Only John Gosden has stopped Aidan O’Brien winning a British classic this season and it might come down to the well-spoken man to once again lead the British Brigade in the St Leger (3.35) with Stradivarius and Coronet.
James Doyle has managed to get a plum spare ride with Frankie Dettori choosing Coronet as his ride, but there’s half a chance that he may well have chosen wrongly. The clouds have come at the wrong time for this son of Sea The Stars, but look through his form and it is impossible not to make a case for him. A slow burner (as many of his sire’s stock can be), he was beaten when hotly fancied for a Chester handicap after his impressive win on his seasonal debut. That came over the tight course of Chester, however, and when upped in trip he first took the Queen’s Vase (now over 1m6f) at Royal Ascot, before then stepping up once again to beat Gold Cup winner Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup, getting into a battle with the hot favourite and them beating him fair and square.
He raced Big Orange without a penalty that day, making his effort even more commendable, and fellow three-year-old Desert Skyline was in third and beaten nearly five lengths. That form has worked out very well with Desert Skyline since second in the Kergolay and then a fine winner of the Doncaster Cup yesterday, and there was further back to the solid yardstick Wicklow Brave. Some worry about the drop back in trip, but he is a winner over this trip (Count Octave third) and frankly the biggest worry is that he’s going to run on the slowest ground that he’s faced. There is rain set to fall on Friday and Saturday, but just how much remains to be seen and jockeys were calling the ground no worse than good to soft in the middle of Friday’s racing. Having drifted to 8/1 with Paddy Power – who will pay 4 placed at 1/5 the odds – he is worth chancing.
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Coronet will not mind what rain falls and she has been crying out for a step up in trip to this distance. Having been ridden masterfully to get up on the line in the Ribblesdale, those tactics were exaggerated when she was fourth in the Irish Oaks on her next start when she ran creditbale to claim fourth. No horse was catching Enable, but she may well have been second with a better run and Rain Goddess and Exiyra (twice a Group 3 winner since) are good markers. She was then ridden to get second in the Yorkshire Oaks, where she had two Group 1 winners behind, and today we ought to see the best of her over a well-run 1m6f with a long straight.
The market finds it hard to separate the front three, and rightly so. Crystal Ocean was a creditable third in the Dante and then the King Edward Stakes, and he looked to have improved when he was an impressive winner of the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, when he also handled soft ground with aplomb. It’s highly likely he’s a better horse now, although whether he wants a slog remains to be seen.
Capri, a game winner of the Irish Derby, has had this as his target since and must be the form choice on the basis of that run although it might not be a help that he had to miss the Great Voltigeur at York, his intended prep. That said, there’s little not to like about him.
The same comments apply to Defoe, who saw out this trip really well to take the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury when he was always doing enough to get the better of Wall Of Fire despite that horse coming short of room in the final furlong, with the solid yardstick Frontiersman in third. There ought to be more to come from him again here, although he is perhaps now priced on potential and the ground surface and more is needed.
Raheen House was a game winner of the Bahrain Trophy at Newcastle and has gone under the radar with a succession of excellent efforts that include a fourth at Royal Ascot in the King Edward. He toom had Desert Skyline behind him there too and is a stout stayer who holds a fair each/way chance.
Our previous ante post pick, Rekindling, should not be discounted. Joseph O’Brien’s charge did extremely well to get up in the Curragh Cup when he spotted five lengths and four spots to Wicklow Brave before getting up to win, and he ran a fine race to be second when carrying a penalty to Order of St George there on the Irish Champions Weekend trials. Venice Beach has a solid each/way chance although he would not want much more rain to fall as his best form has all come on fast ground so far and he might now be a tad exposed.
Dream Today has some pretty lofty family connections to live up to but he made a strong start to his career when he was a really impressive winner of the Convivial Maiden Stakes at York. He was pushed forward early, took front ran, and as one of the widest drawn and most prominent, managed to get all of his rivals – several of whom had lofty profiles and strong maiden runs behind him – off the bridle before eventually kicking clear of the rest and finding plenty to hold off two horses with previous experience. That was boosted by the third, Laugh A Minute, taking the Sales race in good style earlier this week, and Dream Today can go well here although there are plenty of threats.
The Park Stakes is a really competitive renewal but Aclaim showed that he’s in career best form when he was a good second in the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, and with a clear run he can reverse Goodwood form with Home of the Brave and Breton Rock.
In the Portland (1.50), Michael and Heather Yarrow are hoping for another big handicap win after Lancelot Du Lac’s Stewards Cup win with the same horse. He has the services of Frankie Dettori once again but they might have a better shot with Stake Acclaim. Dean Ivory’s other charge didn’t get much go his way in the Stewards Cup, but he produced a fine effort to get up in the Shergar Cup dash on the line shortly after and then he was sent a valuable handicap at Windsor when he actually may have ran a better race to finish third, having gone solo on the near side and still finishing third.
The form of that race looked strong beforehand with Stewards’ Cup third Upstaging (a previous winner who Stake Acclaim had beaten) having finished second and winner Ice Age going onto bolt up in the feature sprint handicap at the Curragh just six days ago. Englishman, Gulliver and the re-opposing Spring Loaded have all run well since and Stake Acclaim can go really well.
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Tips on St Leger Day
1.50 Doncaster – 1 pt each/way Stake Acclaim (12/1 Bet365, Bet Victor)
2.25 Doncaster – 1 pt win Aclaim (10/3 Boylesports)
3.00 Doncaster – 1 pt win Dream Today (3/1 general)
St Leger – 3.35 Doncaster – 1 pt each/way Stradivarius (8/1 Betfair, Paddy Power)
St Leger – 3.35 Doncaster – 1 pt each/way Coronet (8/1 Paddy Power)
Already Advised: 1 pt each/way Rekindling, St Leger, 19th August (12/1 general)