We head to South Yorkshire which is just about the centre of the racing world this coming Saturday, with the pick of the days action coming at Doncaster. Headlined by the final classic of the British Flat racing season, the fourth and final day of the St Leger meeting ticks all the boxes for those seeking an afternoon of equine entertainment. There are seven winners to find in all on this cracking card, and here we give it our very best shot.
1:50 William Hill Portland Handicap (Class 2) 5½f
A nice easy one to start with as a maximum field of 22 go to post for this fast and furious handicap contest. In a field such as this we like to look for a couple of trends to help us narrow down the list of runners to a more manageable number. The first thing to jump out here from a trend’s perspective is that nine of the past ten winners have emerged from a double figure stall. Secondly, we have had no winners younger than four over this period and just the one older than five. Applying the criteria of looking for a high drawn runner aged either four or five cuts this field down to just seven likely contenders.
Of those, the one we like best is the Michael Dods runner, Dakota Gold. Now 9lbs below his career high mark, this time last year he was finishing second in a similar contest at York – beaten just ¾l – off a mark of 97. With a win at the distance and in a double figure field to his name, he handles the likely conditions and is fancied to at least make the frame off his current perch of 91.
Tip: Dakota Gold each way at 11.00 with 10Bet (6 places)
2:25 Alan Wood Plumbing And Heating Park Stakes (Group 2) 7f
Mustashry heads the betting for Sir Michael Stoute here on what will be a belated first start over 7f, having been solely campaigned over further to date. He’s classy and does look to possess a turn of foot, but he just looks a little on the short side having his first crack at what can be something of a specialist’s distance. Breton Rock would just about get the verdict were this to be decided solely on course and distance form having won this two years ago, but he’s eight years of age now and looks a little vulnerable these days.
The stepping up in trip Unfortunately is interesting at a big price, but we just prefer the claims of the second course and distance winner in the field, Oh This Is Us. First and second in his only two previous runs over track and trip, he took a handicap at Chester very easily off a mark of 108 last time out, has the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle and can get on top late.
Six go to post for this juvenile event, five of whom won last time out. It says something of the quality of this line up when we consider that the two Aidan O’Brien runners are the 33/1 and 40/1 rank outsiders of the field at the time of writing. Phoenix Of Spain and Bye Bye Hong Kong both posted strong performances last time out, but not so strong as the duo at the head of the market.
Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision couldn’t have made things much harder for himself last time out in the Qatar Vintage Stakes– getting behind early and having to switch to the wide outside to procure a run – but fairly flew home once in the clear to pull away at the line. He gets a 3lb penalty for that here though which makes life tougher. The one to be on is the potential superstar, Too Darn Hot.
It’s admittedly early days for this son of Dubawi, but he could scarcely have been more impressive in his two starts to date. He still looked a little green in truth last time out at Sandown and yet still bolted up from a quality field. That run sent him straight to the head of the betting for the 2000 Guineas and he looks the real deal to us.
Tip: Too Darn Hot to win at 1.50 with 10Bet
3:35 William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group 1) 1m6½f
And so to the feature event of the day, and indeed one of the feature contests of the closing stages of the season as a whole. Kew Garden’s is a must for the shortlist here, going for the all powerful and back to form yard of Aidan O’Brien. Godolphin’s Old Persian mastered him last time out at York though, and may represent a touch of value at around three times the price of the O’Brien runner. If there is to be a genuine superstar in this field though we suspect it may be the unbeaten filly from the yard of John Gosden.
We will hopefully be in the unusual situation of seeing a full brother and sister win back to back races here, as it is Too Darn Hot’s big sister, Lah Ti Dar who will be carrying our cash. Initially looking likely to go off favourite for the Oaks, injury forced her to miss that engagement, but she may well gain belated classic compensation here. She certainly warmed up nicely for this test when looking in a different league to her rivals in a Listed contest last time out, drawing gasps from the crowd when coming home fully ten lengths to the good.
They weren’t exactly mugs she left trailing in her wake that day either with the third placed finisher Sun Maiden having filled the same spot behind Magic Wand and Wild Illusion in The Ribblesdale. Jockey Frankie Dettori’s immediate reaction when getting off the filly that day was that she should be aimed at the St Leger. There are few more experienced riders than Dettori, and connections have heeded those words. We suspect they will be proved wise to do so and see this Andrew Llloyd Webber owned filly leading them all a merry dance.
This may well be the trickiest race on the card, with question marks against most of the runners. Mark Johnston’s The Trader heads the weights but took a backward step last time out and needs to bounce back. Hugo Palmer’s Nathless meanwhile appeals on pedigree, but not on the form of his three runs to date. Seamus Durack’s Hieronymus could improve stepping up in trip, but is now zero from five.
The one to side with is Tom Dascombe’s last time out winner, Rajinsky. We were quite impressed with the way this one rapidly made up ground inside the final furling over 7f at Sandown to get on top close home hat day, and whilst an opening mark of 82 looks no more than fair, he is progressive and this step up in trip may bring out more.
Tip: Rajinsky to win at SP
4:45 P J Towey Construction Ltd Handicap (Class 2) 1m
The top two in the weights look to be the ones to concentrate on here, with both Whisky Baron and Ostilio dropping down from Group company for a crack at this. Whisky Baron has a Group 1 win in South Africa to his name, but the worry here would be that he may not get the strong pace he needs to be seen to best effect. Ostilio on the other hand ought to find this race run to suit, as there looks to be very little competition for the lead for this Roger Varian colt who likes to do it from the front. Still only three years old, he also more potential for improvement in him than the six year old Whisky Baron, and can come out on top with Anrdrea Atzeni doing the steering.
Having supported the Varian/Atzeni double act in our previous race, we will be going in again in the finale with the same connections, Dubawi Prince. A winner on his only previous outing at this track, when staying on well to score over 1m2f, he showed this mile and a half trip holds no fears when pulling clear at Newmarket last time out. That was a particularly impressive effort considering he hadn’t run for over 480 days, and was shouldered with a welter burden of 10st. With another month under his belt to build his fitness since that comeback effort, he is fancied to cope with the 7lb rise in the handicap.
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