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St Leger Preview

St Leger Preview


This Saturday is the final British Classic of what has been a standout season. Here we look ahead to Doncaster on Saturday and the St Leger.

It has been a season of ups and downs on the Flat and we’ve witnessed things we probably thought weren’t going to happen.

We’ve finally seen the iconic Godolphin blue silks winning the Derby at Epsom while Sea Of Class has emerged as a filly to potentially rival the brilliant Enable, who is firmly back on track herself after a winning comeback last week. In the midst of it all, the irrepressible Aidan O’Brien even watched on helpless as his horses lost their form at the height of the summer.

Ahead of the Town Moor Classic, here are four contenders worth putting on your shortlist, at varying prices.

Kew Gardens @ 6/4

Aidan O’Brien may have witnessed a lull in midsummer but his Ballydoyle string are firmly back on track now, with a strike rate closing in on 32 per-cent from his last 60 runners.

His quest for a sixth St Leger at Doncaster is set to be headed by Kew Gardens, which has already won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the Grand Prix de Paris this summer. That meant the son of Galileo was conceding a 5lb penalty in the Great Voltigeur at York last month as a Group One winner and he duly finished a close third.

His trainer has suggested that the York race was very much a prep for Doncaster considering the weight he was giving away and O’Brien was more than happy with the run. He meets the winner, Old Persian, on better terms at Doncaster and Kew Gardens is an assured stayer over the 1m6½f trip, where his old rival must prove stamina.

On what we have seen so far, in particular that Royal Ascot run in June, Kew Gardens looks an out and out stayer and, with the Ballydoyle team positively thriving, it isn’t any surprise that he’s clear favourite for Doncaster. Ryan Moore has been committed to riding for some time and, while stablemate Southern France is worth some attention too, Kew Gardens is firmly front of the Ballydoyle queue for Leger glory this time around.

Old Persian @ 11/2

Charlie Appleby has had a season to remember, irrespective of how Saturday at Doncaster goes. The Newmarket handler finally ended Godolphin’s labour of love when his Masar took the Derby at Epsom in June.

The winners have been coming steadily all season and few have done more than Old Persian in flying this flag for his string.

He’s won four times in six starts this term, including a richly deserved Royal Ascot success in the King Edward VII Stakes. His only blot came when he was quickly turned out after that win in the Irish Derby, a race that didn’t pan out for him and one that the trainer suggests is best forgotten.

His success at York was both gutsy and determined, even allowing for the weight he got from the third home. Appleby has been quick to suggest that we might not have seen the best of the Dubawi colt just yet and he feels there are no reasons to fear the St Leger trip.

Given the season Appleby has been having, it is isn’t hard to expect a big run on Saturday as he bids to double his 2018 Classic tally.

Dee Ex Bee @ 10/1

Just a couple of weeks on from Mark Johnston becoming Britain’s winning-most trainer of all time, could he finally snare a St Leger success? On his best form, Dee Ex Bee has to be given a rock-solid claim.

That form of course came in the Derby in June when he was the closest pursuer of Masar over the 1m4f trip on the Downs.

Stamina is clearly a forte and Dee Ex Bee has repeatedly shaped as if this would be the Classic most suited to his running style.

His form since Epsom has to rank as a worry for supporters, in particular his effort at Goodwood last time when he had his sights lowered. That said, the Leger has long been on his radar and he should be just right for this test.

Any rain that falls will be in his favour and, if he’s anywhere near that level of form we saw at Epsom in June, then Dee Ex Bee will be within striking distance at the winning post. Johnston has promised to target more Classic success in the future and he can start here with a lively outsider.

Raymond Tusk @ 14/1

Want to win a big race around Doncaster? Need the man for the job, get Andrea Atzeni.

The Italian has won two St Legers already and landed four successive Racing Post Trophy wins from 2013-2016. His formidable record on Town Moor was earned him the moniker of the ‘King of Doncaster’.

Atzeni has been snapped up this year to ride the Richard Hannon-trained Raymond Tusk.

Having won his only start last season, the High Chaparral colt is going through the gears this term. He was no match for the likes of Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior in the Eclipse at Sandown in July but his very presence there on just his third start was something to note.

After that, he won the Listed Glasgow Stakes up at Hamilton when tackling the longer 1m3f trip for the first time and he then chased home Hamada in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury having gone up in journey once more for the recognised Leger rehearsal.

Hannon and connections were keen to secure Atzeni’s services and the pilot feels his mount is just the sort to relish Doncaster’s galloping track. He’ll need to settle early on and play his hand just right but in Atzeni, Raymond Tusk has the right man to steer him around Donnie.

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Enda McElhinney Our racing expert, Enda studies cards in both England and Ireland on a daily basis and knows all the details you need to know when trying to select a winner. He is also a regular football writer and has strong knowledge of the Scottish game, with golf another specialised sport on his CV.