Alex Hammond has her best bets for the William Hill St Leger Festival at Doncaster - including Southern France in the Classic itself on Saturday.
Doncaster’s William Hill St Leger meeting gets underway on Wednesday and there are a few horses I’m keen on following on Town Moor this week. It’s worth noting that the ground is on the easy side of good as the meeting kicks off, although my trusty weather app suggests it’s set fair for the rest of the week, so should improve.
It’s a fairly low key start to this superb meeting, but that doesn’t make betting opportunities hard to come by. I’m hoping that Encore D’Or can repeat his 2017 win in the Scarbrough Stakes. His trainer Robert Cowell also has the favourite Global Applause in this five furlongs listed contest, but the selection has the services of Ryan Moore in the saddle as he did last year and the flat track suits him well. He is capable of winning this if he’s at this best and could be a bit of value. I’m a loyal follower of this horse, so I hope that he rewards my devotion!
Cheeky Rascal is another to watch closely in the Leger Legends race. Richard Hannon and Timmy Murphy are a strong combination and although this horse is still a maiden, he has some fair form and I think this mile trip will suit. This is a superb race, a real crowd pleaser, but it’s also a valuable little contest and fiercely competitive. Murphy is a jockey I would definitely want on my side here
I’m keen on a filly in the Park Hill Stakes on day two of the meeting. Pilaster is the likely favourite in this so called ‘Fillies’ Leger’ after an unbeaten season to date. Her most recent win came in the Group Two Lillie Langtry at Goodwood at the beginning of August where she chinned Maid Up on the line. Andrew Balding’s runner up is Leger bound having been supplemented for Saturday’s Classic, which is good to hear for fans of Roger Varian’s runner.
No Needs Never is an interesting runner in the valuable Weatherbys Racing Bank 300,000 2-Y-O Stakes for Joseph O’Brien. He wouldn’t be out of place in the Champagne Stakes on Saturday (for which he holds an entry), so I hope he can make his presence felt here. He was a big baby when he won at Down Royal on his latest start at the end of July and I’d expect significant improvement as he looked green and raw that day.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with the form of Aidan O’Brien’s horses now after a quieter summer than usual. As can often be the case when a stable comes out the other side of the dreaded virus, they hit top form and keep storming on, making up for lost time. I think decent compensation awaits the master of Ballydoyle before the year is out and Idaho may give his trainer reason to smile in the Doncaster Cup. He stepped up to two miles on his last two outings and will have slightly further to stretch out over on Friday as this Group Two is run over a trip just shy of two-and-a-quarter. This will be an easier task than some of those he’s faced this season though, including behind Stradivarius the last twice. He can get worked up before his races and sweats profusely, so don’t worry if you see that at Doncaster, it’s just him. He’s Sky Bet’s 3/1 market leader.
The final classic of the season, the William Hill St Leger, is Saturday’s domestic highlight and as I mentioned last week I’ve already backed Southern France each way (now 8/1 with Sky Bet). I’m not changing my stance on that, especially with O’Brien now back in flying form, but there are a couple I’m wary of.
Lah Ti Dar is a leading contender if she goes to Donny rather than taking up her engagement in the Prix Vermeille. John Gosden’s recent York winner should appreciate the trip and Frankie Dettori was keen in the wake of her win on the Knavesmire to run here. Whether she does or not, remains to be seen. The other horse that keep niggling at me is Dee Ex Bee.
I suspect Mark Johnston’s colt will relish this trip and is therefore dangerous to oppose. He is yet to win a race this season, but has been placed in the Investec Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris. He isn’t necessarily bred to be suited by a mile and six but runs as if he will. I’m happy enough with my ante-post voucher on the apparent O’Brien tsecond string Southern France though. He’s proven over the trip having finished second in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and is the type to peak as the season goes on.
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know by pointing out that Too Darn Hot will take plenty of beating if he runs in the Champagne Stakes. At a bigger price though Phoenix Of Spain could offer a bit of each-way value for Charlie Hills. Doncaster should suit him well and whilst I don’t think he could beat John Gosden’s unbeaten Solario Stakes winner, he may run into a place. He’s 7/1 with Sky Bet.
Breanski has already proven to be a shrewd purchase by Jedd O’Keeffe as he has won back more than his 25,000 guineas purchase price. O’Keeffe bought this horse at the Tattersalls July Sales in Newmarket out of Brian Meehan’s stable and won two races with him already. Regular readers of this blog will know I’m a big fan of the abilities of Jedd and his wife Andrea's training operation which is based on the edge of picturesque Middleham Moor and there is often value to be found when backing their horses.
Breanski didn’t shape badly in an uber competitive seven furlong handicap at Ascot on his latest start and he has been dropped 1lb for that effort. The step back up to a mile in the 4.45pm race won’t hinder him as he’s already a three-time winner over the trip and he gets in off a nice low weight here.
So, a few horses to look out for this week, do keep an eye on Sky Sports News or @skysportsAlexH on twitter for my day to day selections; have a great week.