I preview and provide my tips for the Ladbrokes St Leger, run over 1 mile 6 furlongs and 132 yards, at 3.50 at Doncaster tomorrow. It’s a group 1 race for 3 year olds, and like last year this season’s crop of colts from Ireland and the UK looks below par, with no stars. They remain unexposed at this sort of trip however, and while none of them will be winning an Arc anytime soon, the winner could develop into a top stayer in the future. The going is currently good to soft, and is likely to be similar at race time.
Excess Knowledge is favourite at a best price of 4/1. After winning his maiden 1st time out, he hasn’t won in 4 subsequent outings, but has progressed since stepping up to 10, and then 12 furlongs. At Sandown in a listed race over 10 furlongs, he stayed on very well at the death to be beaten just 1l, having never looked like winning. The form of that would be good by listed standards, and he looked sure to improve for a step up to 12 furlongs.
He got that chance at Goodwood but the pace was steady, and while he didn’t get the best of runs before flying home, it wasn’t that, that got him beat. It was his lack of pace when they quickened. The way he flew home late suggests had they gone a gallop he would have won, as he was clearly the most inconvenienced by the slow gallop. He’s bred for stamina and could well improve over the trip. He will need too though, as the bare form of that last run would be well short of the required standard here. I can’t help but think his current price is due to his trainer winning the race 3 times in the last 6 years.
I thought Leading Light would win the St Leger before he won the Queen’s Vase at Ascot. To tell the truth I was disappointed with him that day, despite the fact that he won. Before that he had progressed with each run, and looked like the step up from 10 furlongs would bring about plenty more improvement. The bare form of an all out 1 1/2l win from Feel Like Dancing, with an 87 rated horse in 3rd, and the 5th only rated 81 at the time is a mile off what would be needed to win an average Leger.
I do however think he’s much better than that. His 10 furlong form would be about 8lb shy of the required standard, but he looked certain to improve more, especially for extra distance. At Ascot he had excuses too, the pace was strong and when Tom Queally did his trademark kick for home to soon move, on the 2nd favourite, Joseph followed him on Leading Light. At the time the 2nd, 3rd and 5th were at the back of the field. I think given the circumstances Leading Light did well to battle back when passed, and the fact they put him away for this afterwards can only be a plus. The long straight at Doncaster is made for him and if he can get the rest off the bridle by the 2 pole, there won’t be anything staying on any better than him.
Galileo Rock is a horse who I would have thought would improve for this trip before the Epsom Derby but having been well positioned throughout in that he was run out of 2nd close home. He had no excuses and was likely flattered a little by his finishing position. The two horses that finished ahead of him renewed rivalry at the Curragh but both of those flopped, and Galileo Rock ran well enough to come 2nd to Trading Leather. It was a very poor Derby though, with the two favorites running no race, it was left to a 33/1 and 66/1 shot to fill the other places. Trading Leather has since proved himself a decent horse, but is far from a top notch performer. Galileo Rock looked like he might have a real chance at the furlong pole that day, but again he didn’t finish off that strong, and was the weakest of the first 3 at the line. On that basis I would now doubt his stamina at tomorrow’s trip, and I don’t think his bare form is good enough either. He is not a certain runner with his trainer worried about softish ground. It’s true he won on soft on his debut, but he has since achieved much more on faster ground. That said he ran to a pretty high level for a horse first time out, and its hard to think good to soft will be much of a problem for him.
Foundry also represents Aidan O’Brien and he didn’t run from November last year, when he won his maiden, until he came 2nd at York in the Great Voltigeur. That was a hell of an effort for a horse off so long, and with so little experience. The pace in that race wasn’t very fast though and as such he has yet to prove he stays 12 furlongs in a true run race, let alone the extra few furlongs here. On breeding he has a chance, and he was staying on again at York after being outpaced. He definitely has the scope to improve enough to win this, but it’s hard to make a case for him being much shorter than his current 6/1 price.
If you watch the Epsom Derby you would be very hard pushed to make a case for Galileo Rock being shorter for the Leger than Libertarian, was looks a very strong stayer, so was always going to be inconvenienced by a steady pace in the Derby, and that was made worse by him being poorly positioned when they pace picked up. He did very well to get 2nd, and I thought at the time that he would probably have won had they gone an even pace all the way. He since ran a stinker at the Curragh though, and has changed stables too. I think he will definitely get the trip, and will very likely improve for it, he’ll love the long straight, but the vibes from connections aren’t exactly great and that last run is still fresh in the mind.
Talent won the Oaks going away by almost 4l, but she was flattered by being held up in a race run at too fast a pace. Her flop in the Irish Oaks was still too bad to be true next time, but she comes here with a good bit to prove in my book, and doesn’t interest me at 12/1.
Secret Number looked a potential star in Dubai, but while he’s done quite well since coming back to the UK, he hasn’t lived up to that billing. Like Excess Knowledge he didn’t get the best of runs at Goodwood, and was only beaten 2l, when he would have finished closer. That form isn’t anywhere near good enough though, and having been beaten in his last 5 races now, and with the trip a doubt, rather than a positive, he doesn’t have the scope the favourite has to improve.
The same applies to Cap O’Rushes. He won that race at Goodwood but only held the late charge from Excess Knowledge by a head, and should surely have been beaten if they had gone a stride faster. He had been mildly progressive before flopping at York last time, but even that run apart, none of his form is good enough for this, he doesn’t appeal as likely to improve for the trip, and as such its very hard to see him finding the necessary progress.
Great Hall only won a handicap off a mark of 88 last time and will need to find huge progress, while Havana Beat and Ralston Road can’t be given any realistic chance.
If connections were a little more bullish about Libertarian being back in top form I would back him at the 15/2 available, but they aren’t so I’ll leave him be. Excess Knowledge has the scope to improve, as has Foundry, but I really think Leading Light is better than he showed at Ascot, and has been lined up for this. The long straight is going to be a huge plus for this galloper, and he looks sure to go close. He hasn’t beaten a lot, and I normally go for form over hype, but he doesn’t have that much to find, and has a lot in his favour. I think the 9/2 with