BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE OPENING DAY OF THE LADBROKES ST LEGER FESTIVAL
THE Ladbrokes St Leger, the world’s oldest Classic, is the highlight of Doncaster’s four-day meeting, but we have some top quality action in the lead-up to the historic race.
There isn’t a standout candidate in today’s Listed Scarborough Stakes (3.00pm), certainly not one like Sole Power who enjoyed victory in this race 12 months ago.
The majority of the field look fairly exposed – six of the 11 runners are aged six or older – but you can never rule out the likes of Medicean Man, Borderlescott and Tangerine Trees at this level.
Medicean Man finished third in this race two years ago and although he has place claims again he has to shoulder a penalty which is never easy.
The crowd on Town Moor would go absolutely wild if the 11-year-old Borderlescott could land his 15th career win on only his second trip to the track, but it’s asking a huge amount at his age.
Tangerine Trees hasn’t performed at his best recently but he would certainly appreciate any rain that falls, while the opposite is true of Masamah who likes to hear his hooves rattle.
It is a very competitive race, but the one I feel could be about to hit top form is Roger Varian’s JUSTINEO who up until recently had been a little disappointing.
A record of two wins from 22 starts clearly isn’t great, but the second of those successes came in a Conditions race at Newmarket in July and he then followed up with an excellent third behind Moviesta in a Group Two at Glorious Goodwood last time.
He showed real zip that day with blinkers on and he could be hard to catch under William Buick. The Varian yard couldn’t be in better form either, so he looks a decent bet at 3/1 with Ladbrokes, who are refunding runners-up as a free bet up to £25 in every race at Doncaster today.
Magical Macey can’t be ruled out, especially if the rain arrives, but I’m happy to oppose the two three-year-olds, Bungleinthejungle and Hoyam, who just haven’t looked good enough this season.
The opening Arena Group Nursery (2.00pm) is another highly competitive contest and with only four of the 14 runners having won over seven furlongs, you have to side with either proven stamina or the potential to improve at the distance.
Richard Hannon has two contenders and Richard Hughes has opted to ride the filly Djinni. She broke her maiden at Windsor two starts back but was then comfortably beaten at Goodwood last time when well fancied.
I would actually prefer the chances of stablemate Fair Ranger, who won here over six furlongs back in June, and has Ryan Moore in the saddle. However, the selection is going to be JAZZ for Charlie Hills.
The son of Danehill Dancer is still a maiden but he ran a good third at Glorious Goodwood and then stayed on well at York last time. He has been crying out for this step up to seven furlongs and with his stable in good form he is worth backing at 7/2 with Ladbrokes.
Hannon has been the trainer to follow in the Conditions Stakes (2.30pm) with three victories in the past five years and he has a good chance of winning another with EXPERT.
The selection has only won one of his six starts, but it looks a weak race and although he has a bit to find with Justice Day on ratings he should appreciate the drop back to six furlongs.
I’m actually slightly more concerned about Olly Stevens’ once-raced filly Lightning Thunder. She won well on her debut at Newbury, but it’s not easy to come straight to a Conditions race and take on the colts.
JAZZ 2.00pm Doncaster
EXPERT 2.30pm Doncaster
JUSTINEO 3.00pm Doncaster