2019 St Leger Preview

Since I’ve started previewing British racing’s showcase meetings two years ago, the St Leger is the only Classic in which I have chosen the winner on both occasions. Even within such a small sample, there is a running theme: both were Aidan O’Brien’s first string and both were second favourites for much of the build-up (Capri eventually went off a narrow favourite).

This year, one horse fits the bill of both once again. However, with an unbeaten favourite and a stablemate on the up, selecting is not as simple as following trends. Here’s a dissection of all eight runners for the final Classic of the season.

  1. Dashing Willoughby: Last year’s winner Kew Gardens took the Group Two Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot before triumphing at Doncaster three months on. Dashing Willoughby recorded a gutsy victory in that race back in June, but has been soundly beaten on both starts since, including when significantly further behind Stradivarius than Il Paradiso was a month after wards. He will probably stay better than most, but Sir Dragonet more than had his measure at Chester earlier in the season and a career record of 2/8 suggests his future won’t be spent in Group One company. 2/5
  2. Il Paradiso: Would never have been considered a Classic prospect this time last month and even more unusually, its taken a finishing position of third out of four for him to become the bookies’ third choice in this race. With the same weight allowance as the horse above, Il Paradiso forced the issue against Stradivarius and ran him to within a length-and-a-half. John Gosden’s immaculate stayer rarely does more than he requires, as evidenced today, but this Aidan O’Brien colt also finished alongside Dee Ex Bee, easily the second best stayer in Britain and Ireland this season. That is strong form and Padraig Beggy has proved himself a reliable man for the big occasion, judging the pace to perfection above Sovereign in this year’s Irish Derby. He may well move prominent again and look to expose any weakness in the favourite stamina-wise, a tactic both Capri and Kew Gardens’ jockeys used to perfection in the last two years. Very tempting. Too tempting. 5/5
  3. Logician: Unbeaten and doing all of the right things. Margin and comfort of the first three victories was what stood out as opposed to the quality of the contest, but he won likeably in the Great Voltigeur at York with Frankie not asking a lot at the end. There is a chance that the ease of that victory was exaggerated given his jockey’s semi-showboating in the final furlong. To me, it was more workmanlike than it may have been according to many reports. He still has star potential and there is no knowing the ceiling to the quality of his recent victory (runner-up Constantinople has since been sent to Australia). The St Leger has suited sure-fire stayers in recent renewals, however. Logician, for all his positives, might not be that. 4/5
  4. Nayef Road: Ran a rare howler when last of five in the Great Voltigeur. Before that, though, he had defeated Constantinople in brave fashion, sticking his neck out to win the Gordon Stakes. This trip is probably what he’s after in the long run and his third to Dashing Willoughby in his only attempt to date is good form. His price is not reflective of his best performances this season and he may be one for each-way multiples with class likely to run him out of victory. 3/5
  5. Sir Dragonet: The joint least inexperienced in the field with four runs. Wildly brilliant Chester Vase winner when scorching clear from off the pace on a slippery surface. Could not quite fulfil that promise in the Derby (though he was beaten less than a length that day), but his comeback was worryingly below par. An argument can be made that he needed the run, but he was more than effective on his racecourse debut, so fears remain that something else may be amiss. It could be that he needed further (that run was over 1m2f and he’s never faced shorter) and so the St Leger is a natural choice for this son of Camelot, a Leger runner-up. Nevertheless, enough doubts ensure that his stablemate is the more attractive O’Brien inmate. 3/5
  6. Sir Ron Priestley: The most progressive runner in the field and so it is impossible to rule out the necessary involvement to be a real player. Has won five times in 2019, seeing his mark go up 22lb with just a single blip coming at Royal Ascot in the middle. Took the step up to Group company in his stride at Goodwood three weeks ago albeit that race is nowhere near the quality that most of this field have contested in the past. Needs by far a career best and the transition from handicaps to genuine Group One company can provide a learning curve. Not the one for me today. 2/5
  7. Technician: Were it to rain, Martyn Meade’s charge could prove to be the forgotten grey in the line-up. Relished this new trip when defeating fellow soft-ground specialist Morando on such a surface in the Group Three Geoffrey Freer at Newbury last month. They pulled quite nicely clear of the remainder, although once more the quality has to be in serious doubt. The ground looks set to favour others before him, but rain would make Technician a similar each-way prospect to Nayef Road. 3/5
  8. Western Australia: Despite being the rank outsider, Western Australia is the only horse running this afternoon who boasts a place at the highest level. That came in last year’s Futurity Stakes as a juvenile at a massive price and he’ll need to replicate that level of surprise. He’s ultimately disappointed since being stepped up in trip, winning his first start beyond a mile-and-a-half in a Listed Navan race before finishing down the field in three latter outings. The level of his seventh to Twilight Payment at the Curragh is probably the most accurate to take in relation to his overall ability. That tells you all you need to know. 1/5

IL PARADISO’s form sets a standard given he may have genuinely tested Stradivarius’ resolve at Goodwood on his latest outing. His more certain stamina credentials highlight him as the danger to Logician and if setting sail with an advantage, he may prove too tough to reel in.

York Ebor: Day 4

The exceptional performance by Battaash was thoroughly clouded over by the loss of two recent greats earlier today. Roaring Lion succumbing to a second bout of colic was desperate given the promise of a long and healthy career at stud after his on-course exploits. As heartbreaking was the departure of Espoir D’Allen, the Champion Hurdler, who had so much ahead of him a the tender of age of five. The news itself is shocking, but we might not feel the full effects of either until well into the future.

The final day of the Ebor meeting will be run under somewhat of a gloom, though the handicap could throw up a couple of fairytale stories to brighten the mood. Furthermore, there is action at Goodwood, with the return of a promising three-year-old being a significant eyecatcher. Here are my day four choices.

Goodwood 2:05 – SKARDU

Both Duke of Hazzard and Beat Le Bon have improved for the milder weather recently, but Skardu’s form at Group One level is top drawer. Third and fourth in the British and Irish Guineas, he wasn’t beaten far in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot either when late rain may have hindered him more than the other principles. Given he’s only had five starts to date, he should have further progress in him and a layoff should pose no problems given he opened his season with a victory.

York 2:25 – EMINENCE

With Ryan Moore returning to a bit of form recently, Eminence looks the soundest bet in the three-year-olds’ Ebor equivalent. He has been far from disgraced in some top handicaps this summer and, in hindsight, has shaped as if a couple of extra furlongs will see him in an even better light. He is only up 1lb for a good third at Goodwood when not having the clearest of passages having travelled well and the likes of First In Line, Almania and Universal Order all have to prove their stamina upped from a mile-and-a-quarter.

York 3:40 – MUSTAJEER

I cant tip King’s Advice because I’ve already missed out on all of his victories to date and it’ll be the kiss of death if I do. Nevertheless, this could prove the bridge too far even with his penalty ensuring he’s 1lb in, as the Ebor is different gravy with only 8lb covering the field. Mustajeer was fourth in this off the same mark last year when quietly ridden and has since become a runaway Listed winner as well as having placed at Group level behind Master Of Reality over this trip. His recent fifth in a Curragh Group Two was far from a disgrace as he finished upsides the useful Southern France off the same weight. This year’s Ebor renewal has ceiling 3lb higher than last and so Mustajeer carries less weight than twelve months ago and now its more certain that he’ll relish the journey, a more aggressive ride could be in store, throwing him right into calculations.

Goodwood 3:50 – MANUELA DE VEGA

Though she’d have got nowhere near Enbihaar at Goodwood, Manuela De Vega was never the most handily placed in the Lillie Langtry at the beginning of the month. That she ran on for a clear second confirmed her stamina was not the issue that day. These are calmer waters she shares in this Group Three, with Sir Ron Priestley stepping out of handicap company, Promissory wildly unproven, Dal Horrisgle already defeated soundly at this level and Blue Gardenia surely not up to scratch. She would not be out of place in a St Leger field at this stage and her form in Group Ones should mean she’s the one to beat.

York Ebor: Day 3

Enable has been truly glorious and her departure from our racetracks is bittersweet. We won’t see too many mares as great as her in our lifetime.

The feeling of loss was counteracted by a more successful day yesterday and the momentum will hopefully enable us to build on day three of the Ebor meeting. Here are my Friday selections.

1:55 – CARADOC

This is a leap in class for Ed Walker’s charge and while both Eynhallow and Genetics are tempting, the continuation of Oisin Murphy in the saddle and the increase in distance could bring about the necessary improvement in this field. His 5lb penalty for a recent victory means he carries 1lb less than he should officially and he was strong through the line when winning most recently. He has had excuses for both his defeats this season and his breeding gives further confidence that he should be even better over a mile-and-a-half.

2:25 – DEE EX BEE

I’m sorry. I know Stradivarius always wins, but this might finally be the time he finds one too good. As the Lonsdale Cup is a Group Two as opposed to a Group One, Dee Ex Bee is in receipt of 3lb. He’s been found wanting for a turn-of-foot by Stradivarius the last twice, but he is one of the most formidable opponents John Gosden’s exquisite stayer has faced. Falcon Eight also presents a tempting alternative as he is unproven, but the weight swing gives Dee Ex Bee a fighting chance if Silvestre De Souza can make this a stern enough test of stamina. He was unable to lead latest and didn’t go fast enough at Royal Ascot, but with knowledge comes power. 4/1 is too appealing given how little there has been between them. It just depends how much Stradivarius still had in reserve. I’m chancing there was less than appeared.

3:35 – MABS CROSS

The billing of this year’s Nunthorpe as a two-horse clash between Battaash and Ten Sovereigns baffled me. The former has a strike rate of 1/6 at the top level and was easily disposed of in this last year, in spite of his talents while the latter surely wants a tough six furlongs rather than a speedy five. Mabs Cross may have only maintained her form rather than improving upon it this term, but she was beaten a hair’s breadth in this last year. Her defeat by Battaash at Ascot should not be cause for concern as that form is almost identical to last year’s King’s Stand which she reversed in fine style in this and she has become a Group One winner since. She has every chance of going mightily close.

4:50 – VITRALITE

The three horses chasing hat-tricks at the head of the market all have factors against them. Vitralite was most recently fourth despite conceding lumps of weight all-round in a novice event won by Mubtasimah (receiving 12lb from selection.). She has won since and was far from disgraced earlier today off a mark now 1lb higher than Karl Burke’s runner. Back at a mile, where he won so convincingly on his second start (he also won on debut), 94 is not the harshest mark for his handicap bow given the promise of those first two victories and he’s a sizeable price on what he’s shown to date.

York Ebor 2019: Day 2

Enable day has happened far more regularly in 2019 than 2018 and even though she runs only in a four-runner affair tomorrow, this particular outing for John Gosden’s wondermare should be savoured more than any to date. As she eyes a third successive triumph in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in the autumn, this may prove Enable’s penultimate racecourse start.

She’ll face stern enough opposition from Magical, but the Yorkshire Oaks is a race best left alone from a punting point of view. A few others on the card are far too tempting, however. Here are day two’s selections.

1:55 – LIBERTY BEACH

John Quinn has trained a couple of fleet of foot fillies among the juvenile ranks in the last two years. Signora Cabello lit up the turf last season and Liberty Beach is matching her impressive footsteps this time around. There’s every chance she may surpass her stablemate as she’s been highly impressive the last twice and shaped with real promise regards stepping up in trip when taking Goodwood’s five-furlong Molecomb Stakes on her latest start. She’ll face stern competition from James Tate’s Under The Stars, who may have improvement in her, but so, at this stage, does Liberty Beach and she’s worth following while on this hot streak.

2:25 – RAYONG

Show Me Show Me certainly improved upon his previous form when running an excellent third at Goodwood last time, but Rayong has been given some heady assignments in his young career to date. He’s been thrown into pattern company the last thrice and not been disgraced on any of those starts, running on with credit at Sandown and, most recently, in a French Group One. As such, six furlongs could make him the one to beat and I’m surprised he’s not the favourite here given he receives weight from the two currently ahead of him in the market.

3:00 – BLESS HIM

Within the top five in the market are Kynren, Baltic Baron and Firmament, all of whom are far from prolific winners. Vale Of Kent is not off the kindest mark, whereas, Bless Him is. David Simcock’s gelding is another not particularly used to winning, but he is less experienced and he runs off 92, his lowest mark for over two years and the previous lowest he won off. There were excuses last time when he didn’t enjoy the step up to 1m2f, but back at a mile, where he was second on his last start off 1lb higher, he should go close even in a competitive race.

4:15 – SEARCH FOR A SONG

Dermot Weld’s filly is one who has been on my radar for a while. She was defeated by Trethias in a Group Three on just her second start, but easily overturned that running in the Irish Oaks, in which she finished a highly promising fourth. Both Frosty and Frankellina retain potential, but there is a chance that Search For A Song could take higher order than Listed company in the future. The trip is no issue and as long as inexperience is no barrier, she should be a class above.

York Ebor 2019: Day 1

York has become something of a spiritual home for me having recently departed the resident university after three glorious years. Regrettably, the Ebor meeting’s summer time slot ensured I had always returned south to Surrey once it had arrived.

This year, I’m actually further north, enjoying some downtime on Loch Ness, but every opportunity to glimpse some of the action on the Knavesmire will be taken if one arrives. Here are my selections for the opening day.

1:55 – GUNMETAL

Dakota Gold seeks a quickfire double having won the Great St Wilfrid handicap at Ripon at the weekend. He thus carries a 5lb penalty so is worth passing over espite being on the upgrade. The grey Gunmetal appeals as he is 8lb better off with the veteran Duke Of Firenze for their clash here in May. The latter came out on top that day and might be well treated for this, though Gunmetal was beaten less than 2 lengths in fourth. The extra half furlong will be in his favour and he gave 6lb and a beating to the aforementioned favourite this time last year; he is in receipt of weight tomorrow. The other 10-year-old Caspian Prince is another to keep an eye on.

3:35 – CRYSTAL OCEAN or ELARQAM w/o favourite

Crystal Ocean has always had talent, but he has developed into a top-class performer this year. Over any middle distance trip, he has the measure of the three-year-olds in this line-up and any odds against price should be snapped up. King of Comedy is the most progressive of the Classic group, but as they have proven below par to date, Elarqam may be a good bet without the favourite after he scored in serene style in the York Stakes at Group Two level at the end of July. He is finally realising some of the potential which saw him talked of in regal esteem last year and is around 11/2 to be best of the rest – his course form and the fact he’s evidently still improving entitle him to significant respect on this front.

4:15 – MAKAWEE

At the time of writing there are four co-favourites which accurately reflects that all 17 have chances on some level. Makawee appeals as a result by having more to offer than most. Her recent seconds have both been over course and distance on opposing ground types while carrying more weight and need not be a concern as she’s returned to the winners enclosure multiple times already this season. This is a slight step up in class, but she carries only nine stone as a result and with the rest my fancies stalling on dubious recent performances or course records, she gets the nod to perform up to scratch once again with Danny Tudhope having a tremendous season and not poised to slow down soon.

Glorious Goodwood 2019: Final Day

Ryan Moore’s shortcomings of late are becoming as highly publicised as the successes of the likes of Frankie and Oisin at Goodwood this week. I chip in in my utter bewilderment as to how Mirage Dancer lost yesterday although there seemed little fluke about Desert Encounter’s victory.

We’ve been treated to the class acts of the week. Now its time for the big field entertainment, with the Stewards Cup and its reserve on the card. Tips for both big handicaps included among one or two others.

1:50 – TOMMY G

This selection was decided almost by default as I cannot find enough reasons for any of the opposing 23 to stop Tommy G defending his title. He hasn’t been consistent this season, but has shown that at least some ability has been retained since the winter break and, much more obviously, he won this off 3lb higher last year. A few in this field re-oppose from last year, yet off less favourable terms and the step back to six furlongs should benefit Jim Goldie’s six-year-old with the front-running Ballyquin drawn alongside in stall 19 and likely to force a pace.

2:25 – BARTHOLOMEU DIAS

King’s Advice keeps winning and a 7lb penalty may not stop him given how much in hand he had at Newmarket, but the Northumberland Plate form entitles Bartholomeu Dias to a lot of respect. He finished ahead of the aforementioned in that race and is now in receipt of 10lb as opposed to 7lb. Charlie Hills’ charge didn’t see out the two mile trip and so the drop to 1m6f should pose few problems. The worry would be that he hasn’t run on turf since last season, but I would imagine the team must have sound enough reasons for changing back at such a high profile meeting.

3:00 – MANUELA DE VEGA

Enbihaar and Dramatic Queen have traded blows in recent middle distance and staying contests for fillies and mares. Both are respected as they currently own this level, but they must concede a stone to the four three-year-olds. There’s been eyecatching support for South Sea Pearl but Manuela De Vega has been fourth and fifth respectively in the Epsom and Irish Oaks without losing too much credibility. She was a touch disappointing in the latter, but hinted that staying may be her thing in the former and she has enough ability to strongly contend on these terms.

3:40 – ALJADY E/W, KIMIFIVE E/W

Try as I might, I can’t split these two and they both represent value. Khaadem and Cosmic Law will appeal as three-year-olds with their allowance, but Aljady is back over six furlongs having run over seven here earlier in the week. Both his runs at Goodwood to date can potentially be forgiven for being over an inadequate trip and his only turn over six this seasons saw him finish a decent third at York off a 1lb higher mark than today’s. With Thomas Greatrex claiming 5lb, he could prove dangerous towards the foot of the weights. Kimifive meanwhile, is another stepping back from seven furlongs. The reverse of Aljady, that would usually be his optimum journey, but he won over six around this time last year and has form alongside Friday’s winner Beat le Bon, as well as winning his only start at this track this season three months ago. I strongly advise waiting for the result of the first, however, as both have extreme draws (28 & 26 respectively), so if there’s a significant low draw bias, stave off. Anything else, and both of these can trouble the stewards.

5:25 – GIFTS OF GOLD

It would be a big surprise if this didn’t go to the Godolphin gelding. Not only did he cosily win a maiden at the end of June, but his mark is fair and Cieren Fallon takes the mount, which is almost cheating in an apprentice handicap. He would have to have done nothing in between times to get beaten and even then the skill of his jockey could save him.

 

Glorious Goodwod 2019: Day 4

It may not have been the Arc, but Deirdre’s Group One victory in the Nassau Stakes is still a momentous occasion. Too often, top level British races become purely domestic affairs and so we may hope that this triumph leads to far more international competition on our shores.

Friday is the first day without a Group One as punters build towards the carnage that is the Stewards Cup on Saturday. To fill the pockets for that particular heat, here are few selections for tomorrow.

2:25 – BIOMETRIC

He may have been in receipt of 10lb when reeling in Turgenev late on in the Britannia handicap at Royal Ascot, but Biometric only recognised the nature of his task at a very late stage that day. If he shrugs off greenness and continues his progression, he looks in decent shape to add another prize. He has the best form among a number of unexposed types and those with more headline starts, such as Turgenev, Duke Of Hazzard and Momkin, are opposable with less likely to come from them.

3:00 – DARK VISION

There are obvious reasons for backing Mojito, who won so cosily after a lay-off and has only gone up 3lb, but bouncing is always a possibility. Goodwood is very much a course for certain horses. Among those that have thrived in the past are Seniority and Dark Vision, who won a Group Two here as a juvenile 12 months ago. I followed him when he finished an eye-catching fourth on the July course and I’ll continue to do so here. He has not won since, but has put in some admirable performances in defeat recently while drifting gradually down the weights. His 7lb three-year-old allowance is generous for this stage in the season and he’s a built to make a mockery of such generous weight donations at this stage.

3:35 – Obviously Battaash, but he’s an absurd price.

4:40 – MIRAGE DANCER

Having just insulted the price of one odds-on shot, I’ll willingly take the 8/13 on offer for Mirage Dancer. His two main market rivals were easily behind him at Newmarket and he has good course form, including when hacking up in this last year. If he’s anywhere near his best he will win even more comfortably than his odds suggest.

5:15 – COUNTRY

The mark of William Haggas’ charge can only be lower than John Gosden’s Harrovian because the handicapper is running scared. Country was talented enough to win over a mile at two and won first time out this season when getting every yard of a four-runner race at Ripon. That was a poor contest, but he was a class above them and looks capable of progressing within this sort of company. Fox Vardy is the most appealing of the rest.