To most people’s surprise – and relief – the presence of Lah Ti Dar in the William Hill St Leger has made the race.
Frankie Dettori’s immediate impressions, after Lah Ti Dar’s romp at York, that the season’s final Classic was the race to go for were persuasive enough and connections should be congratulated for going for it.
Now we are set for a fascinating clash between the galloper, her, and the closer, Kew Gardens.
Both represent stables who have won the race nine times between them and I am going for Kew Gardens to wear down Lah Ti Dar late on and give Aidan O’Brien his sixth Leger.
Being unbeaten in three starts means we don’t know how good Lah Ti Dar is but she certainly looks the part and hit the line strongly at York to suggest that the extra two and a half furlongs OR SO could be within her.
But this is the first time she has taken on the colts and it is just her fourth career start.
Kew Gardens is the only Group One winner in the line up, having taken the Grand Prix de Paris over a mile and a half in July, on the back of the convincing success in the 14f Queen’s Vase when he slammed stablemate Southern France (who seemed to lack pace at a crucial time) by four lengths.
Since holding Kew Gardens up and giving him a chance, he has been a different horse and his closing third to Old Persian in the Great Voltigeur, when attempting to give the winner 5lb, was a fine trial; especially as he was expected to need the race during a quiet spell for the stable.
Notably, the time of that race was almost three seconds quicker than Lah Ti Dar’s Galtres win the following day.
William Buck, who preferred the runner-up Cross Counter in the Voltigeur, is back on Old Persian now, preferring him to Loxley who is quietly progressive and won well at Deauville last time.
Old Persian didn’t run to his best in the Irish Derby but has done little else wrong, having also won the King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot, which can be another good trial for the Leger. He is most likeable and is around four times the price of Kew Gardens.
The Pentagon is the most interesting of the four other O’Brien runners. Third to Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion in last year’s racing Post Trophy, I just don’t think we have seen the best of him and, unlike Kew Gardens, wish they would allow him to stride on. His closing fifth in the Irish Derby was a good effort, having been given a lot to do. He is bred to stay this trip and may sneak into the money at around 33/1 - if allowed his head.
A quick word about Dee Ex Bee whose standout piece of form was his second in the Derby. But he has been a disappointment since and is not certain to stay, either.
The William Hill Portland Handicap opens the card and judging by the way Udontdodou won at Windsor last time out, he comes into the race in great form and is equally effective at 5f or 6f, which can count a lot over this intermediate trip.
The other one on my shortlist is Holmeswood who is undoubtedly well handicapped now and bounced back with a good third at York last time.
The Alan Wood Park Stakes is tight and far from straightforward. Mustashry has been in good form but dropping back to 7f is an unknown.
Above The Rest was below his best at York last time and the form of his stable is a worry. Perhaps D’Bai has a squeak at his best, too, but he is not the most reliable. The ground is drying up too quickly for previous winner Breton Rock.
At least Oh This Is Us is in great form and this could be his chance.
All eyes will be on Too Darn Hot in the Howcroft Champagne Stakes but at least there is enough in the line-up to test him.
Too Darn Hot looked outstanding in the Solario and is going to be very short to maintain his unbeaten record. It will be a massive surprise if he is not up to it.
The likeable Phoenix Of Spain won the Acomb at York in style and
I loved the way Dark Vision won the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. Everything went wrong for him but the form has not worked out at all and on a line with Confiding, he will not be able to lay a glove on Too Darn Hot, especially giving him 3lb.
Mike Cattermole's selections
1.50 - William Hill Portland Handicap
2.25 - Alan Wood Plumbing And Heating Park Stakes
3.00 - Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes
3.35 - William Hill St Leger Stakes