St Leger: Pinstickers’ Guide
Luke Berry provides an A-Z guide to the nine runners in Saturday's Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.
Muntahaa (r) is a sporting selection in the St Leger
Unraced as a juvenile and unfancied when just beaten on debut in the spring, before convincing maiden win on second start. Progressive since, winning handicap off 85 before good second to Sword Fighter upped to two miles at Royal Ascot. Two lengths to find with Housesofparliament on Bahrain Trophy form last time but extra furlong sure to suit one of the least exposed runners in the field. Evidently carries confidence of connections who believe – perhaps correctly – that he'd be a shorter price if trained by a better-known yard and could run well at a big price.
Just in front of Harbour Law in Bahrain Trophy, form which puts him in with a place chance, but beaten out of sight in two subsequent runs – first at Goodwood in the Gordon Stakes, then behind the favourite at York. Easy to argue that he could improve for this first try at 1m6f but absolutely has to and can probably be ruled out.
Not far off the best of these on form, with clear, front-running second to stablemate Idaho last time a career best on the back of confidence-boosting win at Newmarket. Proven beyond a mile and a half – albeit yet to race over quite this far – and that stamina the best hope of reversing form with the favourite. Colm O'Donoghue rides for the first time but both wins have come after a change in jockey and appears uncomplicated. Likely to be close to the pace but versatile in that regard and holds a solid enough chance without appearing to be genuinely top-class. Should run well regardless.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien seeks his fifth victory in the oldest Classic of them all and has an obvious chance with this one. Yet to run a bad race since winning debut as a two-year-old but has improved with virtually every outing, culminating in a visually impressive victory in the Great Voltigeur at York in which he cruised into contention and put the race to bed decisively. Extra two furlongs here unlikely to pose much of a problem given the way he finished that noted St Leger trial and earlier placed form behind Harzand (twice) is the best in this field. Ratings have him half a stone clear and with potential for yet more improvement, will be hard to beat provided he stays. Trainer's fancied runners have done particularly well in this race and rates a worthy odds-on favourite.
Hooded on debut (third in Wood Ditton) and ever since, winning Kempton maiden on third start, finishing ahead of Housesofparliament when third at Ascot and then landing Chester handicap pretty impressively off lofty mark of 108. Form of that victory against battle-hardened types looks strong and certainly has potential to progress past revised rating of 113, which already makes him one of the key threats to Idaho. Tight turns of Chester wouldn't necessarily have suited and could therefore improve markedly for switch to a galloping track like Doncaster, while trainer's record of four wins in the race bodes well. Route to the Leger an atypical one but easy to see why money has arrived and stands out as the one favourite backers should be most worried about.
Yet to add to juvenile maiden success and behind Idaho at Saint-Cloud later that season. This year, four good runs from five but none good enough for this albeit does look a strong stayer with scope for slight improvement in first-time cheekpieces. Place contender at best.
Queen's Vase winner would at first glance appear easy to dismiss as second or third string for trainer and runs in the same colours as the favourite. However, late-developing type is uncomplicated and ran really well over two miles against his elders last time out. That experience will have presumably done him some good and easy to envisage a big run from the front as he should keep going. Potentially each-way value given that he's only 1lb off the second-highest rated, will definitely stay and has scope, while it's no given his rider sets especially demanding fractions as speed test could suit Idaho. Not ruled out.
The Tartan Spartan
Just two starts and did look potentially smart when winning ordinary Thirsk maiden on debut in April (soft ground). Subsequent sixth at Ascot a perfectly solid run given the circumstances – namely his lack of experience and half-a-mile increase in trip. Six lengths to find with Sword Fighter on that form and hard to see him doing so, but the gap could narrow over what should be an ideal intermediate trip at this stage. Concern would be that he's yet to race on ground faster than good-to-soft but regardless, would be a shock winner.
Exposed now but winner of five from 10 including last two, giving 4lb and a beating to Ormito at Hamilton before well-placed to win Group Three in France. Runner-up has gone in since so form looks solid for the grade but would be more of a factor on slower ground. Each-way chance if rain does arrive but as things stand, up against it against a bunch of improvers even if this doesn't prove a vintage renewal.
Quite a few of these are difficult to assess but there's no doubt that Idaho is the most likely winner. He'll be extremely hard to beat with the extra two furlongs not expected to be an issue, and it's notable that O'Brien's four previous St Leger winners were all sent off favourite, which tempers enthusiasm for his other two to a certain degree. However, at odds-on, Idaho can be taken on with MUNTAHAA, whose trainer has an equally impressive record in this race. His win at Chester last time looks really strong form and came in spite of conditions, rather than because of them. With the prospect of more to come at this more galloping track, he looks a sporting wager to overturn the favourite. Sword Fighter may be a bigger danger than Housesofparliament of the other O'Brien runners, while any rain would bring The Tartan Spartan and Harbour Law into place calculations with the latter particularly interesting. It seems likely, though, that this is dominated by the two biggest yards represented with Gosden taken to beat O'Brien to five winners of the season's final Classic.
3. Sword Fighter
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