Catching Pigeons: Mun’s day?
Can John Gosden warm up for the return of some of his aces by taking the St Leger? Our Catching Pigeons column thinks so.
John Gosden: Bidding for a fifth St Leger success.
John Gosden may be relinquishing his British Trainers' Championship title to Aidan O'Brien this season, but there are still some impressive fireworks to be launched before the season is out by the trainer, with Musidora winner So Mi Dar back in action next week and the forgotten pair of Jack Hobbs – who looks in particularly fantastic shape again – and Champions Sprint possible Shalaa not far behind them on their way to possible comebacks on Champions Day at Ascot.
Nearer to hand though, Muntahaa looks a perfectly reasonable each-way bet in the Ladbrokes St Leger, a race which Gosden has claimed four times before, at Doncaster on Saturday.
Muntahaa is very much a horse on the up, something which could not necessarily be said about a number of his rivals in this year's renewal of the oldest Classic.
Keen to miss the rigours of York and the Great Volitigeur Stakes at last month's Ebor Festival for such a relatively immature three year old, connections instead tackled a Listed handicap at Chester, and he produced a fine weight-carrying performance for the three year old to overcome a field of well seasoned older stayers.
Muntahaa has progressed from that win and has pleased connections in his build up to the final Classic, but they will be much happier if the forecast rain materialises and underfoot conditions ease as he perhaps lacks the turn of foot of favourite Idaho. He won't stop galloping though – and he would not be the first St Leger winner to score more as a result of substance than style.
Rivet is very highly rated by William Haggas and is fancied to see off his five rivals in the At The Races Champagne Stakes, but those looking for a bit of big-priced each-way value may give Tommy Taylor more than a second look – especially if it rains. He ran a sound race on ground much faster than he prefers when fourth to stablemate Syphax in the Acomb Stakes at York, and his recent homework has reportedly shown that he is in very good order at present.
A decent run from D'bai in the Champagne will boost the chance of the Gosden-trained Khalidi in the Champagne Pommery Nursery. He finished a sound fourth in what looked a good maiden won by the Godolphin juvenile at the Newmarket July Festival, and has improved steadily since, landing his first success at Goodwood on his latest start. The victory came on his first appearance over a mile and he should be well suited by this more demanding test of stamina.
Mont Kiara, a stablemate of Tommy Taylor, can put a duff performance at the Ebor meeting behind him with a big run in the Ladbrokes Portland Handicap. Kevin Ryan's charge had an argument with Neil Callan on the Knavesmire to see who would be in charge and consequently pulled too hard for his own good. On the best of his summer form in top three year old handicaps, he has a real chance in this ultra-competitive dash, and looks well worth another chance with the highly talented Kevin Stott on board.
Even a man as reserved as Luca Cumani must be pulling his hair out at the run of seconds and thirds his stable has endured in recent days, but the yard's Banksea is worth an interest in the Napoleons Casino & Restaurants Handicap.
He has always looked to have the potential to move further north in the ratings, and looked a shade unlucky on his trip to York for a tough mile handicap. Andrea Atzeni just had to wait to deliver his challenge after finding trouble in running in the closing stages, and despite finishing to very good effect, Banksea could not reel in the very much in-form Arcanada. Even a repeat of that effort should see him go close again here.
The Hills family love nothing more than to have winners at the St Leger meeting and Charlie will be looking to end the four-day fest on a high with a double in the last two races. Both Moorside and High Grounds tackled Classic trials during the spring but neither came up to scratch.
However, Moorside has progressed with racing and looks nicely weighted in the Breeders' Series Handicap, while High Grounds can show his appreciation for a summer gelding operation with a winning return from a nine-week break in the closing Harriet De-Vere Powell Handicap. Both should enjoy the mile-and-a-half trip.
Nayyar has been showing plenty of speed in his homework on Hills' Faringdon Road gallop, but his trainer has not been tempted by a return to pattern racing, and he can reward the decision with his third win from four starts in the Betway Nursery at Chester. Connections believe he will handle the tight track despite both previous wins coming on the straight courses of Chepstow and Newbury.
Glorious Artist has been mentioned before in this column and he looks worth another chance in the opening Maiden at the Roodeye. He produced his best effort so far in a hot event at Newbury on his second start, and was fancied to go close at Pontefract on his latest attempt. He was not at his best that day and looks worth another chance in this run-of-the-mill event.
Hereawi has shown her liking for the twists and turns of the Roodye in the past and she is another likely to be helped if the forecast rain arrives. This very well bred three-year-old remains on a decent mark and should give her three rivals plenty to think about in the Betway Stayers Handicap as she moves up in distance.
It's fascinating to see Foundationend up in Listed company at Chester after the great hopes that were held for him earlier this season, but it sadly illustrates the way this colt's career has gone after a frightening early-season scare with the thunder and lightning of the Craven Stakes.
Desert Encounter could be the value to overturn his younger rivals with trainer David Simcock going very nicely heading into the final couple of months of the campaign.
A lesser-known Newmarket stable could get on the mark at Lingfield in the six-furlong Laurie Green Fillies' Handicap when Richard Spencer saddles Rebel Surge.
It has been a bit of a trying first season for rookie trainer Spencer and winners have been somewhat harder to come by than might have been hoped but with a little more luck Keyser Soze might have given the team a decent payday in the big sales race at Doncaster earlier this week.
Rebel Surge drops in grade here having faced some stiff tasks earlier this season and this looks exactly the right time to get on board as she comes down from the Dante meeting and Royal Ascot to a fairly run-of-the-mill event.
The steps of every son or daughter of Frankel have been monitored like no stallion before him so far this season, but there are a few nice two-year-olds still to come out this season. The recently-renamed UAE King shapes nicely for Roger Varian, while Khattar makes his debut for the in-form Hugo Palmer at Bath and has moved well in his preliminary paces.
Varian saddles the stoutly-bred Defoe at Ffos Las on Sunday and another two-year-old to look out for in the future from the stable is Ekhtiyaar, an unraced son of Bated Breath who could make his debut at Yarmouth next Wednesday. Some of the Hamdan Al Maktoum top brass were on hand to watch his most recent piece of work.
The second day of the brilliant Irish Champions Weekend action takes place at the Curragh on Sunday and Ed Dunlop sends Trip To Paris over to take on Order Of St George in the Irish St Leger.
This is likely to prove too big an ask, but don't rule out a big run from stablemate Dark Red in the valuable handicap that closes the card.
This gelding has justifiably soared up the weights this season for his winning form, but continues to do everything right in his work and he looked particularly well on the Watered Gallop last week.