The final classic of the season the St Leger is the feature contest in Britain this afternoon, but with Irish Champions weekend and a couple of Group 1’s at Longchamp on Sunday, this is a stellar weekend of flat racing.
We begin our preview at Doncaster where Pyledriver is the 11/4 favourite for the Leger and is the highest rated horse in the race. If he were handled by a more fashionable yard, he would be 6/4 rather than 11/4 such was the ease with which he took the Gt Voltigeur at York last time. William Muir is an excellent trainer, but I worry that a colt with so much speed will have the stamina for this extended 1m 6f trip.
Frankie Dettori has ridden the winner of the Leger six times previously – the first 25 years ago aboard Classic Cliché for Godolphin – including aboard Scorpion for Aidan O’Brien in 2005. The Italian rides Ballydoyle’s Irish Derby winner Santiago (3.45) this afternoon and gets a narrow vote although he did not appear to quite get home over two miles at Goodwood behind Stradivarius last time. He will appreciate this slight drop back in trip.
Hukum looks the main danger after scoring over 1m 5f at Newbury last time for Owen Burrows. Preference for the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt is marginal.
Matthew Flinders (1.15) was drawn out wide at Sandown last time when returned to a mile and this straight track should suit although I would have preferred a draw nearer the centre of the track rather than a gate near the far rail in stall one. I am not surprised to see King Ottokar drop back to a mile having pulled too hard at Windsor last time over ten furlongs – there is a good horse in there somewhere.
My two against the field in the Portland are 3-y-old Meraas – 14/1 with bet365 – who was surprisingly allowed to take his chance on soft ground at York last time when the ground had clearly gone against him and A Momentofmadness (2.25) with marginal preference for the Charlie Hills-trained seven-year-old. The selection won the corresponding race in 2018 from an 8lbs higher mark and finished runner up 12 months ago behind subsequent July Cup winner Oxted from a 4lbs higher mark.
The gelding has not seen the track since running his best race of the season at Goodwood in July and that was the same race, he took in prior to his success in this competitive sprint two years ago. The each way selection is 7/1 at William Hill who are offering five places on the race.
Ghayyaith (3.10) is the highest rated turf horse in the world and cannot be opposed in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. I remain convinced that this 10f trip is his optimum distance and he should bypass the Arc and wait for the Champion Stakes at Ascot if he comes out of today’s contest with his reputation intact. The terrific mare Magical can again chase the Godolphin runner home as was the case at York last time in the Juddmonte International.
Tiger Moth (5.15) has not seen the track since finishing second to Santiago in the Irish Derby at the Curragh back in July on what was just his third career start. It was hardly a vintage renewal of the classic and his subsequent absence from the track is a slight concern, but he remains a colt of some potential and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t go close with Ryan Moore taking over in the saddle. The colt is 6/4 from 7/4 with Boylesports.
At Chester I hope to see Alignac (2.05) confirm recent Newbury form with Morando who was well below his best last time. The seven-year-old is a course winner but I would be disappointed if he reversed form with the Sir Michael Stoute-trained four-year-old who has only had seven career starts and is open to further improvement.
The form of Prejudice’s (2.40) second at Newcastle last time was given a boost when the winner went on to land a Deauville Group 1 for fillies and mares and a 3lbs rise for that effort looks fair. The selection – 13/8 from 5/2 with bet365 – looked all over the winner on that occasion in first-time cheek-pieces until collared in the shadows of the post.
Lawn Ranger made most to beat a subsequent winner – Strait of Hormuz – over C&D last time and is only 2lbs higher, but Prejudice is a confident selection – in the absence of Mark Johnston’s Maydanny – to go one better than at Gosforth Park for David Simcock.