Horse Racing

St Leger Festival day 1 tips – Cry Fiction to leave the others in tears

The last real top quality flat meeting of the season is almost upon us. It’s been a great season, but like all good things, it must shortly come to an end, though not before four days of first-class racing come our way from Doncaster Racecourse, where the St Leger Festival will take place between Thursday and Sunday.

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Photo by Icon Sport.

On the opening day of the 2023 St Leger Festival, we have eight races to get stuck into, including two Group contests and a couple of hugely competitive, high-quality handicaps, one of which carries a prize of £147,540 for the winning connections.

Betting tips for day one of the St Leger Festival

As is always the case on the eve of the first day of a big meeting, we dive into the form, peruse the stats, get stuck into some race replays, all with the hope of finding some worthwhile betting opportunities. The winners can thick and fast at Haydock last week, so hopefully something similar unfolds this week, starting with the first day, so let’s get into it.

British Stallion Studs EBF ‘Carrie Red’ Fillies’ Nursery

The second race of the St Leger meeting will be the British Stallion Studs EBF ‘Carrie Red’ Fillies’ Nursery, which is run over an extended six furlongs. Chic Colombine, who goes in the hands of the always in form William Buick, is quite a strong early favourite for this race, and it’s not overly difficult to see why. She won very well after a 70-day break at Haydock a week ago, and with the horse that she convincingly beat into second going on to win since, she’s likely to go very well here.

However, at much, much bigger odds, I’m drawn to Cry Fiction, who is starting to tumble down the weights, and who may just have been found the right opening for her handicap debut. This filly won at the first time of asking back in May, running on strongly to win a nine-runner maiden at Windsor. She was then chucked straight into Listed company and it’s fair to say that she acquitted herself well, finishing second (of nine) to a horse that has since gone on to place at Group 2 level. The horses she beat on that day would all rate right at the very top of this contest, which is eye-catching.

Sure, she didn’t cut the mustard over seven furlongs in Group 3 company last time out, but it might be foolish to dismiss her on that basis alone. She drops back in trip here, which is a plus, while she’s eased in class quite a bit, so an improved showing from what may be a lenient mark of 87 could be on the cards. At 20/1, I’m placing an each-way bet that says she can outrun her odds and get involved.

Best bet – Cry Fiction (each-way) @ 20/1

Betfred May Hill Stakes

As mentioned when writing something of an overview of the best bets across the St Leger Festival on the whole, Darnation is a very, very likable sort, so much so that early odds of 7/4 should be take in my book.

There are one or two quite promising Group-level-looking types here, but Darnation is easily the pick of the bunch. She arrives here for a two-year-old trainer who does a fantastic job with these younger horses year in, year out, and it’s fair to say, that Karl Burke has had a superb season this time around.

The filly could not have won any easier when landing a seven-furlong novice contest on soft ground at Thirsk back in July, while she stepped forward to once again show a liking for a softer surface when shooting clear in a Group 3 at Goodwood last time out. She easily beat some high-90 rated horses on that occasion, performing as if she had plenty more up her sleeve too. In truth, this race looks barely any stronger, while the forecast soft ground is once again ideal. Should do the business, and if you agree, you might want to get in on the action early, as I’d be stunned if 7/4 was available near the off.

Best bet – Darnation @ 7/4

Betfred Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes

At 15:35, we have more Group 2 action in the form of the Betfred Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes, run over an extended mile and six furlongs. Now, Sumo Sam is an early favourite for this after his rather bizarre runaway win at Glorious Goodwood. However, I can’t help but think that his early price here is a bit of an overreaction to what was a bit of a giveaway. His rider was able to steal the softest and most ridiculous lead on that occasion and with the boggy ground was never going to be caught, so I’m questioning whether that’s a true reflection of what he has to offer at this level.

At bigger odds, the one that catches my eye is Night Sparkle, for trainer Andrew Balding and jockey Oisin Murphy. This horse has been incredibly progressive of late, recently landing a hat-trick of flat wins in a Class 3 handicap at Newmarket. This is a step up in grade on his first run for his new trainer, but it’s not like he was all out when winning that race last time out. In fact, he did it a shade comfortably and could easily have more to give.

He’s got bags of stamina having won over two miles as a hurdler in Ireland, while this is also a horse that enjoys cut in the ground, so the forecast conditions should suit. He’s joined an in-form Andrew Balding yard and for my money, could have more to offer than the early odds suggest. I’m on each-way.

Best bet – Night Sparkle (each-way) @ 9/1

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