BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS TOMORROW’S LADBROKES ST LEGER
No other Classic in the world can boast as rich a history as the Ladbrokes St Leger which was first staged way back in 1776.
Just a year ago Camelot attempted to secure a historic Triple Crown only to be foiled by Godolphin’s 25/1 shot Encke. The bookies have definitely enjoyed the best of the recent battles with three double-figure priced winners in the past four years and a seven-year gap since the last winning favourite.
There is no standout candidate this year and the layers are struggling to split Excess Knowledge and Galileo Rock at the head of the market.
Galileo Rock certainly has the strongest form having finished third in the Investec Derby and then second in the Irish version a few weeks later. This has always been the target since then, but his trainer David Wachman has said he would prefer quicker ground, so the recent rain has to be a worry.
Excess Knowledge is trained by John Gosden, who is going for his third win in the race in the last four years. The son of Monsun was very unlucky in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last time and the long straight on Town Moor should suit perfectly. However, he is no bigger than 7/2 and I just feel he has been priced up on the back of his trainer’s record rather than what he has achieved on the track. He may well win but I’m happy to leave him alone at the current prices.
Aidan O’Brien has won this race three times but not since 2005 and he has the next two in the market. Leading Light won the Queen’s Vase over two miles at Royal Ascot and is the mount of his son Joseph.
He looked quite slow that day and seemed to need every yard of the trip, so the drop back to 1m 6f has to be a slight worry. The vibes also haven’t been hugely positive over the past couple of weeks and he’s another I’m happy to oppose, along with stablemate Foundry who I simply think is too inexperienced for this.
That brings me on to the Godolphin triumvirate, starting with Libertarian who was desperately disappointing on his first start for the Boys in Blue in the Irish Derby last time. He has since been freshened up, and has the assistance of two-time Leger winner William Buick in the saddle, but he still has plenty to prove after that last run.
Cap O’Rushes beat Excess Knowledge at Goodwood and he is 20/1 with Ladbrokes, however I prefer the chances of the other Godolphin runner SECRET NUMBER, who finished fifth in that race.
Saeed bin Suroor’s charge was arguably even more unlucky than Excess Knowledge and I think he would have won with a clear run. He then performed well to finish third in the Great Voltigeur at York and he looks the each-way value at 20/1.
His trainer has won this race five times and although Secret Number isn’t certain to get the trip on breeding he has looked as though he will appreciate it.
Talent can go well for Ralph Beckett now that the rain has arrived, while I also wouldn’t rule out Brian Meehan’s Great Hall, but let’s hope that Silvestre de Sousa can bring home Secret Number in front.
The Champagne Stakes looks too difficult at this stage with doubts about some of the participants, but I do think DOC HAY has an excellent chance of landing back-to-back Ladbrokes Portland Handicaps (2.40pm).
David O’Meara’s six-year-old won this off just a 3lb lower mark last year and looks to have been laid out for the race again. He ran well in the Beverley Bullet last time on ground that would have been too quick for him and a return to softer conditions and handicap company should see him go close at around 14/1.
Aljamaaheer is the class act in the OLBG Park Stakes (3.15pm), but soft ground doesn’t suit and there have been a number of shocks in this race over the years. Viztoria is interesting for Eddie Lynam, but I’m going to take SIRIUS PROSPECT to continue his fine recent record.
Last season was tough for Dean Ivory’s son of Gone West, but two wins from his last three starts have warranted a rise back to Group company and he should go well at a decent price.
Finally, ROYAL DIAMOND looks the value in Sunday’s Irish St Leger after Brown Panther suffered a setback. Johnny Murtagh’s charge won this last year and beat old foe Ernest Hemingway, who re-opposes, on his last outing.
He should go well again over his favourite trip.