One of those real standout ITV Saturdays. The season’s final Classic, the Betfred St Leger, takes place at Doncaster and is the undoubted highlight. There’s a cracking supporting card, three of which we get to see live, PLUS a couple from the historic Roodee course at Chester.
Lanfranco Dettori continues his sensational farewell tour on Town Moor, looking for yet another Classic, and there really is something for everyone in the six races covered.
13:50 Doncaster – Iberian @ 11/4
A Group 2 for juveniles, over 7f. We’ve a warm fav in the shape of Richard Hannon’s Rosallion, and though feared, I’m hoping there’s one to beat it.
Charlie Hills saddles Iberian, a twice-raced son of Lope De Vega, and he’s distinguished himself already. Smooth, cosy debut win at Newbury, then a running-on second in Goodwood’s Group 2 Vintage Stakes.
Definite cut in the ground for that second assignment, and he’ll benefit from that familiarity because Town Moor has looked decidedly soggy and testing this week.
Iberian improved hugely for that first spin, and but for a tardy start at Goodwood could have finished even closer (still beaten only a length). He boasts some fancy late-season entries and can strike in Group company to justify them, in Donny’s Leger-day opener.
14.05 Chester – Bluestocking @ 8/11
A daughter of the great Camelot contests this Listed affair, in the care of trainer-of-the-moment Ralph Beckett. Juddmonte-owned, she’s kept some very hot company this term without as yet troubling the judge. Warm Heart has been a thorn in her side – Savethelastdance, too. Some of the season’s leading ladies.
Definitely an easier assignment here then in my view – and as a 3-yr-old she races off 8st 7lb, receiving valuable weight from some older rivals. She has plenty in hand on official figures regarding the three other 3-yr-olds, but perhaps has the year-older Al Qareem to worry about most.
Karl Burke’s globetrotter boasts pieces of form in her back catalogue that would make her very dangerous, but as to her ideal trip/surface, I’m a little in the dark.
Great chance for Bluestocking then in my book to gain a thoroughly deserved success.
14.25 Doncaster – Makanah each-way @ 12/1
A famous old sprint handicap, run over the slightly quirky distance of 5 1/2f. We’re paying FIVE places each-way, so that’s exactly where I’m headed.
Makanah ran in this last term, off a mark of 101. Under the recently-retired Paul Hanagan he finished a respectable sixth, and tries once again on Saturday off 5lb lower. Just over three weeks ago he ran a blinder in this grade at York, beaten just 3/4 of a length in a huge field.
It was right up there with his best efforts, and don’t forget where this one is housed – at Julie Camacho’s North Yorkshire operation in Norton. See file marked ‘Shaquille,’ for examples of sprinting excellence in 2023.
He’s 8 years of age, and has no secrets from the handicapper. But last year’s splendid Portland run over this rather special trip was on soft – similar is expected on Sat – and he’s in decent ‘nick.’ Loads to like then, and if he can occupy one of those first five places an each-way tickle could be very nicely rewarded.
14.40 Chester – Wisper each-way @ 17/2
Class 3 handicap, competitive field, and I’ve selected a 5-yr-old mare who hopefully won’t mind either a bit of cut in the ground, or these famously tight turns.
Wisper has run with credit at the likes of Brighton, Epsom and Bath – left-hand courses categorised by their similarly challenging bends. I don’t believe she’s tried Chester on for size before, but there’s every hope given the above that she might enjoy the experience.
Form-wise, she was outstanding at Sandown last time at around this trip, running Graignes very close. That horse has since been very competitive in subsequent handicap outings including one in the Racing League worth £52k.
Claimer Aidan Keeley takes off a useful 3lb, and trainer Marcus Tregoning must be hopeful, as are we, of going really close on Saturday. Drawn nine, not ideal here, but the stalls are pitched outside and there’s 1m 2 1/2f in which to organise and position Wisper to good effect. She finished really well at Sandown – another late swoop would be just the job.
15.00 Doncaster – Spycatcher @ 6/4
A Group 2 for a lovely pot, run over 7f. Audience holds the aces on official ratings, but given the likely easy ground I’m very happy to be siding with Karl Burke’s Spycatcher.
His last couple of spins at Deauville have been right out of the top drawer, and all the evidence says that at 5 years old he’s in the form of his life. Those top displays were achieved on soft ground, and though versatile, appears most comfortable upon it. Runs between 6f and 7f, and this flat straight test is unlikely to pose any stamina problems.
Audience returned to form at York last time, running the brilliant Kinross close at this trip – but I’m more convinced by Spycatcher’s overall profile. Cliff Lee is on board as per, and this is a fabulous appetiser for a contest to come that could hardly be more different in terms of the challenge faced.
15.35 Doncaster (Betfred St Leger) – Continuous @ 4/1
So to the big one. The ‘challenge’ of running 1m 6 1/2f whilst retaining an effective finishing kick to see off your talented rivals, bagging the season’s final Classic into the bargain. Welcome to the Betfred St Leger.
A race steeped in history, and this renewal in particular features heavily two trainers who’ve been, and remain, giants of the game. Aidan O’Brien has recently trained his 4,000th winner; six of which have come in this very race. Johnny G has son Thady in tandem these days, and has five Legers himself.
The Gosdens field Arrest, now the mount of Frankie Dettori; Middle Earth (Oisin Murphy), and Gregory, with Kieran Shoemark up. All have outstanding prospects, though Dettori seemingly preferring Arrest over Gregory could be telling.
York’s Voltigeur is often a useful indicator for this, and I was present on the Knavesmire to see a confidently-handled Continuous dot up for O’Brien in the hands of Ryan Moore. It was a timely moment to produce a career-best, and this son of Japanese superstar Heart’s Cry travelled beautifully into the race before extending nicely at the business end.
All such qualities and more will be required to take the Betfred St Leger, but this lightly-raced colt can be smuggled into proceedings by Moore and produced late, to devastating effect.
It’s a great race with an open look to the betting, so whatever you plump for enjoy the spectacle, and the very best of luck to you.