St. Leger Stakes Preview

A cracking weekend lays in wait, with first class racing taking place on either side of the Irish Sea. Australia, Tapestry, John F Kennedy, Cursory Glance, Leading Light & Gleneagles will all be in action on Irish soil over the next 36 hours, while Doncaster can boast star guests such as Estidhkaar and Kingston Hill. The latter looks set to go off favourite when the gates open at 3.50pm for Britain’s oldest Classic, the St. Leger Stakes, after his trainer Roger Varian confirmed his inclusion on Friday afternoon.

The 238 year old contest is run over a demanding distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards, offering no hiding place for horses without stamina in abundance.

A healthy looking 14 colts are primed in what’ll be a larger field than each of the last five renewals, all being well. Messieurs Gosden and Johnston are responsible for almost half of the runners, each with three entries. John Gosden’s trio appear to be spearheaded by Derby third, Romsdal (7/1). William Buick’s selection flopped last time out in the King George, though a return to his best form over this longer trip would make him a live contender. The same trainer has booked Frankie Dettori to ride the lightly campaigned Forever Now (16/1) who is improving steadily, but will need to again to enter the equation.

Mark Johnston’s first string is a little more difficult to gauge, with Joe Fanning sticking with Hartnell (14/1), who we know stays and had looked very progressive until a tame Group 2 effort last time. Silvestre De Sousa’s mount, Alex My Boy (20/1), is not without hope too, though. Some smart handicap form was followed by a short-head defeat by Forever Now in a hot Listed race, arguably his best effort to date. You couldn’t even write off Somewhat at 40/1, who despite being inconsistent has run some huge races this year – most notably his third in the King George.

Richards Hannon & Hughes have suffered rotten luck this year with Windshear (7/1), who has finished 2nd in each of his last four races. He has been finishing off his races well at around a mile and a half, so the extra distance may help. However, when you consider that he was beaten over two lengths by Hartnell on his penultimate start, it’s difficult to see why he is half of his price.

The most recent horse to deny Richard Hughes and Windshear was Snow Sky (11/2) who, for my money, won’t stay the trip. He beat Somewhat by a neck and a head last time on a downhill track over 12 furlongs, with Windshear splitting them. .. I’ll leave you to work out which of those three represent the best value!

For me the race revolves around a horse that, on his day, is in a different class to his rivals. KINGSTON HILL (7/2) has had just three races this year, two of which were over highly inadequate distances. The other saw him chase home the mighty Australia in the Derby (with Romsdal over three lengths back in third.) I have since been left disappointed, having backed him for both the Irish Derby and the Voltigeur Stakes, only for him to be withdrawn from both due to quick ground.

With Andrea Atzeni back on board and Varian happy with the state of the ground, I think 7/2 is a very attractive price. I also wouldn’t be surprised if some bookmakers look to take him on at some stage and push his price even higher, so if you want to back the son of Mastercraftsman keep your eyes peeled!

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Posted in George Wells
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February 2018
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