Bandari Heads St. Leger

Bandari, trained by Mark Johnston for Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, will be bidding to become the first winner of the Rothmans Royals St Leger for 29 years trained in that county -- since Peleid in 1973 -- when he takes on nine rivals in the final classic of the British season at Doncaster Saturday.

He will go into the race as a worthy favourite, having won three of his four starts this season -- the Derby Trial at Lingfield, the Peugeot Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York -- with the only lapse in that fine record coming when he disappointed in the Vodafone Derby
at Epsom.

Since then, though, his two successes at Goodwood and York have put that flop well behind him, and he showed an admirable attitude to the task when making all the running (very much his favoured tactics) when holding off Highest and Bollin Eric by a head and a neck at York last time.

Tomorrow's trip of a mile and three-quarters will be uncharted territory for all three of those colts, and a number of people take the view that
Bollin Eric, who was staying on really well at the finish of the Voltigeur, might be able to reverse the form with the two who beat him then.

His connections would not be averse to some rain to make the ground a bit easier, but they feel that he will be perfectly capable of showing his best form with the going as it is.

Before that fine York effort, Bollin Eric had been an unlucky third at Haydock and put up a brave fight against Balakheri in the King Edward V11 Stakes at Ascot. He has to improve on what he has achieved to reverse that form as well, but the longer distance could be a vital factor.

Before Highest was second at York, he had shown admirably consistent form at a lower level, winning two of his four starts and being second in the other two.

He is one of three runners in the race for Sir Michael Stoute -- Balakheri and First Charter are the others -- as the trainer tries to win the only classic which has so far eluded him.

Balakheri was somewhat disappointing in the Irish Derby when fifth behind High Chaparral and, though First Charter won the March Stakes at Goodwood last time, he was no match for Bandari in the Gordon and will have to excel himself to turn that form round.

Aidan O'Brien, who won the Rothmans Royals St Leger last year with Milan, has two runners this time -- Sholokhov and Black Sam Bellamy, and Shokolov looks much the better of that pair. Though he was only fourth after having acted as pacemaker for Hawk Wing in the Irish Champion Stakes last weekend, he had shown top level form before that when runner-up in the Irish Derby and the Eclipse.

The field for the Rothmans Royals St. Leger, in post position order with trainers and jockeys:

1) Balakheri (Michael Stoute, Pat Eddery)
2) Bandari (Mark Johnston, Richard Hills)
3) Black Sam Bellamy (Aidan O'Brien, Edie Ahern)
4) Bollin Eric (Tim Easterby, Kevin Darley)
5) First Charter (Michael Stoute, Jimmy Fortune)
6) Highest (Michael Stoute, Darryll Holland)
7) Mamool (Saeed bin Suroor, Frankie Dettori)
8) Mr Dinos (Paul Cole, Richard Quinn)
9) Nysaean (Richard Hannon, Richard Hughes)
10) Sholokhov (Aidan O'Brien, Mick Kinane)