All eyes will be on York this Thursday as some of the leading three-year-olds in the business are set to battle it out for the Great Voltigeur Stakes. This Group 2 contest is a prestigious race in its own right, but it also serves as a crucial pointer for the upcoming St Leger Stakes. and the oldest of Britain’s five Classics. It always draws a stellar line-up and this year’s renewal is no different, with Kew Gardens leading the ante-post charge. The St Leger is the final leg of the Triple Crown But first, he must dazzle in the Great Voltigeur to justify his favourite tag.
If you read a bookmaker review and find the best odds on the market, you will see that Kew Gardens is the favourite in the St Leger ante-post betting, followed by Wells Farhh Go. The former is 7/2, while the latter is a popular choice at 8/1, but both must display their credentials in this challenging race at York first. The highly-rated Cross Country leads both of them in the Great Voltigeur betting, and he has been by far and away the most popular choice thus far among punters. It is worth noting that the Great Voltigeur is a few furlongs shorter than the 1m 6f 115y St Leger, but it will be a great indicator of the shape the leading contenders are in ahead of the £700,000 showpiece.
Cross Counter was ruthless and brilliant in equal measures as he romped to victory in the Group 3 Qatar Gordon Stakes earlier this month. The gelded son of Teofilo finished four and a half lengths clear of favourite Dee Ex Bee and set a new course record for the trip, which was just shy of 12 furlongs. “He is a horse that had a lovely, progressive profile going into the race today,” said trainer Charlie Appleby after the win. “We were confident we would put a race up to Dee Ex Bee. On the back of that, our long-term agenda was to take him to Australia for the Melbourne Cup.” That is a fine aim and he could be dangerous in the big race at Flemington.
However, Cross Counter is a gelding and therefore he cannot run in the St Leger, which is limited to colts and fillies. That has seen Kew Gardens seize favourite status in the St Leger, and that is deserved. This son of Galileo is trained by legendary Irish maestro Aidan O’Brien and he has been busy in his three years on this planet. He has run nine races, won three and placed in another three. He won his last two, the £200,000 Group 2 Qatar Stakes at Ascot and the Group 1 Grand Prix Stakes at Longchamp. Both wins came over a similar trip to the Great Voltigeur and that is in excellent form to take into the race.
He had to skip the King George at Royal Ascot with an infection, so it will be fascinating to see how he gets on. At odds of 11/4 with leading bookmakers, he looks like an intriguing choice to usurp Cross Counter. He carries a penalty for that Longchamp win, but he still has the pace and power to make a nuisance of himself in the Great Voltigeur. Another Appleby runner, Old Persian also looks like a good-each way shout at 14/1, and there is plenty more talent in this field. The Pentagon, Nelson and Zabriskie complete the O’Brien charge, and Sevenna Star and M C Muldoon will make things interesting. It is a red-hot field, but right now Kew Gardens stands out as an intriguing choice.