Doncaster St Leger Festival | Handicappers Blog
Gardens blossoms on Town Moor
The Group 1 William Hill St Leger, the final classic of the domestic season, looked to have real strength in depth this year with nine of the twelve runners having already won in listed or pattern company. Michael Harris assesses an above-average renewal
Kew Gardens was the only previous Group 1 winner in the field, having won the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in July. He had proven his stamina for the Leger trip when winning the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot and was last seen when third in the Sky Bet Great Voltigeur at York. He had to carry a 5-lb Group 1 penalty that day, when shaping like a step back up in trip would be in his favour, and so it proved. He joined the leaders two furlongs out after travelling well and showed a willing attitude, seeing the race out strongly.
Favourite Lah Ti Dar tracked Kew Gardens through the early part of the race but came under pressure at the top of the straight. She could not quite keep tabs on the winner but responded well to stay on and was coming away from the rest of the field at the line. Lah Ti Dar appeared to stay the longer trip well, and with this being only the fourth start of her career there is a strong chance she can improve further. She is likely to drop back to 12f for the Qipco Fillies’ and Mares’ race on Champions Day at Ascot, and beyond that will be a leading contender in the top middle distance races next season.
Lah Ti Dar came into the race rated 115 after her runaway win in listed company at York and we have her repeating that level of form. Factoring in her fillies allowance, that puts her ahead of the usual level for a St Leger runner-up but looks justified given the gap back to the rest. Kew Gardens had a pre-race Irish rating of 117. After consultation with Irish handicapper Garry O’Gorman, we have decided on a new figure of 121 for him – he beat Lah Ti Dar by two and a quarter lengths, which equates to 3 lb over this distance, and was also giving the filly 3 lb (hence 6 lb ahead in total).
From a historical point of view Kew Gardens is a pound higher than last year’s winner Capri (120), and is the best winner since Masked Marvel (also 121) in 2011. Only 2008 winner Conduit (122) and 2001 winner Milan (122) have recorded higher figures in the race this century.
Old Persian (117) had beaten Kew Gardens in the Great Voltigeur (when in receipt of 2 lb), however he didn’t appear to appreciate the step up in trip and will be seen to best effect back at 12f. Dee Ex Bee ran another consistent race over this longer trip and remains on 114. Runner-up in the Derby, he hasn’t quite been able to repeat that form since but has finished out of the first four only once this season – there was some cut in the ground at Epsom (good to soft in places) and such conditions may suit him best.
Too Hot to handle
Lah Ti Dar might have had to settle for a gallant second in the St Leger but her brother Too Darn Hot made no mistake in the Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes, writes Graeme Smith…
The feature of the Champagne Stakes was how strung out the field got and Too Darn Hot’s turn of foot to bridge the gap was hugely impressive, with Dettori able to take things easy near the finish. There’s little doubt he’s a contender for Champion Two Year Old at this stage, but that’s judged more on his potential than proven form – this defeat of the Acomb winner Phoenix of Spain rates at 116 by my reckoning and that’s including extra for his being eased down late on.
Nevertheless, 116 is right up there with the best Champagne winners of recent times, second only to Emotionless since Lucky Story ran to 120 in 2003, and plenty of those that posted lower figures went on to Group 1 success.
Two-year-old ratings are reflective of opportunity as well as ability and Too Darn Hot has yet to face the sort of test that Quorto and Anthony Van Dyck provided for each other in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday. That form can’t be assessed until last week’s workload has been put to bed but there’s a good chance Quorto in particular produced more than Too Darn Hot has needed to so far.
Sangarius was flagged up as an exciting colt after winning on his debut at Newmarket and he took the next step up in his stride in the listed Weatherbys Global Stallions App Flying Scotsman Stakes at Doncaster on Friday.
Sir Michael Stoute’s son of Kingman is an imposing sort physically and he galloped more than two lengths clear of his rivals despite giving the impression he was still very much learning the job. At one point he looked like winning by at least twice the margin he did, and assuming his hanging was down to nothing more than greenness it’s not hard to see him stepping up again on this 108 performance.
The William Hill May Hill Stakes went the way of the Ballydoyle-trained Fleeting, who relished the step up from 7f just as much as her performance when third in a Group 3 at the Curragh last month had promised. Her official rating is a decision for my Irish counterpart but I have her in the region of 106.
While the fillies sprint division has the shining stars of Pretty Pollyanna and Signora Cabello, it’s fair to say that it’s still all to play for in the 7f/1m category with nothing yet standing out (prior to my assessing the Moyglare at least). That’s quite a contrast to the colts, however, and potential clashes in the Dewhurst and Futurity could be something to behold.
Soldier’s on the march
The other two-year-old pattern race at the St Leger meeting, the Group 2 Wainwrights Flying Childers Stakes, was landed by the speedy colt Solder’s Call. Chris Nash assesses his performance…
Soldier’s Call has a generally progressive profile having landed three of his five outings prior to the Flying Childers, and he arrived at Doncaster rated 108 after winning a Group 3 race in France earlier in September. He bounced out of the stalls and made all to win by two and a quarter lengths from Well Done Fox. The runner-up was rated 107 after winning a listed race at York last time out and he gives this form a solid enough look.
The last ten winners of the Flying Childers have ranged from 105 to 113 and race standards put the performance of Soldier’s Call in the range of 109 to 111. I was impressed with the manner of his win so I went at the top end of that range and his revised mark will be 111. This level has the runner-up performing to 104 and the third horse, the Irish-trained Gossamer Wings, running to 99.
Connections of the winner have ambitious targets for him with trips to both the Abbaye and the Breeders’ Cup under consideration. He would be taking on his elders in the Abbaye, and whilst he would have plenty to find on the ratings (last year’s winner Battaash is rated 126), he is obviously open to further improvement.