In last year's inaugural running of the American St. Leger, it was the globetrotting Jakkalberry owned by Darren Dance's Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock and trained by Marco Botti that took home the top prize in the $400,000 race at Arlington Park.
That team returns this year with British-bred Dandino in hopes of a repeat score in the 1 11/16 mile marathon turf event Aug. 17. Entering the St. Leger off a solid second-place finish in the Hardwicke Stakes (Eng-II) at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in June, the 6-year-old Dansili horse also owns a second-place finish in the Qatar Bloodstock Jockey Club Stakes (Eng-II) at Newmarket.
Group II winner Dandino was just a half-length shy of a grade I score when competing in last fall's Canadian International at Woodbine. Three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore will ride the 9-5 morning line favorite for the first time Saturday.
The main threat to Dandino is likely to come from Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Dark Cove. The 6-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro carries a three-race win streak into the St. Leger with victories in a trio of mile-and-a-half turf tilts: the Stars and Stripes (gr. III) at Arlington on Million Preview Day July 13, the Louisville Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs in May, and the Elkhorn Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland in April.
Joel Rosario picks up the mount on the Mike Maker-trained horse.
Mark Hawtin’s Wigmore Hall returns to Arlington’s International Festival for the fourth straight year. The High Chaparral gelding has yet to leave Chicago with a victory but the Michael Bell trainee did finish second to Paddy O'Prado in the 2010 Secretariat Stakes (gr. IT). In two tries in the Arlington Million (gr. IT), the Irish-bred runner finished fourth in 2011 and seventh last year.
However, his trips to North America have not been for naught as he has twice captured the Northern Dancer Stakes (Can-IT) at Woodbine. In his most recent effort, Wigmore Hall ran third in the Sky Bet York Stakes (Eng-II) in England. Jamie Spencer, who won the 2011 Million aboard Cape Blanco, has the mount.
Shadwell Stable’s Najjaar, who was a half-length behind Dark Cove in the Louisville Handicap, is part of a large local contingent of runners entered in the St. Leger. A 4-year-old son of Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Jazil, Najjaar was most recently fourth in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/4 miles.
Team Block is represented Ioya Bigtime and Suntracer, both trained by Chris Block. Ioya Bigtime, a 6-year-old Dynaformer horse, made much of the pace before being overtaken by Jakkalberry to finish second in last season's St. Leger.
$400,000 American St. Leger Stakes Stakes (race 7, approximate post time 4:19 p.m.) 3YO&Up, 1 11/16 miles
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Dark Cove (KY), J. Rosario, 126, M. Maker
2. Ojos de Hielo (TX), Q. Hamilton, 119, L. Rivelli
3. Code of Conduct (KY), F. Geroux, 119, W. Catalano
4. Dandino (GB), R. Moore, 119, M. Botti
5. Suntracer (IL), E. Castro, 119, C. Block
6. Ioya Bigtime (IL), F. Torres, 119. C. Block
7. Najjaar (KY), J. Graham, 119, D. Peitz
8. Wigmore Hall (IRE), J. Spencer, 119, M. Bell