If you need to get prepared for the fifth and final classic of the flat season, then this is the guide for you.
The St Leger festival is a four day flat racing meeting held at Doncaster each year. In total, there are 28 races held over the course of the meeting, the first of which is British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes. The final day on Saturday will feature the St Leger Stakes itself, one of the five classics of English horse racing.
The St Leger festival is a highlight of the flat season and gets its name from Anthony St Leger, a former officer and policeman who devised the race back in the 1770’s. The race, not the festival that has sprung up around it, was first run in 1776 at Cantley Common in Doncaster and is the oldest of the five British Classics as well as the longest in distance.
Wednesday’s highlight is the Scarbrough Stakes at 14.10 and Group 3 Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes, while Thursday hosts Group 2s May Hill Stakes and the Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes. Friday’s feature race is the Group 2 Doncaster Cup won last year by Stradivarius and before that the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes. The Group 2 Champagne Stakes runs on Saturday and is followed by the Park Stakes and the Portland Handicap as well as the big one.
All the top trainers and jockeys compete at the festival and the feature race The St Leger Stakes which is traditionally run on the final day, Saturday. The race is open to three-year-old colts and fillies and is staged over a mile and six furlongs.
The St Leger has been won by some legendary horses through the decades, including Nijinsky, who in 1970, won the St Leger and was the last horse to win the British Triple Crown. Last year, the world’s oldest classic was won by Logician trained by John Gosden and ridden to victory by Frankie Dettori.
This year, Santiago, winner of the Group 1 Irish Derby at the expense of Stradivarius, and William Muir’s Pyledriver, who took down the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, look likely to go off as favourites.
Both colts have reason to be confident given their achievements this season, but Aidan O’Brien’s Santiago’s win came over the same distance as will be required on Saturday giving him the edge in the 406th running of the St Leger Stakes.
Day Four: Saturday 12.09.20
1.15: Virgin 535 Handicap (1m)
Magical Morning is the runner that jumps out here after his win in a novice event in back June for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori and subsequent follow up performances at Newmarket and Glorious Goodwood. Now running at 2lbs lighter, this return to a flat track means consideration is a must. La Trinidad has twice placed third behind Brunch at long odds so far this season and while he should be shorter here, there could be still be some value to be scored on Roger Fell’s three year old. A win here in Doncaster plus a place in listed company in Nantes suggests that Teston has the quality to ask more than a few questions also.
1.50: Champagne Stakes (Group 2, 7f)
Two runs, two wins – one here at Doncaster over this distance – means that Chindit makes it on to our slip. His other win came in the listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot, also 7f where he looked a class above his rivals and has an excellent chance on Saturday if he can replicate what he has done so far. Albasheer would appear to be the main concern. He too has a 100% career record, although over one race less than his rival. His winning debut was highly impressive winning by more than six lengths from the starting favourite Alablaq, who has also lost to Chindit in the past. A fascinating battle lies ahead between this pair, who both have bright futures ahead, but Chindit, with one extra under his belt, gets the nod.
2.25: Portland Handicap (5½f)
2018 winner and runner up last year Momentofmadness returns to reclaim his crown and it is easy to see why he is favourite. He ran well again at Goodwood last time out, so it won’t come as a surprise if he comes close once more. Keith Dalgleish’s Soldiers Minute has had 29 starts so far but drops down to the minimum 5f only the fifth time. He’s shown some good this season and should feature among the finishers.
3.00: Park Stakes (Group 2, 7f)
Looking very much at home in six furlong plus Group One company earlier in the season, William Haggas’ One Master recorded a win at the Group 3 Oak Tree Stakes at Goodwood. If One Master can summon her best form, she’s definitely the one to beat. 2015 Park Stakes winner Limato will be carrying a penalty here but is eight now. The old timer won the Group 3 Criterion at Newmarket on his comeback in June, adding the win to previous scores in the July Cup and just missing out on the Nunthorpe. Molatham, who won the Flying Scotsman last season, claimed the Jersey Stakes at Ascot in June and could have a say but was well beaten (by Pinatubo) in a French Group One when they last met.
3.35: Pertemps St Leger Stakes (Group 1, 1m6½f)
Despite losing in the Goodwood Cup to the likes of Stradivarius and Nayef Road, Santiago (Nap) is the prerace favourite following his successes in the Queen’s Vase and the Irish Derby. For the season’s fifth and final classic, however, Aidan O’Brien’s colt drops back in trip and down into his own age group and should be much more comfortable in doing so. There has been a surge of backers for Pyledriver in the build up to the big race, most likely because of dual impressive Group Two wins over 12 furlongs. Sandwiched in between those winners however, there was a poor run in the Epsom Derby to own up to. Another Royal Ascot winner in Saturday’s field will be Hukum who took out the King George V Handicap in style before landing the Geoffrey Freer Stakes with ease suggesting he will have no concerns about this 14 furlong trip. With English King a non-runner, these look like being the big three, although a challenge can come from anywhere, but Irish Derby champion Santiago is favoured here.
4.05: Matthew Clark Nursery (1m)
Recovery Run got off to a winning start in nurseries at Kempton recently and looks set to challenge here despite a 3lb raise being back on the preferred turf. The race favourite is Legend Of Dubai but he was an odds-on loser in a mile long novice at Haydock, where the only solace was that he handled well. It was listed company at least and this isn’t so Andrea Atzeni’s mount is capable of making a challenge here. Instead, Goodwood winner Lone Eagle is favoured courtesy of a win in Hong Kong earlier in the year.
5.15: Magners Dark Fruit Cider Handicap (1m4f)
Spanish Archer and Al Muffrih meet again, with the former having got the better when the pair met at Ripon two races ago. William Haggas has fitted Al Muffrih with cheekpieces for the first time and will feel there’s much more to come from the son of Sea The Stars, while Mankayan, with an added 3lb, also rates a big danger following winning runs at Ascot and Pontefract.
Day Three: Friday 11.09.20
The Premier Fillies’ Handicap gets Friday’s action off to a flier at 13.10. Sir Michael Stoute’s Sorrel looks the best of the bunch here given her recent solid form which has seen her land a couple of places in some quality ten furlong handicaps plus a three length triumph on her first start over this distance. Her biggest challenge from the five horse field looks to come from Almareekh, another under the guidance of Sir Michael and a filly that has gone from strength to strength so far this season.
The day’s second race is the Class 2 Mallard Handicap which runs at 13.40. Last time out at York, Alfaatik, running for the first time in 15 months, saw off Dark Jedi suggesting he was closing in on full sharpness and this step up in trip to 1m 6f is likely to serve him well. Last year’s winner, Sleeping Lion, is in the mix though and runs at 3lb higher than last year and, after two runs at two miles plus, will be thankful for the shorter trip.
There is more Class 2 action up next as, at 14.10, the 6f ½f handicap gets underway. Sunset Breeze is hot off the heels of a trio of wins at Newcastle, Newmarket and Chelmsford and an excellent second at Ascot last week. Tranchee is definitely an interesting contender following the strong showing put in at Wolverhampton back in July. Since then, two more good runner up performances at Newbury and Haydock have further cemented his credentials. Then again, the form horse is definitely Chiefofchiefs, who won the Silver Wokingham at Royal Ascot in June on debut and looks a natural at this distance.
14.40 sees the running of the Group 2 Bombardier Flying Childers Stakes, a race loaded with winning form from Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood and Ireland. Sacred won on debut at Newmarket in June before going well in the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot later the same month to outline her already impressive credentials. Last time out at York, she disappointed faltering in the finish so the drop back to 5f could well play out in her favour. Another winner, The Lir Jet won the Norfolk Stakes at Ascot in June and followed that up with a set of second places including in the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. Steel Bull and Frenetic both look set to challenge also.
This is followed by the Group 2 Doncaster Cup at 15.15 where the form dictates that the claims of Spanish Mission are impossible to ignore. Don’t forget he followed Stradivarius home in the Ascot Gold Cup by just over six lengths. While last year’s winner Stradivarius isn’t making an appearance here, Spanish Mission, who won the Chester Stakes in impressive fashion, is where our money is going. That said, Revolver is unbeaten in the six handicaps he has contested this summer and will hopefully respond to this step up to group level without issue as was the case with the step up to this trip at Sandown last time out. Red Verdon, with Frankie on board, poses a threat also.
The Flying Scotsman Stakes go at 15.45 where Godolphin and Charlie Appleby charge One Ruler is the short priced favourite. With good reason too. He won in good style on debut at Sandown last month in extremely high quality company. If there is a threat, then the greatest is likely to come from Spycatcher. Second place in Group 3 Acomb Stakes at York last month where she looked a natural against eventual winner the unbeaten Gear Up is testament to this.
Day three comes to an end at 16.15 with the 7 furlongs Maiden Stakes. Tawaareq followed One Ruler home well on debut at Sandown last month and as the nephew of 1,000 Guineas winner Ghanaati, this Sharmadal colt it was hardly surprising and he will only get better. Muay Thai has also been a strong performer including a recent third at Ascot. Another that only needs a slight improvement to be a serious contender.
Day Two: Thursday 10.09.20
It’s day two of the St Leger Meeting at Doncaster on Thursday when, after a thrilling opening day on Wednesday, the stakes get a little bit higher. While yesterday saw a small crowd of spectators let in, sadly that won’t now be happening for the final three days which the government have decreed will take place behind closed doors.
There are two Group 2 contests to look out for, the May Hill Stakes and the Park Hill Stakes as well as five other quality runs.
We open with the Conditions Stakes at 13.10 where we hope to get a look at last year’s St Leger’s winner Logician who will only face off against two other runners in this field of three. Logician hasn’t run for a year but this son of Frankel won five in five last season and John Gosden will have him in peak condition for his return to action.
His rivals come in the form of the Charlie Appleby trained Mythical Magic and Sir Michael Stoute’s Zaaki. Zaaki has a couple of Group 3 wins on his CV already, while Mythical Magic scooped a Group 2 win over a mile in Dubai at the start of 2019 and backed this up with dual second place finishes in the emirate earlier this year.
The British Stallion Studs EBF ‘Carrie Red’ Fillies’ Nursery is up next at 13.40 and Meu Amor looks the likeliest in this tough field of 15. After a win at Pontefract, she steps up here but the race still looks well within her range.
With Thank You Next pulling out, the chances of Sky Angel have improved significantly. Second last time out at Newmarket, a win here could well be on the cards for Charlie Appleby’s runner, while Nazuna could also prove a useful shout.
The Group 2 listed May Hill Stakes go off at 14.10 where Zabeel Queen (NAP), ridden by Andrea Atzeni and trained by Roger Varian, steps up in class after her winning debut at Ascot back in July. The step up really shouldn’t concern anyone given that her trainer is enjoying a heater right now and Atzeni is a familiar companion in the saddle leaving this trio as the race’s best bet.
Watch out too for John Gosden’s Indigo Girl as another probable based on her winning debut at Yarmouth less than a fortnight ago. Further down the field, Star Of Emaraaty, 66/1 winner at Newmarket last month, and Ubuntu are both too good to dismiss outright.
At 14.40 all bets must be on for the Weatherbys Racing Bank Stakes which looks like it will go off with 15 runners. Yazaman looks likely to start as favourite given current form and, after a disappointing run in the Gimcrack, looks like swapping blinkers for a visor which, if it has the desired effect, should make him the runner to beat.
Potential challengers could come in the shape of Cairn Island who won well at York last month when seeing off Perotto. He has won on his last two starts which includes the Knavesmire where he showed that a longer distance such as this beckons for a runner of his class. Elsewhere Collinsbay is another to keep an eye on.
The Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes is the second Group 2 of the day and gets underway at 15.15. What a pity that Alpinista has withdrawn. Thanks to her performance in the Yorkshire Oaks where she came in behind the excellent Love, she would have been the pick here. Instead, we look to Roger Varian’s Believe In Love who will be on a short price thanks to her rival’s no show. She has posted victory on all of her last four starts and this step up won’t worry her, nor will it trouble Sir Michael Stoute’s Vivionn should she improve as required.
The claims of Pista and Monica Sheriff cannot be ignored either. In the former’s case, Joseph O’Brien’s daughter of American Pharaoh has already won listed races in Ireland and now her handlers clearly believe she is ready for this new challenge. As for Monica Sheriff, her fourth place finish in the recent running of the Ebor after months away should provide enough encouragement for her backers to follow through.
By, 15.45 we will be able to enjoy the 7 furlong Price Promise Handicap. Eastern World takes a step down in trip for this one which should play into his hooves as well as the hands of his Godolphin trainers and hopefully yours too. He comes into this race off of back to back wins and the drop, plus his new Charlie Appleby approved sheepskin cheekpieces, should counter any doubts that his handlers clearly harbour. Not that we can see what they are.
Jumaira Bay, another to be running in cheekpieces for the first time, won on soft ground at Chepstow recently which followed on from his run at York where he was beaten by Brunch, the same Brunch that even more recently soundly saw off Eastern World by five lengths. Elsewhere, the claims of Cold Front also deserve a warm reception.
We close the day with the Jaguar Land Rover Doncaster JCT600 Handicap, a 6 furlong chase that goes off at 16.15. The nature of Fresh’s win at Kempton last month, which came on the Polytrack, suggested that a move to turf should suit perfectly and a front run is more than possible. That said, the threat from the strong finishing Call Me Ginger is only too real. Tenax and Fighting Irish, in his first start since joining David O’Meara, are also worth monitoring in the markets.
Day One: Wednesday 09.09.20
We open with the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes at 13.10 which is run exactly over 1 mile. There is much unchallenged talent in this chase with only two of the 11 contenders having raced previously. This, naturally, leaves us with a conundrum.
One of those runners with previous experience is Latest Generation who is, by the way, sired by the legendary Frankel which automatically puts him in our favour. Simon & Ed Crisford’s charge has got his career off to a good start so far, marking a third place finish at Sandown when going off at 16/1.
Latest Generation is not the only runner here with a blessed bloodline however, Mohaafeth and Royal Champion also hold pedigree lineage so don’t be surprised if they go well, while any runner over the next four days conditioned under the elite pair of Frankie Dettori and John Gosden instantly demands respect. To that end, Side Shot has to come under consideration.
At 13.40, the Nursery will go off over 7 furlongs. For our money, the most promising colt here is Atasar who has two of his four races so far and stepped up as required to perform magnificently at York’s Ebor Festival last month. On the day Ataser finished ahead of Mayaas who hasn’t managed to win yet. He is though improving with each outing and cannot be discounted, while it might be prudent to pay attention to Al Watan also.
The Scarbrough Stakes will go off at 14.10 where we’re favouring Moss Gill (NAP) following his third place finish in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes where he came in behind Battaash. Danny Tudhope’s mount is the pick on form, has won here before as a novice and will not be worried by his rivals this afternoon. Threat is likely to come in the shape of Makanah though who hasn’t been beaten since his return to action in June, while Frankie Dettori will be onboard Urban Beat for the first time for Johnny Murtagh and could yet make a strong challenge.
At 14.40 we look forward to the 1 mile long Mondialiste Leger Legends Classified Stakes. The race will have a slightly different feel to it this year thanks to the 2020 restrictions and protocols that have been enforced, meaning that instead of enjoying a line up of familiar faces this year, only serving professionals can take part. Which brings us to the very much still riding legend that is Frankie Dettori aboard four year old filly Roca Magica, trained by Ed Dunlop. Good winning runs at Yarmouth and Kempton over this distance make her the one to watch followed most likely by The Cove. Richard Hannon’s colt won at Chepstow in July and will be ridden by Rossa Ryan.
The Group 3 Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes goes off at 15.15 with a big field of 15 fillies in competition. Charlie Appleby’s Althiqa has a number of listed wins under her belt and keeps getting better despite what results tell us making her a strong contender. Anyone who paid attention 1000 Guineas will have noted the performance of Cloak Of Spirits. Richard Hannon’s filly has been unlucky since but all the signs point to a revival and gave Althiqa plenty to think about last time they met.
At 15.45 the Each Way Extra Handicap will set off with many eyes correctly cast towards Derevo, Starcat and Caradoc, none of which would shock us with a win. But it is Strait Of Hormuz, at the foot of the weights, that has caught our eye as we expect him to improve on his Haydock win for trainer Jedd O’Keefe. That win, his first of the season, came at a mile but we don’t expect stamina to be a problem with two extra furlongs to contend with this afternoon.
We wrap up the day at 16.15 with the Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap, a sprint raced over 5 furlongs. Line Of Reason is in super form and has been very consistent since winning at Newmarket in June, but who could deny the claims of Eeh Bah Gum a win in Yorkshire, especially after such good work at Thirsk five days ago. After making a mess of leaving the starting gates at York last time out, Queen’s Order finds herself down the betting but can, like Glory Fighter, be forgiven for putting on a disappointing show. Now, a running at a class lower and with Danny Tudhope in the saddle better times lay ahead and could begin this afternoon.