William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group1) 1m6 1/2f Doncaster Saturday

st leger historyFirst run in 1776, the St Leger is the World’s oldest classic. Contested over an extended 1m6f the race is invariably run at a sustained pace, and when turning in, the runners face a relentless battle up Doncaster’s long attritional strait, putting a huge emphasis on stamina. Non stayers don’t win the St Leger! Training honours in the modern era, with five victories apiece are shared by Saeed Bin Suroor and Aidan O’Brien, while the riding accolade goes to Frankie Dettori who only needs to hit the back of the net twice more to equal the immortal Lester Piggot’s seven wins, and he looks to have excellent prospects of getting one closer on the John Gosden (4 St Leger winners to his credit) trained filly, Lah Ti Dar.

a mug of Lester Pigott from june 1962

Lester won the St Leger on seven occasions

Unraced as a 2yo, the daughter of Dubawi has gone from strength to strength in her three races. She made her racecourse debut in April, hosing up in a lowly Class4 Newbury Maiden (1m2f Gd/Sft) and 16 days later took a big step up in class to win the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes (1m2f Gd/Fm) in equally impressive style at Newmarket. Further progress was evident last time when stepped up in trip she spread eagled a decent field in the Listed Galtres Stakes (1m4f Gd/Fm) at York 23 days ago, winning by 10L. More will be required at the weekend, but as a Daughter of the super mare,
Dare Re Mi, who was twice successful at the top level, including when winning the 2010 renewal of the Group1 12f Sheema Classic from the legendary Japanese Mare Buena Vista, (won over £10 million pounds in prize money) there should be plenty more to come from the Gosden filly. With only seven post war victories for Fillies in the final Classic, (Meld 1955 Cantelo1959 Dunfermline 1977 Sun Princess 1983 Oh So Sharp 1985 User Friendly 1992 and controversially, Simple Verse three years ago) the stats aren’t exactly encouraging but the 3lbs sex allowance is certainly a bonus in such a testing heat.

andrew balding st leger

Andrew Balding’s Maid Up has great each way claims

The only other filly in Saturday’s field is the Andrew Balding trained Maid Up, and she has demonstrated she has the requisite stamina for Saturday’s test, going down by a Shd over 14f in a Goodwood Group2 at the beginning of August, and comfortably winning the Group3 Lilly Langtry Stakes, run at a good clip, over the same course and distance 22days ago. This stoutly bred filly has a very progressive profile, and having paid plenty to supplement her, connections will be hoping, at the very least, to land some place money.

The Charlie Appleby trained Old Persian stayed on gamely to win the Group2 Great Voltigeur Stakes (1m4f) at York 24 days ago by a head from stable companion Cross Country with the current St Leger market leader, Kew Gardens, who was conceding 2lbs, 1 3/4L back in 3rd. While this was a considerable advance on his 6th in the Irish Derby there isn’t much in his pedigree to suggest that Saturday’s trip will bring further improvement, and it is 11 year’s since a Great Voltigeur winner (Lucarno 2007) went on to collect at Doncaster.

At the time of writing Kew Gardens heads a 7 strong challenge from Ballydoyle and following that effort in the Great Voltigeur last time is a warm order to give Aidan O’Brien a 6th victory in the race. The son of Galileo showed how well suited he is by Saturday’s trip when running away with The Queen’s Vase at The Royal Meeting in June and further enhanced his stamina credentials when winning the Group1
Grand Prix De Paris (1m4f Good) in July. In a fast run heat he kept on strongly to assert in the final 50yds where he had Saturday’s opponent, Dee Ex Bee 4 1/4L back in third.
2lbs better off with Old Persian and with Ballydoyle back in top form he is going to be difficult to beat.

Aidan’s son, Joseph is hoping to become the first handler who has ridden a winner of the Classic, (Leading Light 2013) to train one, since Harry Wragg brought off the double with Intermezzo in 1969, and he must have a serious chance of doing so with his Irish Derby winner Latrobe. The son of Camelot kept on really well to keep his dad’s Rostropovich and Saxon Warrior at Bay in The Curragh Classic, and is easily forgiven his poor effort in the 10f Juddmonte International last time where the trip was too short. There are mixed messages from his pedigree but his half brother, Entangling, stayed quite well, albeit at a modest level, and his full brother, Pink Dogwood, currently racing as a 2yo, shapes like a stayer.

Selection  : Lah Ti Dar.   (If abs) Kew Gardens
E.W.            : Maid Up
John Gray

Racing Tips Betfred Ebor Handicap 1m6f York Saturday

First run in 1843 The Ebor Handicap is now the richest race of it’s type run anywhere in Europe, and this year carries a guaranteed prize fund of £285,000. The legendary Lester Piggott (pictured) won the race five times, but the closest any rider has come to matching

“The Long Fellow’s” record in recent years, is Jamie Spencer, with two victories. Any contenders from the yards of Sir Michael Stoute or Luca Cumani, who share the training honours with three victories apiece, are worth noting, as are any travellers from across The Irish Sea, as Four of the last eight winners have been trained in The Emerald Isle. The market in recent years has been a poor guide with only the one “Jolly” obliging in the last decade, and indeed, only two of those winners were returned at odds shorter than 10/1. Good recent form has been paramount with eight of the last nine victors recording a first or second placing in one of their last two races. Weight as ever, has had it’s say, with none of the last nine winners carrying more than 9-04, and indeed, only two horses have won with a bigger burden since 1945. However it is worth pointing out that in more recent renewals the handicap has become much more compressed, leaving a much narrower weight range, and consequently the higher weighted animals have less poundage to concede, so it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see the 9-04 barrier broken.

Sir Mlchael Stoute’s representative, the 4yo filly Dubka, is certainly bred for the job on Saturday, as she is by the brilliant Dubawi out of the Sakhee mare Rosika, who herself finished second in the 2010 running of the Ebor. Four times a winner over 12f, Dubka, seemed to take her form to a new level when stepped up in trip to 14f, when she was only beaten a hard fought neck in a Goodwood Group3 last time. Having had a far from clear passage, she was ridden to lead a furlong out, and hard pressed, she battled hard, and only conceded in the shadow of the post. With 9-02 to carry on Saturday it won’t come as any great surprise if she manages to go one better than her dam, and give Sir Michael a fourth win in the famous old handicap.

Sir Mark Prescott trains the market leader, Flymetothestars, and this 4yo son of Sea The Stars, has only had five runs, all on the AW. He won the first of his two races this term, a 2m1/2f Newcastle handicap off a mark of 91 very comfortably, and six weeks later, racing off a 9lbs higher mark, was sent off the 11/4fav for The Northumberland Plate. In a slowly run race, he seemed to get outpaced, but finished with a flourish, and was only beaten 1/2L and a neck. Clearly progressive, this lightly raced animal, if transferring his ability to turf is going to be a danger to all.

Since being stepped up in trip to 12f, the Richard Hannon trained Danehill Kodiac has made significant progress and the manner of his win in a Newmarket handicap by 3 1/2L a week ago , off a mark of 97 on soft ground, strongly suggests that Saturday’s extra two furlongs should suit. Only 4lbs higher he is certainly worth a second look.

Mark Johnston won The Ebor with Quick Ransom twenty five years ago and the way his hardy campaigner, Soldier In Action, defied a mark of 106 in a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks ago, suggests that he has a serious chance of landing another. A close fifth entering the final furlong, he quickened impressively to lead in the final stride, and even off a four pounds higher mark, burdening him with the steadier of 9-10 at the weekend it is not too hard to envisage this 4yo son of Soldier Of Fortune repeating the effort.

Following a disappointing campaign over hurdles, the Alan King trained Top Tug looked an improved animal back on the flat when finishing second, off a mark of 97 to the talented Frontiersman over 12f at Newmarket in May, and he confirmed that good impression when taking a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks later off a 2lbs higher mark. He probably found the trip too short in the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at The Royal Meeting next time, but still acquitted himself well, finishing fourth, a neck behind Saturday’s opponent Star Storm. He meets Star Storm on a pound better terms on Saturday and sure to be suited by the step back up in trip, and freshened up with a nice nine week break since Royal Ascot, Top Tug looks one for the short list.

There is nothing Yorkshireman Willie Haggas enjoys more than a win on The Knavesmire and he must be harbouring serious hopes of landing his first Ebor with the classy 4yo

Dal Harraild. Having won a listed contest over course and distance in May on his only course appearance, he ran another solid race when finishing sixth, four lengths behind the winner Idaho, in the Group2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite his burden of 9-11, this son of Champs Elysee has a touch of class and bearing his 100% course record in mind is worth considering.

Selection : Top Tug

E.W. : Dubka

John Gray