Our value-seeking expert Matt Brocklebank has two selections on the opening day of the St Leger meeting at Doncaster.
1pt win Flaccianello in 2.25 Doncaster at 20/1 (General)
2pts win Boogie Woogie in 3.35 Doncaster at 13/2 (General)
Just the one handicap - and it’s a nursery to boot - among the ITV4 offering on day one of the St Leger Festival and there aren’t all that many really juicy ones later in the week either, other than Friday’s Mallard and Saturday’s Portland, but we’ll play the hand we’re dealt and try to look on the bright side.
Thursday’s action will be staged on ground very much on the softer side of good following increasing amounts of rain in Doncaster throughout Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, which could obviously help produce the odd turn-up.
Conditions are certainly going to be in stark contrast to those we saw at York’s Ebor Festival last month and on that basis I’m taking on Dragon Leader and Johannes Brahms – the pair of whom are clear on the weight-adjusted ratings – in the Weatherbys Scientific £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes.
Rated 102p by Timeform, the unbeaten Dragon Leader is just shy of Gimcrack second Johannes Brahms (105) and gets 9lb from the Irish runner here, but he’s only ever competed on good or good to firm going and I can’t help but think he was potentially at least a little bit flattered after showing excellent speed through the first two furlongs on a York track that always favours those able to effectively kill a race off by halfway.
The extra half-furlong aside, this will be much more of a test and there’s loads of early pace pressure here too through Watcha Matey (stall 5), Al Shabab (8), Celtic Warrior (9) and Balon D’Or (10) all likely to keep Clive Cox’s horse, who is drawn in 7, company from the outset.
Housed right in amongst that lot in stall 6, FLACCIANELLO looks a fascinating runner.
She could easily have turned up in Saturday’s nursery over nigh-on the same trip following her win in similar company at Newmarket last time, but the filly comes for this prize instead which looks fairly significant as trainer Richard Fahey has enjoyed plenty of success in these big sales races over the years, including back-to-back wins in this one with Bond’s Girl and Mr Lupton in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Flaccianello appeared to lose her way a bit during two starts in the heart of the summer, but in fairness to her Royal Ascot probably came a bit soon just 21 days after winning a small Catterick maiden first time out, while I refuse to believe we saw anything like the best of her at Haydock the following month.
The first encounter with genuinely soft ground seemed to spark a considerable amount of improvement on the July Course last time, though, and while the runner-up has been well held since, they pulled nicely clear of the third, Mirroring, who has won subsequently at Epsom.
The switch to patient tactics looked to play its part in this horse’s return to form and, looking at where she’s drawn and the aforementioned pace set-up, there’s a fair chance she’ll gets an ideal tow into proceedings.
Whether she’s going to be good enough is another matter but she’s one of several lightly-raced juveniles who could be sitting on any amount of improvement this autumn, and I’ll happily roll the dice at the prices on offer.
The only other race that really piques my interest from a punting perspective is the feature Betfred Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes, primarily due to the fact there’s seemingly no star among the 10 fillies declared for the Group 2.
Sumo Sam handled the ground with aplomb and wasn’t for catching in Goodwood’s Lillie Langtry, but she was 25/1 there and has got to be taken on at much shorter odds this time, despite the going coming right for her again.
John and Thady Gosden have won the past two editions and One Evening would look a fairly obvious one on decent ground, but she was taken out at York in July on account of good to soft so I’ll be giving her a miss, and stablemate Lmay just isn’t settling early on in her races and looks pretty limited regardless.
The over-priced one – and no doubt the bet of the day – is BOOGIE WOOGIE.
Not for the first time, Aidan O’Brien spoke at length on Sunday about not wishing to give horses hard races on bad ground following time off the track and, despite going off 11/8 favourite at Cork last time, Boogie Woogie clearly wasn’t unduly punished late on in what turned out to be fairly desperate conditions.
Returning from a 75-day break on that occasion, having been out of action since early-June, the daughter of Dubawi looked badly in need of it and should come on appreciably.
It’s not that Boogie Woogie doesn’t handle soft, far from it in fact as she was second to Savethelastdance in a heavy-ground maiden at Leopardstown in the spring before opening her account at Naas on soft to heavy.
She was only beaten three lengths in the Group 1 Saint-Alary on her next start before finishing second in a Group 3 at Chantilly, recording a career best that day.
The winner has been beaten just a length in a Group 2 since, while the seven-length third has won a Group 3 at Deauville, and I reckon if Boogie Woogie gets back to that sort of level she’ll prove the one they all have to beat here.
It’s not cast in iron but she should stay a mile and three-quarters based on her pedigree (by Dubawi, out of Yorkshire Oaks winner Seventh Heaven) and while O’Brien has never won this event, his Pretty Perfect was second to subsequent Leger winner Simple Verse in 2016, and fellow three-year-old Delphina was beaten a short-head by Enbihaar in 2019, less than a month on from prepping in the same Cork race (Give Thanks Stakes) in which Boogie Woogie returned last month.
I’d have her clear favourite here in receipt of 10lb from the older fillies, most of whom are officially rated inferior anyway, and will be backing her accordingly.
Published at 1600 BST on 13/09/23
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