Friday, 12 September 2008

St Leger Preview

The St Leger. Let’s do this shit. There will be no fucking missed trains or alarm calls on Saturday let me tell you, as I and some old schoolmates who I haven’t seen in years embark upon the pilgrimage to sunny Doncaster, for the season’s final classic. What a feast of racing it promises to be, with an eight race card featuring a couple of Group 2s, the Group 1 Ladbrokes Sprint Cup and of course, the St Leger. Let’s hope the weather will be pleasant and that the forecast soft ground is a little better for racing’s sake.

As ever, let’s get the basics out of the way first. The race is run over a mile, six furlongs and 132 yards and Doncaster is a left handed, galloping track with a slight bias towards the higher numbered stalls, on the straight course. That shouldn’t really be relevant in a race of this distance anyway and as if to confirm that, from the last twenty races at least, there’s been no bias with winners coming from every stall but number four, no more than three times.

The favourites have a very good record in this race, in the last twenty years the favourite has triumphed 13 times, with four second places. In that time there have only really been two surprises, the 4/7 favourite being turned over in 1988 and Moonax winning in 1994 by 1 and ¾ lengths at a price of 40/1, with the favourite beaten at least 35 lengths. I was on Moonax, actually. Made a fortune.

It will probably bite me in the arse to do this, when Maidstone Mixture romps home at 1000/1 (William Hill) but I think I can safely rule out Enroller, Hindu Kush, Maidstone Mixture, Bashkirov and Warringah based on the SP trends alone. The second biggest price after the 40/1 shot was 7/1 (last twenty years only) and the average SP of the last ten winners is just 3.94, or just short of 3/1. Fuck it, let’s get rid of Whistledownwind too, he’s not won since moving to Jeremy Noseda anyway and was beaten by Top Lock last time out. He will like the ground, assuming it is soft, but he has something to find. Washington Irving can also go in the bin, because he’s run a lot on soft ground and hasn’t really done that much, including an awful Irish Derby; no doubt he’s just going to take one for the O’Brien team and help ensure a true pace is set.

Top Lock has a good piece of form from Hamburg in July and his connections have been preparing him specifically for this race. They reckon a strongly run 1m 6f will suit him and he’s sure to get that at Doncaster, but on pedigree I just can’t see him staying. There’s sufficient doubt in my mind to discount him.

Alessandro Volta (pictured, orange & blue) seems to have shortened up a few points overnight, I’m not sure what that’s all about. I think he’s probably a bit outclassed in this field and has been held by Doctor Fremantle before and let’s not forget that AWFUL effort in the Irish Derby where it veered left a LOT. Not even super Johnny Murtagh could do anything about that. I’m only bitter because I had been talking Tartan Bearer up for a long time and the interference probably cost my pick the race, but I just can’t see the horse being good enough.

Unsung Heroine is an interesting one. No filly has won the St Leger since 1992, when User Friendly got home first, but this one is very unexposed having run just twice (winning both, but in lower company and against the same sex) and is open to some improvement, which she would need if she would win this race, but at 13/1 just now, it could be worth a small e/w punt. Will be really interesting to see how she fares.

The other filly in the race is Look Here and she would be my pick if she’d had a smoother buildup to the race. She missed the Yorkshire Oaks with an injury but seems to be back to full fitness, reportedly impressing with a good workout last weekend. It’s a shame that Seb Sanders will not ride her, due to his broken leg, as he gave a good performance last time out on the way to winning the Epsom Oaks when they had some very good fillies a long way behind them. Although as I said before, no filly has won since 1992, the last five Oaks winners to have run in the St Leger have finished either first or second. As I say though, the preparation for the race hasn’t been ideal and with Sanders out too, I think there’s better value elsewhere, though I do give her a very good chance.

Frozen Fire (right) is the favourite and with Murtagh in the saddle and the O’Brien camp in generally awesome form, it probably does just about deserve to head the market. I have to say I was initially surprised as this time last year he wasn’t very impressive in the Racing Post Trophy, he wasn’t much better in the Derby and let’s be brutally honest, he only won the Irish Derby because he avoided the Alessandro Volta induced carnage. As nicely as he stayed on, Tartan Bearer (who was bumped earlier in the race too) was completely sandwiched and didn’t fancy it after that and Curtain Call was also totally interfered with. That said, his time in that race compares favourably and is actually better than, for example, that of High Chapparal in 2002 on the same ground. The trends suggest the favourite has a very strong chance.

That’s everything dealt with aside from the Sir Michael Stoute entries. It’s well documented that he’s never trained a winner of the St Leger and not very long ago he looked to have a strong shout with Patkai, Tartan Bearer, Doctor Fremantle and Conduit. Patkai and Tartan Bearer won’t take their chances, but he still has a pretty strong hand. “There is no way Conduit can possibly win” claims our very own Will Walsh, which I will be quoting quite a lot should the son of Dalakhani do the business, but with Frankie Dettori on board, a winner of this race in 2005 and 2006, and a recent win in a good St Leger trial, who knows what could happen? To be fair to the Walsh, I think he’s right. Conduit made very heavy weather of that trial and the ground was no excuse. The pedigree doesn’t offer anything to persuade me that he’ll even get the trip, whilst connections are concerned about the soft ground and Ryan Moore chose Doctor Fremantle over this one.

Doctor Fremantle (below) on the other hand has to be real value at the current 7/1, already boosted by Moore, there are plenty of other positives. Last year’s St Leger winner Lucarno finished fourth in the Derby, as did Doctor Fremantle. The pedigree is there, by Saddler’s Wells out of Summer Breeze, who has produced two winners and two placers (from six) over this distance and she herself is out of Rainbow Quest, whose progeny have a good record at these sorts of trips. The ground shouldn’t be an issue either. He was perhaps disappointing last time out, but if he gets a better start this time, he should be up there.

My tentative 1-2-3: Doctor Fremantle (7/1 generally) – Look Here (9/2 Blue Square) - Frozen Fire (9/4 generally)

Verdict: 1.5 points e/w Doctor Fremantle

So that’s my thoughts on the matter. Even if I am totally wide of the mark, I’m quite certain that I am going to have a great time, going to be very drunk and I won’t even mind that United are going to lose to Derby. One thing’s for certain, we are always terrible away from home when on Sky and Rob Hulse is nailed on to score. I’m off to see what odds I can get on him.


Mountain Man said...

"sunny Doncaster !?!" Let's hope your tips on the horses / footie are better than your weather predictions, boyo !

moDtheGod said...

Sarcasm, dear boy. I wasn't really on that horse at 40/1 in 1994 either, you know.

moDtheGod said...

Alessandro Volta has now drifted out to further than he was last night. That's more like it, the shrinking price baffled me. Matt Doyle has officialy gone insane, napping Warringah (60.0 on Betfair as I type) and everything I read points to Look Here. ATR have gone with her, their Speed Ratings guy has her as his nap, gowith her in their best bets of the day, the RP goes with her... I really like her chances but the preparation is just too big a worry and I'd rather have the bigger price in DF, despite Stoute's poor record here.

Will Walsh said...

Your right-that quote has come back to haunt me!Just glad I didn't put my money where my mouth was. I still couldn't back it now even knowing it had won the race! Hope you had a good day at Donny. I am off to Ayr and Perth within the next 2 weeks so hope to be able to post some reports after them.