2017 American St. Leger Preview

The American St. Leger returns to the Festival calendar for the sixth time this year.  Not only is the race the newest of the Festival races, it is also the longest, at a mile and eleven sixteenths. Listed for the first three years of its existence, it gained Grade III status in 2015.   The first two editions of the American St. Leger were annexed by horses owned by Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock: Jakkalberry in 2012, and Dandino in 2013.  Dandino returned the next year to defend his crown, but could not catch Illinois-bred The Pizza Man.  Lucky Speed, another international competitor (though German, not Australian), won in 2015.  The American St. Leger title went back to the United States in 2016 with trainer Mike Maker's star stayer, Da Big Hoss -- and it will definitely stay in the country this year, as all eight entrants in this $250,000 race are based and trained domestically.


Mike Maker charge Da Big Hoss asserts his position at the top of the American stayers' division a year ago, winning the American St. Leger.

This is just one of six stakes races on Arlington Million Day; we have a separate page with links to all of our previews and analysis for Saturday at Arlington.

Selections are made for turf only.

Race 9: American St. Leger (G3), three-year-olds and up, one and eleven sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 4:58pm CST

Mike Maker has emerged as a shrewd spotter and trainer of turf stayers.  He won the American St. Leger last year with Da Big Hoss, and this year the race goes through his pair of entrants.  Between the two, this space likes TAGHLEEB a little bit better.  He was sent shorter than his best in the Arlington Handicap last out, and was a bit outclassed in an uncommonly good version of the Belmont Gold Cup (G3) two starts back.  But, digging back past those two races reveals a horse who should win this race.  Three back, he finished second in the Man O' War (G1), a race that was still even a bit short for his preferences.  In the winter at Gulfstream, he won the two-mile Allen Jerkens and the mile-and-a-half McKnight (G3).  On pace, he likes to come from out of it -- but he can be a bit tactical if he needs, and this year's St. Leger drew a bit more speed than usual for a race this long.  TAGHLEEB is the proven stayer, and TAGHLEEB is the one to beat.

His biggest competition comes from his own shedrow: 2017 Stars and Stripes Stakes winner KEYSTONEFORVICTORY.  The son of Shakespeare was effective going shorter before this spring, but has now won a pair of races going a mile and a half, and has shown a solid late run.  Should TAGHLEEB return to his best, KEYSTONEFORVICTORY is going to have to run his best race to outdo him, but there are reasons he can.  He is proven over the course, having won the local prep.  He keeps Julien Leparoux from that outing.  He has been a closer in his staying tries, but has some back form to suggest he can be more forward if necessary.  The minor question is the distance, since this will be his first try past a mile and a half.  But, Mike Maker has a good handle on finding horses who can stay, and he has run his mile and a half races like a horse who may want to go even longer.

This space considered BULLARDS ALLEY for this third spot, but that one has been far more an underneath type as of late.  He is in good form, so consider him for intra-race exotics.  But, for a horse outside the Maker barn who has a better shot to win, take a long look at POSTULATION.  He comes for trainer Edward Graham off a win in the mile and a half Cape Henlopen Stakes.  If that pattern sounds familiar, that's because it should: in 2014, Graham brought Hardest Core to Arlington after a win in the Cape Henlopen, cross-entered him in the Million and the St. Leger, and got his picture taken after the Arlington Million.  POSTULATION won the Cape Henlopen on the front end, but has also shown some ability to rate just off the pace, a positive especially should CREWMAN decide to go.  He has run into difficult horses over and over again: winners of his races this year have included a host of tough next-out winners like Million contenders Ghost Hunter and Ascend.  Running in the same ZIP code as those horses -- and winning once he found his way behind their shadow -- give him plenty of class for the St. Leger.

Selections:

#2 TAGHLEEB (2/1)

#1 KEYSTONEFORVICTORY (5/2)

#7 POSTULATION (5/1)

Longshot:  #3 CREWMAN (15/1) has never gone this long before, and is a better horse on the polytrack than he is on the turf.  Even so?  There are several in this field who have shown speed, but if versatile sorts like POSTULATION and APPLICATOR decide to take back, CREWMAN may get brave and forget to stop.  He sent last out in the Arlington Handicap (G3), but got dogged by eventual second-place finisher Oak Brook, and faded in the late stages.  Though this race is longer, less pace pressure might be exactly what CREWMAN needs to thrive.  He has little choice but to send from the 3 gate -- but if it becomes a game of chicken on the lead, CREWMAN will have the upper hand.

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