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The Ladbrokes Doncaster St Leger Festival gets under way on Wednesday 10th September and will feature four days of top class flat racing action, culminating with the St Leger itself on Saturday September 13th. Doncaster have really beefed up the Leger meeting for 2014 and there will be plenty of betting opportunities prior to the oldest Classic race in the calendar taking place. First run in 1776, the St Leger is the final Classic race of the season and not only is it the oldest of the five Classic races, it is also the longest, being run over a trip of one mile and six furlongs.
A number of famous horses have won this race down the years and trainer John Gosden has a particularly good record in the Doncaster showpiece. The Roger Varian trained Kingston Hill is the current 3/1 market leader in the ante post St Leger market and his handler will be hoping conditions come right for this horse. Kingston Hill requires a bit of cut in the ground to be seen at best effect and has had to miss a few engagements this year due to unsuitable underfoot conditions. Having finished second to Australia in the Epsom Derby, Kingston Hill was subsequently 4th in a messy Coral-Eclipse. He definitely didn’t have optimum conditions on that particular occasion and is likely to be seen to better effect in the Leger.
Legendary Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien has an excellent record with runners in the St Leger and actually saddled the 2013 winner Leading Light. O’Brien also took the St Leger in 2001, 2003 and 2005. His hand is surprisingly weak this year however, and it will be quite a shock if any of his potential runners can actually win the race this time around.
As I mentioned earlier, John Gosden is never far away when it comes to this prestigious contest, and is represented this year by both Romsdal and Marzocco. Available at odds of 7/1 generally, Romsdal would certainly appear to be Gosden’s best chance of winning the St Leger for a fifth time, but this horse is going to need to put behind him an extremely disappointing effort in the King George. A staying on third place finish in the Derby prior to that would make Romsdal a leading contender here and with his trainer having won two of the last four renewals, it would take a brave man to write this horse off.
The trends for the St Leger would appear to favour a horse who has run in the Derby, is John Gosden, Saeed Bin Suroor or Aidan O’Brien, and who has won, or at least finished in the first three last time out. I can’t see any horse who stands out massively from a trends perspective but I do believe that Kingston Hill is the most talented individual in this field. I wouldn’t be backing Roger Varian’s charge in the ante post market however, and would instead wait until the day of the race due to the uncertainty surrounding his participation.
One runner I will be having an interest on with an ante post wager is the Richard Hannon trained Windshear, who is on offer at a best price of 9/1 with William Hill. Although this bay colt would appear to have a habit of finishing second, he does not lack the stomach for a battle. I thought he stayed on particularly well when a neck second to Snow Sky at Goodwood in the Gordon Stakes, and looks made for this step up in trip to one mile and six. I’ll be mightily disappointed if Windshear doesn’t finish in the first three, and he has a great chance of landing this Classic race for the Hannon yard.
Back Kingston Hill (on the day of the race)
Back Windshear each way at 9/1 with William Hill