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Just when it felt like the flat season was winding down, the St Leger Festival is here to breathe life back into the action on the level. Doncaster’s flagship meeting starts on Thursday afternoon and will last for four days, four days of premium flat racing, culminating in the last leg of the rarely achieved Triple Crown, which is of course the St Leger.
The highlight of the St Leger Festival is of course the Betfred St Leger Stakes, which as Group 1 races go, is about as prestigious as you can get. That takes place on Saturday afternoon, but we’ve got two fine days of racing to get through before that, and on those two days, there’s plenty of first-class action to enjoy, so let’s dig in to the form book and see if we can uncover some value in the market, as was the case (and to great effect) at Haydock last week.
Best tips and predictions for the St Leger Festival
- 1 Best tips and predictions for the St Leger Festival
- 1.1 Meriel Tufnell Apprentice Handicap (13:15, day one) – Rathbone @ 11/2 (6.50)
- 1.2 Betfred May Hill Stakes (15:00, day one) – Darnation @ 7/4 (2.75)
- 1.3 Carlsberg Danish Pilsner Flying Childers Stakes (14:25, day two) – Big Evs @ 7/2 (4.50)
- 1.4 Betfred St Leger Stakes (15:35, day three) – Continuous @ 4/1 (5.00)
Ahead of the three-day St Leger Festival. Below are some early-bird selections that look to offer a slice of value in the betting. Don’t forget to check out our tips for day one either.
Meriel Tufnell Apprentice Handicap (13:15, day one) – Rathbone @ 11/2 (6.50)
The opening race of the meeting will be the Meriel Tufnell Apprentice Handicap, which is a Class 4 contest run over six furlongs. With the early marked topped by a 4/1 favourite, this is clearly a competitive field and there are several with chances. Strong Johnson arrives here in solid is respected, while the same can be said for Rambuso Creek.
My money is on Rathbone, though, who at 11/2 looks like a decent early bet. The mount of Conor Planas took advantage of a lowly mark to win nicely at Sandown over five furlongs last time out, performing as though he’s quite a bit better than a handicap rating of 77. Of course, he’s been hit with a rise for that effort and is no the top rated runner in this race, though even from his new mark of 84, he’s potentially well handicapped based on his old form. It’s only a year ago that this horse was winning in Class 2 company from a mark of 90, so taking this Class 4 is likely to be well within his grasp is building on that last-time-out effort.
A winner over course and distance in the past, the seven-year-old won’t mind the forecast soft ground, that’s for sure. He’s placed on soft in better company at Doncaster before, while he’s also won on a soft surface from higher in the weights. His trainer is in flying form at the minute, while he has the form that suggests he can go very well in a race of this nature.
Betfred May Hill Stakes (15:00, day one) – Darnation @ 7/4 (2.75)
Later on the first day, we have Group 2 action in the form of the Betfred May Hill Stakes, a fillies’ race run over a mile. I’ll get straight to it here, Darnation is likely to go off as a red-hot favourite at this, so getting in nice and early while 7/4 is available looks to be the way to go here. Don’t be surprised to see this one trading at considerably shorter odds near the off.
Master two-year-old trainer Karl Burke appears to have another lovely filly here, one that arrives here off the back of winning at both Thirsk and Goodwood. She cruised to victory on a soft surface at the former, before winning with authority, again on soft ground, when encountering Group 3 rivals at a Goodwood meeting in August. That effort tells me that she’ll appreciate this step up to a mile, and it would absolutely not surprise to see her improve for it.
In truth, this race is barely any stronger than the one that she won with something in hand last time out, she’s the highest rated runner in the race and is taken to confirm it in relatively straightforward style. If you’re looking for a day-one banker, then Darnation is probably it.
Carlsberg Danish Pilsner Flying Childers Stakes (14:25, day two) – Big Evs @ 7/2 (4.50)
On day two, one of the feature races of the day will be the Group 2 Carlsberg Danish Pilsner Flying Childers Stakes, run over five furlongs. Big Evs may have disappointed at York last time out, but I’m willing to forgive him for that effort and take early odds of 7/2 ahead of this contest.
As the proven top performer in this line-up, if all is well and he’s on a going day, the mount of Tom Marquand probably should win this race. The colt is clear by 4 lbs on official ratings and had he turned up at York, would likely be a much, much shorter price to confirm her superiority here.
The two-year-old trounced a high-class Listed field at Royal Ascot, beating what has since turned out to be a very good horse in Johannes Brahms with relative ease in the process, while she seemed to enjoy the soft ground when winning the Group 3 Jaeger-Lecoultre Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, running on well, a repeat of which would make her hard to beat here on what is likely to be a soft(ish) surface.
Betfred St Leger Stakes (15:35, day three) – Continuous @ 4/1 (5.00)
Looking ahead to the main event, and it really is a cracking renewal of this fantastic race. The early betting sees four horses vying for favouritism, so it sure is competitive. In the hands of Frankie Dettori, Gregory will absolutely be popular, as trainer John Gosden bids to give the legendary jockey the most fitting send off. Meanwhile, the top trainer has another key player in the form of Arrest, who won’t want his stablemate to get all the limelight after that easy Group 3 win at Newbury last time out.
I’m steering away from the Gosden runners and am instead siding with Continuous, who goes for the often irresistible partnership of Ryan Moore and Aidan O’Brien. The colt has taken a while to come to the boil but he flourished at Work last time out, winning a Group 2 affair with plenty in hand, beating Gregory in the process. That effort has earned him the highest official rating in the race and with that under his belt, I’m betting on him to take another step forward and win this nicely.
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