2016 American St. Leger Preview

The American St. Leger returns to the Festival calendar for the fifth 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 last year  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 last year to defend his crown, but could not catch Illinois-bred The Pizza Man.  With The Pizza Man defecting to (and winning) the Arlington Million last year, the crown once again went to a horse with overseas connections: Irish-bred, German-trained Lucky Speed.

Illinois-bred The Pizza Man wins the 2014 American St. Leger, staying three turns on the Arlington grass and holding off 2013 American St. Leger winner Dandino.

Selections are made for turf only.

Race 6: American St. Leger (GIII), three-year-olds and up, one and eleven sixteenths miles on the turf, post time 4:05pm CDT

This year’s American St. Leger drew a field of eleven.  Should the entire field go, it will be the race’s biggest field to date.  Since being claimed for $50,000 by trainer Mike Maker last year, DA BIG HOSS has emerged as he leader of the American staying division.  The mile and eleven sixteenths trip should suit him fine.  Though he has done most of his work at a mile and a half, he won the two-mile Belmont Gold Cup last out, making the extra three-sixteenths of a mile past his normal trip no worry.  He is a versatile enough sort who can sit closer to the pace or come from farther off, as necessary, and should have no worries about anyone stealing the race with overmatched stablemate ROCKET PROFESSOR in the field to help him and GENEROUS KITTEN along.  DA BIG HOSS is consistent, long-winded, and in with a huge chance.

The question with DA BIG HOSS, of course, is “who did he beat”?  As he will be chalk, that question makes sense to ask.  And, CLONDAW WARRIOR brings enough to the table to recommend him as a good alternative.

CLONDAW WARRIOR won over hurdles last out, but has long been switching back and forth between the flat and the jumps.  A mile and eleven sixteenths will be the shortest trip he has taken in over a year, but he effectively cut back to win at a mile and a half in his first start after winning the two and a half mile Ascot Stakes during the 2015 Royal Ascot meeting.  The condition of the ground will be no worry either way for CLONDAW WARRIOR; he has been effective over firmer or softer going, so the rain predicted for Friday is a non-issue.  And, his class should be fine for this group.  Though he is typically more a handicap horse than a Group horse on the other side of the ocean, the staying division there is far deeper than it is here.  CLONDAW WARRIOR fits right in, and the price should be right with DA BIG HOSS taking money.

Finally, WASIR comes in with a chance.  In the mornings, he has looked good.  Having raced in Germany, France, England, and the UAE, he has been a bit of a globetrotter, and it shows given the professionalism with which he appears to have handled the ship to Arlington.  WASIR gets a welcome class break here after trying the Gold Cup (GI) at Ascot, one of the world’s premier staying races, last out.  He also gets a step back in trip from the two and a half miles there to a mile and eleven sixteenths here.  Two starts back, he won a German Group III going two miles, suggesting WASIR’s form is decent, just the likes of Order of St. George and Mizzou at Ascot were a bridge too far.  He does like to be on the front end, which is a concern with ROCKET PROFESSOR in the field.  However, if he can relax and get a “second-lone-speed” kind of trip behind the rabbit, he could be well set at solid odds.



#5 DA BIG HOSS (9/5)

#6 WASIR (12/1)

Longshot:  Marco Botti, so far, has been the only trainer to win two editions of the American St. Leger.  Roger Brueggemann aims to become the second with an intriguing longshot, #2 MONTCLAIR (15/1).  Brueggemann, of course, won with The Pizza Man for Midwest Thoroughbreds in 2014.  This time around, he has a horse for Midwest — but one they acquired via the claim box at Belmont in May.  They claimed him specifically to run long at Arlington, and his back form reveals why.  He has Group-level form in France in 2013 and 2014, with placings at 1 7/8 miles and 1 15/16 miles.  He has not tried anything as long as this since shipping to the States last year.  He should get some pace with ROCKET PROFESSOR, WASIR, and O’PRADO OLE in the field.  If the rain falls, some cut in the ground will not hurt MONTCLAIR.  His current class, of course, is the question; that stakes-level form came at ages three and four, and he is now six.  He has been mainly running in allowance-optional company here.  But, MONTCLAIR looks well-meant for a trainer who has already figured out how to get a horse ready for this race, and should improve on his recent form with more ground.


You can take “Picks & Ponderings” with you anytime, anywhere. You can get Twitter updates @picksponderings for on-scene reports from Arlington International Racecourse. And you can get “Picks and Ponderings” in your e-mail by typing your email address in the box and clicking “Create Subscription.” It’s a FREE service, and you’ll never get any unwanted spam.

Leave a comment