Top chance for Stoute

Michael Stoute is hoping Hard Top can finally break his Ladbrokes St Leger jinx and lift the Doncaster race on Saturday.

Michael Stoute is hoping Hard Top can finally break his Ladbrokes St Leger jinx and lift the Doncaster race on Saturday.

The Freemason Lodge handler has won virtually every other big event in the British calendar, but the final Classic of the season has so far eluded him.

“It’s the Classic that is missing, but in the past we’ve been beaten on merit with the possible exception of Quiff last year, when she just couldn’t get out when she wanted to be going and the ground was quick enough for her,” he told At The Races.

Hard Top has been well supported to end Stoute’s losing streak after producing a battling performance to take the Great Voltigeur Stakes.

That was only his third career start after running at Newmarket last October and winning a Lingfield maiden in July.

Stoute explained: “He just had a backend run at Newmarket when he was fifth behind Proclamation, which pleased me a lot. We had some niggles with him in the spring time – he wasn’t quite right.

“He won his Lingfield maiden very cosily and we threw him in at the deep end in the Voltigeur and he acquitted himself really well for a horse that has had limited experience.”

Stoute feels Hard Top’s gritty half-length win over The Geezer will have taught him a lot and his light campaign may not be such a big disadvantage.

“He didn’t have much of a preparation in the spring through circumstance in as much as he wasn’t ready to be trained,” he said.

“He comes in there a pretty fresh horse with just the two races, but he also lacks a bit of experience.

“York was a blessing in disguise because he got a good tough battle and was trapped on the fence for a while, so he may be just sharp enough, mentally, having had that experience.

“I think the favourite is a worthy favourite and he could be a very good colt. I would have a very healthy respect for Scorpion.”

Hard Top will be stepping up to the extended one-mile-six-furlong trip for the first time on Saturday but is by Darshaan out of a Sadler’s Wells mare.

“He’s a typical staying type bred by Ballymacoll. He was pretty good over a mile and a half and he's certainly going to get the trip, but I don’t see any problems with the favourite getting the trip,” he added.

Mick Kinane partnered Hard Top at York but with the Irish rider sidelined by a fractured wrist, Ryan Moore steps in for the ride.

“He rode this fellow when he won at Lingfield and he’s ridden him at home so he knows him well,” Stoute concluded.

The race sponsors go 3-1 from 7-2 about Hard Top’s Leger chances with Scorpion the even-money market leader.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt has scared off the opposition after his record-breaking win in the Group One Grand Prix de Paris, as just seven have been left in the race.

O’Brien is set to be double-handed with Voltigeur third Avalon also confirmed.

David Elsworth’s The Geezer, second in the York race, will also reoppose as could the fourth, the John Dunlop-trained Kong.

The Arundel handler has a second string to his bow as Tawqeet bids to step up in class after winning the Melrose Handicap last time.

Clive Brittain’s outsider Hattan completes the line-up.

Shalapour, Mr Vegas and Unfurled have all been taken out.

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