Donn McClean
2 months ago - 11 minute read

Donn McClean previews the St Leger and Irish Champions Weekend

At least now we know what the make-up of the St Leger field is. Kew Gardens is in, Old Persian is in, Dee Ex Bee is in, but we knew that anyway.

We knew that Lah Ti Dar might be in on Tuesday, and we knew that she probably would be in on Wednesday morning, and we knew that she was definitely in on Wednesday evening. And then you remembered how keen Frankie Dettori was on her St Leger prospects after he won the Galtres Stakes on her at York.

Flag Of Honour is not going to Doncaster, although we never really thought that he was, not after Aidan O’Brien indicated after he won the Irish St Leger Trial that he could be staying at home to contest the Irish St Leger instead. And Latrobe is not in the Doncaster line-up. Again, unsurprising. It looks like Joseph O’Brien’s Irish Derby winner is off to The Curragh too.

Even so, the Doncaster line-up is stronger than anticipated.

Loxley had the option of going back to France for the Prix Niel, but the Godolphin colt has been declared for Doncaster. And the Aidan O’Brien horses Southern France and The Pentagon and Nelson all also had the Irish St Leger option, but all have been confirmed for Doncaster. All of which means that the task that their stable companion Kew Gardens – long-time Leger favourite – faces is more arduous than it looked like it was going to be just five days ago.

Lah Ti Dar has recieved strong support in the market in recent days.

You can see the case for Kew Gardens.

He has a St Leger profile. He ran in the Epsom Derby, he won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot – run over the St Leger distance of a mile and six furlongs these days, not over two miles, like it used to be – and he won the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp, a Group 1 race over a mile and a half.

Then last time, he ran a cracker in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, one of the best St Leger trials, finishing a close-up third behind Old Persian and Cross Counter, and keeping on well under his 5lb penalty.

The Ballydoyle colt is not as short in the market as he was, but he is still short, given how competitive a race it is now. He is probably shorter than he should be, even though his favourite’s armband is now under severe pressure from Lah Ti Dar.

Kew Gardens ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to a profile of a St Leger contender.

There is no knowing how good John Gosden’s filly could be. She has raced just three times, and she has won three times. She was installed as favourite for the Oaks after she won the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket in May. A setback ruled her out of Epsom, but she bounced back last time in the Galtres Stakes at York.

She could have run in the Yorkshire Oaks 40 minutes before the Galtres Stakes was scheduled to be run, it would have been some race between her and Sea Of Class, and there was almost as much talk about the Lloyd-Webbers’ filly on the way home from York that evening as there was about the Yorkshire Oaks winner.

The Dubawi filly has to prove her stamina for an extended one mile and six furlongs, but she stays a mile and a half well, and her family stay well: her dam Dar Re Mi, Yorkshire Oaks winner, and her sister So Mi Dar, even though she never went beyond 10 furlongs. There is every chance that Lah Ti Dar will stay the trip all right, and her rider obviously thinks that she will.

That said, Old Persian is a much more palatable betting proposition at around 8.0.

The Godolphin colt has to prove his stamina for the distance too, but he is another who stays a mile and a half well and, also by Dubawi out of the Singspiel mare Indian Petal, whose sister Silkwood won the Ribblesdale Stakes, his breeding gives him every chance.

He has the talent to win a Leger too. He has progressed really nice this season, from winning a 10-furlong handicap at Newmarket on his debut this term, to winning the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last time.

Old Persian presents a lot of value in the St Leger on Saturday

It is legitimate to expect that Kew Gardens will progress from that York race, but Old Persian beat him by almost two lengths. Also, while Kew Gardens was carrying a 5lb penalty, Old Persian was carrying a 3lb penalty. The winner was receiving just 2lb from the Ballydoyle colt.

And there is every chance that Old Persian will progress too. With the exception of a disappointing run in the Irish Derby, in which he didn’t have the run of the race, he has progressed with every run this season. He has a nice progressive profile, and his Great Voltigeur run was a career-best. He could represent the value of the race.

Meanwhile across the Irish Sea..

It is some weekend, of course: St Leger weekend in England, Arc Trials weekend in France, Irish Champions Weekend in Ireland. Roaring Lion and Saxon Warrior are set to go at it again in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday. Roaring Lion beat Saxon Warrior by a neck when they met in the Eclipse, and he had more in hand when they met in the Juddmonte International last time.

However, John Gosden’s horse is short. Odds-on. He may not be invincible.

We know that he goes very well at York, he won the Dante there earlier this season by four and a half lengths, whereas Saxon Warrior had never run on the Knavesmire before. Also, Roaring Lion had the run of the race at York.

Oisin Murphy celebrates on Roaring Lion after winning the Juddmonte International Stakes during the Yorkshire Ebor Festival.

Saxon Warrior is expected to improve for that run, and Aidan O’Brien’s horse could get closer to his old rival on Saturday than the five lengths by which he was behind him at York. And it may not be a two-horse race. French raider, Prix du Jockey Club winner, Study Of Man could come into it. Last year’s National Stakes winner Verbal Dexterity could come into it, this year’s Lockinge Stakes winner Rhododendron could come into it and, if the rains arrive, Lincoln winner Addeybb could have a chance. It’s an intriguing renewal.

The Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes is more straightforward because it is very difficult to oppose Alpha Centauri. Jessica Harrington’s filly has been one of the stars of the 2018 season, the Irish Guineas winner, the Coronation Stakes winner, the Falmouth Stakes winner, the Prix Jacques le Marois winner.

Alpha Centauri has been a revelation this year. 

She has not raced in Ireland since she won the Irish Guineas, so you can be sure that there will be a hugely appreciative crowd assembled at Leopardstown on Saturday to see her. Assembled around the parade ring too.

It is good that Laurens is making the trip. Karl Burke’s filly is a high-class performer, winner of the Prix Saint-Alary and the Prix de Diane this season. She didn’t appear to be happy over a mile and a half in the Yorkshire Oaks last time and, back over a mile on Saturday, Daniel Tudhope will be able to be as aggressive on her as he likes. That should suit Colm O’Donoghue and Alpha Centauri well though.

This is probably a race to watch and savour, Alpha Centauri is a filly to watch and appreciate, without a financial involvement.

Click here for Matchbook’s latest Horse Racing markets