St Leger & Irish Champions Day

A bumper day of action jampacked full of Group races with the features being the St Leger at Doncaster and the Irish Champions Stakes at Leopardstown.

With so much quality racing taking place, I’ve tried to focus on the main races on the day and tried to keep the thoughts as brief as possible.

Yesterday Gutaifan started the day with a winner by breaking the 5f track record for two-year-old’s in the process and it was well fancied returning at 7/4. I put Turret Rocks up in the May Hill at 6/1 and she won quite nicely and came back at 7/2. There was some place money back in the finale with Peterhouse finishing third.

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So onto a good days racing, especially across the Irish Sea if the rain doesn’t fall.


14:00 Doncaster – Champagne Stakes

The action starts on Town Moor with a Group 2 race over 7f for two-year-old’s. Emotionless looked smart on debut winning a Newmarket maiden over this distance and is already at an odds-on price. The form of that maiden looks strong, especially after the fifth winning a Conditions Stakes here on Wednesday. Not many of Charlie Appleby’s juveniles have won on debut this season, so it just proves how smart this one could be. He’s well related and looks to take plenty of beating.

The race doesn’t have the greatest of shapes in terms of each-way appeal with only seven runners but preference is for Ibn Malik. He won on debut at headquarters and there have been winners to come out of it. When last seen he was second on softer ground at Goodwood in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes, which was a good run in a race that was a tad messy. With the ground drying out and likely to be on the quicker side, which should suit him better. Palawan was third in the Vintage Stakes just beaten by Ibn Malik. He’s been busy this season having had seven runs and that might take its toll. The Hannon team have a good record in this race.

Ibn Malik was second to Galileo Gold at Goodwood. Image from Coral

Ibn Malik was second to Galileo Gold at Goodwood. Image from Coral

Advice: Ibn Malik (5/4 without Emotionless – Paddy Power)


If you’re having a bet in the Portland Handicap (14:35) then I’d be looking to take one on each side. My two would be Lucky Beggar (14/1), just looks well-handicapped, and Another Wise Kid (14/1) who was second at Thirsk last time in a hot handicap with runners in behind him such as Rex Imperator, won here on Wednesday, Hoof It was fifth, won yesterday, and George Dryden was sixth, won since and carries a penalty here.


15:10 Doncaster – Weber Park Stakes

Another Group 2 over 7f and this looks a competitive heat with 15-runners. Limato has stamina to prove having raced predominantly over 6f and with the ground drying that will definitely help him after missing some races due to soft ground. He has to be considered on the back of his second in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup behind Muhaarar. Ivawood was third in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas over the mile, so he has stamina and is likely to try and get out in front over this shorter trip. Yet to win at this trip but is drawn high enough to make his presence felt early.

The drying ground would be going against Lightning Moon currently unless there is some of the forecasted overnight rain. Home Of The Brave made all to in the Group 3 Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh and from the lower drawn horse is one of the more likely to lead and if he gets a soft lead he may prove difficult to catch. With Ivawood likely to lead from the high draws it’ll be interesting to see if they join in the centre or race in two groups but they could race each other from too early setting it up for a closer.

I’d be splitting my stakes in this race between two at bigger prices. They are Coulsty and Cable Bay. The latter is a hold-up horse, so will be restrained by Silvestre de Sousa at the start and is likely to come late. He won the Group 3 John Of Gaunt Stakes and saw out the race nicely enough. His last three efforts have all been in this grade and he hasn’t been disgraced. He’s definitely one that can trouble the judge here at a bigger price. Coulsty has only had three runs this season winning a Listed race at Leicester before finishing eighth of 12 in Deauville in the Group 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest, but he wasn’t beaten by far. When last seen he was second to Adaay in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes where Cable Bay was fourth. A run to that level should be good enough for him to return in a least a place.

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Ansgar won this race last year but hasn’t shown much in the four efforts since then. Breton Rock has an interesting jockey booking with Italian jockey Umberto Rispoli on board and he is now based in Hong Kong. He’s one that would welcome some overnight race as he wouldn’t want conditions to be too fast. He narrowly won last year’s Hungerford at Newbury but hasn’t got his head back in front since and nothing suggests he could here. Safety Check won three races in Meydan, including two Group 2 races at the beginning of the year. His only run came when third in the Group 2 Lennox Stakes where he was giving weight away. He has to be considered if the ground stays as it is.

Advice: Coulsty (14/1 each-way)

            Cable Bay (14/1 each-way)


15:45 Doncaster – St Leger

The feature race of the week at Doncaster but this renewal doesn’t get you too excited. Order Of St George was taken out yesterday to run over at Leopardstown in the Irish equivalent meaning we’re down to the seven runners.

Storm The Stars triumphed up against Bondi Beach in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York 24-days ago but that went to the stewards after William Haggas’ runner drifted across the track carrying Bondi Beach with him. The best horse on the day won the race, there is no question about this but for me I think the form can be reversed. Storm The Stars has the strongest form in the race over 1m4f after placing in the Derby and the Irish Derby however Bondi Beach showed a good attitude to win the Group 3 Curragh Cup holding of Order Of St George over this trip. He’s the more lightly raced horse in the race and should come here and be difficult to beat.

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It’s the other Aidan O’Brien horse that I would take a chance on in Fields Of Athenry. In the Ebor he paid the price for going for home too soon under Donnacha O’Brien, which set it up for the others to close late. This time around he has Silvestre de Sousa back on board, one of the strongest jockeys going plus he knows how to judge a ride, so he I’d be more confident backing him. He won a Listed race at Leopardstown on softer ground making all, which brings two positives. One that he can dominate small fields and this jockey knows how to do that well and if it does rain that won’t be too much of a problem.

Simple Verse has to be considered after being supplemented for the race. She is one that is going the right way after winning a handicap at Salisbury two starts ago from a decent yardstick in Polarisation then followed that up with success in the Group 3 Lillie Langtry at Goodwood. She’s on the improve but up against the boys here could find her out.

Advice: Field Of Athenry (9/2)


16:05 Leopardstown – Juvenile Stakes

The first race to be previewed from Leopardstown is this Group 3 contest for juveniles. I can see why the market has installed Sanus Per Aquam as favourite after winning his first two career starts. His record was ended last time in the Group 3 Tyros Stakes when second to Deauville over 7f here. The extra furlong could bring about more improvement, which could make him hard to beat because he shaped well on his first two starts to suggest this trip should suit. He is a brother to Morning Mix, who was placed over 1m2f in a Listed race, so one for a bit further next year.

It had been raining in Ireland yesterday meaning the ground could turn into the favour of Dermot Weld’s True Solitaire, who received a bit of a form boost when Turret Rocks won the May Hill yesterday. Turret Rocks beat this promising colt at Gowran Park over this trip and the pair were clear of the other trio. Weld sent his colt to the Galway festival where he got off the mark over 7f and did well on the soft ground, which suggested the step back up to a mile would suit. His price looks quite tempting in a race like this and you’d think there could be more to come from him.

True Solitaire kicks for home on his way to win at Galway. Image from hripressoffice

True Solitaire kicks for home on his way to win at Galway. Image from hripressoffice

Aidan O’Brien has won all three renewals of this race and one of those was with Australia, so he sends his top juveniles here, which should earn respect. Shogun has raced three times all at the Curragh. He was seventh of 11 on debut and learnt from that to win at the second attempt but the form from it doesn’t look very good. When he was last seen he was third of four in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes but didn’t see out the trip on the soft ground. With the rain yesterday and the forecast then conditions could be against him. Rockaway Valley has placed in two Group races previously and they’ve all been over 6f. His runs are usually to a similar consistent level but has to find something more with Sanus Per Aquam to go close. Johannes Vermeer was a beaten odds-on favourite on debut but was impressive when winning at Killarney last time over the extended mile. He’s proven his stamina and if running to the level of his last effort then he is worth his place in this field. The rain won’t inconvenience him having raced on good ground previously.

Advice: True Solitaire (15/2 each-way)


17:15 Leopardstown – Enterprise Stakes

Just the six runners in this 1m4f Group 3 race and I can’t be having Fascinating Rock at that price. I’ll start with a positive, which is he is three wins from four starts at this venue. After his run Windsor in the Group 3 Winter Hill Stakes over 1m2f where he didn’t seem to see out the trip his price looks rather skinny. Stepping him back up to this distance would be a concern on the back of that run. On top of that he is giving weight to his five rivals, so I’d rather look elsewhere.

The most solid would be Answered, who I can’t really put you off. He receives 3lb in weight from the favourite and has been running well so far this term. Just the three starts but not out of the first two home. He won on his seasonal reappearance at Limerick in a Listed race before stepping up in trip to 1m6f in the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes only for Forgotten Rules to get the better of him. Then he was dropped down to 1m2f on soft ground in the Group 3 Royal Whip Stakes at the Curragh and was beaten by 4l by Found. With stablemate Morning Mix entered as the likely pacesetter for this four-year-old then he could be difficult to beat.

With Panama Hat running really well to finish second in the American St Leger at Arlington he would be worth a few shillings. He quickened nicely in that race on the firm ground to go clear but found Lucky Speed tearing home to pass him close home. The cheekpieces were on for the first time and they are retained here. He will stay the trip after placing in a Listed race over 1m6f beaten by Kingfisher at this track last year. He is a stayer and for me is likely to place with the concerns over the favourite.

Advice: Panama Hat (11/2 each-way or 13/8 to place top 2)


17:45 Leopardstown – Irish Champion Stakes

This race has been moved forward due to the weather forecast threatening with heavy rain, which could see this field cut wide open. It’s hard to weigh up, which way to go with this write-up. Social media is continuing to say it’s raining and more than likely the going will change to good or softer.

In the Juddmonte Golden Horn just wasn’t himself. The pacemaker went off too fast and he was too keen refusing to settle. It was a hard race for him and the season is now likely to be taking its toll. If the rain does continue to fall then he’ll get pulled out considering there was a bit of ease in the ground at York when he was beaten which was also partly the excuse. Again with the rain falling then Gleneagles is very unlikely to run. The ground at York was described more as tacky but Aidan O’Brien pulled him out yet again and would think similar would be the case here.

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The Grey Gatsby upset the odds in this race last year when defeating Australia. He’s one that is consistent and an owners dream. A likeable grey who ran with credit against Golden Horn in the Eclipse at Sandown but couldn’t match the turn of foot. Again he’s another that would prefer good or quicker ground and the question mark is will he get that. If he takes his chance then he’ll give you a run for your money. Found is one that won’t mind the rain and looked suited to this trip when winning the three-runner Group 3 Royal Whip from Answered. She has proved herself as a really good filly after second in the Group 1 Irish Guineas and Coronation Stakes. The ground turning to good or softer may play into her hands and is worth looking at here.

Free Eagle is a lightly-raced four-year-old only having five career runs. He won the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot from a closing The Grey Gatsby. In October he ran on the heavy ground on Champions day at Ascot but finished third behind Noble Mission and Al Kazeem. It was a good effort considering he wasn’t liking the ground. He looks to be really classy individual and if the ground is good then he’s in with a big chance. Cirrus Des Aigles definitely won’t mind any rain. He won at Longchamp in the Group 1 Prix Ganay on his return on soft ground showing there is still some class in the ageing legs yet. When last seen he was last of four in the Prix D’Ispahan but was eased down when beaten in a race won by Solow. He has each-way claims in this.

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I may be going mad here but Pleascach just looks a little overpriced. She may not turn out to be good enough to win it but if you can still get three places paid then she is backable at this price. She came home strongly in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks over 1m4f on good to soft ground showing she is able to quicken with juice in the ground. The slight worry would be the drop back to this 1m2f trip. Connections are said to be happy with her and if this race does fall apart due to the ground then she may well be the one to benefit.

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Now I’ve made their cases, this is what I’d do with the many permutations.
If all run – Gleneagles to beat Golden Horn in a match bet & Free Eagle (4/1 Win)

I’d have a small bet on Pleascach (16/1 each-way) while there is three places being paid because that price is just too big.

If the ground turns soft then OutrightFound.

I hope that clears it all up!!


18:20 Leopardstown – Matron Stakes

Legatissimo is the one to beat in this Group 1 race over a mile. David Wachman is dropping this filly back down in trip after her emphatic win in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. She receives weight from the ones you think are her main dangers. She has been priced accordingly after her runs this season and looks set to add a third Group 1 honour to the list.

David O’Meara has done a fantastic job with Amazing Maria, who has won her last three races all at Group level. Over at Deauville she won the Group 1 Prix Rothschild under Olivier Peslier, who takes the ride here. That day she beat Ervedya in style. With the prices as they are I’d prefer to take her despite her last run in Ireland seeing her finish third to Brooch in the Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes. In the Falmouth at Glorious Goodwood she beat the lightly-raced Euro Charline and the Botti runner could be seen around the places here. Amazing Maria is drawn high in stall eight and next to her is Euro Charline, who went back to front running tactics when fourth in the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes, which is over 1m1f. If similar tactics are employed down in trip then that could give the O’Meara runner a slight advantage and something to settle in behind from a early stage.

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The French runner Cladocera was 4l behind Amazing Maria at Royal Ascot and then 4½l behind Legatissimo at Goodwood. She will need to find more up against the same rivals here. She is drawn high and as mentioned above could get a nice tow into the race from Euro Charline, which could see her stay on late and run into at least a place.

Advice: Amazing Maria (3/1)


18:50 Leopardstown – Boomerang Stakes

This initial thoughts for this 1m Group 2 race surrounded Lightning Spear but with the ground as it is it would be a slight negative despite his fourth in the Group 1 Jacques Le Marois at Deauville where he missed out on third by a nose. In that race he rallied in the closing stages, which may indicate he may take his chances here although he would be at best on a quicker surface. If he does run he is worth considering.

David O’Meara could have a good half hour with Custom Cut being in this field. He could try and make the running here and does have course and distance form after winning the Group 3 Desmond Stakes last August. That win came on soft ground suggesting he won’t have a problem if the ground deteriorates from its morning description. With how this looks on paper it is difficult to envisage him being out of the frame.

With there being eight runners at the time of writing and the prices as they are then Top Notch Tonto has his ideal conditions. A winner at York with cut in the ground where he stayed on strongly at the line to beat Gabrial. Then in the Group 2 York Stakes over 1m2f where he was headed by Tulius late on. He was staying on over 1m1f at York when last seen three weeks ago but couldn’t get to the leaders when finishing fourth. The cheekpieces seem to have brought him back to life and returning to a mile with conditions to suit he should go well.

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Of the Aidan O’Brien trio Sir Isaac Newton would have to be the pick despite getting turned over at odds of 1/6 at Chester in a maiden on good to soft ground over 1m2f. Since then he’s been running over 7f and finished sixth in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes but wasn’t too far back after an unlucky through. He’s a brother to Secret Gesture, so he should see out the extra furlong. He raced here on debut on similar ground only to be second to Derby hope Zawraq. However the winners season was curtailing with injury, so we don’t know how good he could have been. Cougar Mountain is another for O’Brien but he’s one that would have preferred quicker ground.

Advice: Top Notch Tonto (7/1 each-way)

Good Luck!

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