This weekend heralds the last of the classics of the flat season as we head to Doncaster for the William Hill St Ledger Stakes over the extended trip of 1 mile and 6 furlongs. It looks to be a fairly open affair although a relishing Britain v Ireland dual is on the cards considering that the Michael Stoute trained favourite Crystal Ocean just about holds favouritism over the Irish challenger Capri, trained by Aidan O’Brien.
We will look at several other key races being presented over the 4 day festival meeting and do our best to spot the best betting value at this time. First off however, let’s scrutinise the St Ledger: is it a classic Stoute v O’Brien clash or is there another cat amongst the pigeons?
THE WILLIAM HILL ST LEGER STAKES (3:35pm DONCASTER - SATURDAY 16.09.2017)
Crystal Ocean really caught the eye last time out at Goodwood in the Qatar Gordon Stakes a month or so ago. He’s been graduating up through the distances, having run impressively in The Dante at York over 1 mile 2 furlongs and seems to have found his optimum distance over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Goodwood, where he was full of running to score by over 3 lengths. I’m confident the extra 2 furlongs in the Leger won’t bother him, although it is uncharted territory. However the 7/2 (bet365) on offer does not inspire me considering the horse is trying the distance for the first time.
Capri is firmly in the reckoning after his narrow win in the Irish Derby from early July. That is just about the best form of this race although like Crystal Ocean, Capri is tackling 1 mile 6 furlongs for the first time. The 4/1 best on offer (bet365, William Hill) again does not seem great value although both horses should improve for this renewal of the oldest classic in England.
Therefore, my feeling is that the winner might not come from the front two in the market. There’s plenty of quality on the card, not least from the likes of Defoe who is unbeaten this season and most interestingly, the Gosden trained Stradivarius who has been electric this season over the longer distances. He was workmanlike in the Royal Ascot Queen’s Vase (1 mile 6) winning that on good to firm and most noticeably winning the Qatar Goodwood Cup Stakes over the highly rated Big Orange. That is excellent form and he is clearly an established stayer over the extended distances. He is mostly around the 5/1 mark but is available at 13/2 currently with William Hill, which will also score you a 15% bonus if your choice wins by 2 lengths or more!
THE DONCASTER CUP STAKES (3:35pm DONCASTER - FRIDAY 15.09.2017)
Friday’s feature race is a Group 2 stayer’s marathon of 2 miles and 2 furlongs with three entries vying for favouritism. Montaly, trained by Andrew Balding, narrowly stands out in the betting based on his win in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup Stakes (Group 2) last month at the York Ebor meeting. That is solid enough form to be worthy enough at 4/1 best (William Hill, Betfred).
Max Dynamite from the Willie Mullins yard has been a decent class act over the years whether that be on the flat or over hurdles and after 12 months on the side-lines, he has a couple of prep runs under his belt in readiness for this stiff test. However, he doesn’t represent great value at 5/1 best with William Hill, Paddy Power. Desert Skyline’s at 11/2 (Betfair Sportsbook) makes up the top three in the betting with his consistency this season and his performance will give some indication of Stradivarius’s form in The St Leger, after Stradivarius beat Desert Skyline by 5 lengths at Goodwood early last month.
I personally think that Sweet Selection (if he runs, also declared for the Park Hill Stakes on Thursday), the 2016 Cesarewitch winner is a superb value each way proposition at 20/1 (bet365, Betfred, Paddy Power). He has struggled in group company since graduating from the handicap divisions but I think he deserves another crack as I believe he is taking on slightly less stiff opposition than recent outings.
THE DFS PARK HILL STAKES (3pm DONCASTER - THURSDAY 14.09.2017)
Our final featured race kicks off the meeting on Thursday and this looks wide open. Sweet Selection holds an entry in this one but I would prefer him to take the longer distance option in The Doncaster Stakes on Friday. I like the look of Melodic Motion who caught the eye in his first outing in listed company at Goodwood last time out. He’ll improve on that and is worth seizing on at 9/2 best with Paddy Power and Betfair Sportsbook.
Good luck with bets at the St Leger meeting!
SATURDAY, 1535 DONCASTER: STRADIVARIUS 13/2 (William Hill)