A dry day is forecast for the final classic of the 2021 flat season and conditions are likely to remain on the fast side of good for the final day of the Cazoo St Leger meeting at Doncaster.
There is plenty of pace in the opening mile nursery with Nasim and Thunder Legend both making all last time. The corresponding race was won by Irish Derby runner up Lone Eagle 12 months ago and I hope to see Roger Charlton’s La Pulga (1.15) take advantage of the 6lbs he receives from Godolphin’s top-weight Fall Of Rome who is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time by Charlie Appleby.
The selection was given a 1m Novice event in the Stewards’ Room at Chelmsford last time having finished an excellent staying on third over 7f on the July course on his penultimate start. The colt is 3lbs higher today but should have the race run to suit and can continue to progress back on turf.
The last three-year-old to win the Portland Handicap was Oxted back in 2019 and today’s each way recommendation is Whenthedealinsdone (1.45) who also represents the Newmarket stable of Roger Teal. The selection disappointed at York last time but he was drawn poorly and taken off his feet before finishing well under hands and heels for William Buick who keeps the ride. Any overnight rain would be a help and the 12/1 with Boylesports 5 places looks fair.
Last year’s winner Stone Of Destiny is 7lbs higher in the weights and a bigger danger could come from market leader Hurricane Ivor who ran a terrific race behind the evergreen Copper Knight at York last time. He can reverse the form on 6lbs better terms.
Leger favourite Hurricane Lane is out of a 2m winner and stamina should not be an issue for the Irish Derby winner who backed that classic success up with an excellent performance in the Grand Prix de Paris just 18 days later. He really should win but he is an odds on favourite in a classic who has yet to prove he stays this extended mile-and-three quarter trip.
The form book says Scope has no chance of reversing the form with the four who finished in front of him at York in the Gt Voltigeur but if forced to throw a fiver on the race it would be for Ralph Beckett’s lightly raced colt at 50/1. I think he has more to offer going forward.
I will be disappointed if Title (4.05) cannot win the 12f handicap for Roger Varian and David Egan. The selection reverts to handicap company having finished third in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and runner up in a listed contest at Hamilton on his last couple of outings.
The selection has been gelded since his last start and the blinkers he wore in Scotland have been dispensed with. The classic generation receive 8lbs weight-for-age and he is the only three-year-old in the field.
There will be a huge crowd at Chester and the listed 12f contest was won 12 months ago by Sir Michael Stoute’s Alignac (2.00) who can follow up on his first start since that success. The 5-y-old has run well fresh in the past and has bits of form – beaten a head on good to soft ground by Trueshan – last season which suggest he could be a bit better than today’s field. Andrew Balding’s Morando finished second to the selection in 2020 and he can chase him home again today courtesy of market leader Alounak – third in the Ebor last time out.
Mother Earth (1.40) is the best filly in the race in the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, has an excellent draw in stall two and should be too good for her field. Winner of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket earlier in the season, the form of her second in the Falmouth Stakes on the July course confirmed her as a top-class filly and she didn’t have to be at her very best to land the Prix Rothschild at Deauville last time. The selection finished behind a couple of today’s rivals as a juvenile – Shale and Pretty Gorgeous – but she has taken her form to a different level this term and can land her third Group one of the year.
Only four to post for the Irish Champions Stakes and surprisingly no pacemaker from Ballydoyle. I wonder if Ryan Moore will be forced to do his own donkey work on St Mark’s Basilica (2.45) as he wouldn’t want the race to develop into a crawl with Guineas winner Poetic Flair in the race. Indeed, if you remember the selection looked momentarily in trouble when Mishriff took up the running in the Eclipse Stakes when last seen back in July before the turbo kicked in on the dual French classic winner.
Aidan O’Brien did not utilise a frontrunner at Sandown, and I wonder if Patrick Sarsfield – who is guaranteed more than E40,000 for finishing fourth – will go forward for Joseph O’Brien. Despite the paucity of numbers, it has the making of a wonderful race. The fifth placed horse was due to receive E20,000 and the sixth E10,000 but that prize money will be shared by the connections of the four protagonists.