Our methods man takes a close look at the final Classic of the season
Systems expert runs his rule over the St Leger
The St Leger is the oldest of the British Classic races. First run in 1776, it is also the longest distance race run by the Classic generation and as a result has a tendency to throw up a surprise or two.Before we get into the Racing Ahead Form (RAF) preview for the race let us look at what the Doncaster race has served up over recent years.
2007 LUCARNO (John Gosden / Jimmy Fortune)
Ten years ago it was the George Strawbridge silks that were carried to St Leger glory by his American bred colt.Lucarno was by Dynaformer and out of a Diesis mare, Vignette. The colt came to Town Moor on the back of a win in the Great Voltigeur Stakes atYork and stayed on well under Jimmy Fortune to beat Aidan O’Brien’s Mahler and Honolulu, who was the 13/8 favourite. The John Gosden trained Lucarno was sent off at 7/2 on the day and was well fancied by some. The colt ran on a further six occasions but only managed to win once more in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at the Newmarket July meeting the following year. He finished his racing career unplaced in the Canadian International at Woodbine before being retired to stud.
1997 SILVER PATRIARCH (John Dunlop / Pat Eddery)
The grey son of Saddlers Hall arrived at Doncaster on the back of being narrowly beaten in the Great Voltigeur Stakes. Sent off at 5/4,Silver Patriarch won as a decent favourite should by taking up the lead entering the final furlong and scoring by 3 lengths from the Andre Fabre trainedVertical Speed. John Dunlop’s colt wasn’t content with just the one Group 1 win and went on to score from Swain in the 1998 renewal of the Coronation Cup and the Gran Premio del Jockey-Club at San Siro in October of the same year. In his final season he took the Jockey Club Stakes and the Geoffrey Freer Stakes. He was partnered by Pat Eddery on each of his eight winning races.
1987 REFERENCE POINT (Sir Henry Cecil / Steve Cauthen)
Reference Point was the ultimate stayer. The son of Mill Reef was regarded as the second best Derby winner of the 1980s behind Shergar.In his 3 year-old season he also won the Dante, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, and was sent off the 1/10 favourite for the GreatVoltigeur Stakes where he won after having slipped and sustained an injury on the heavily watered ground. In the St Leger he started the 4/11 favourite and won by one and a half lengths from Mountain Kingdom.He was sent off the odds-on favourite for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe but was found to have been suffering from an abscess in his foot after finishing down the field.That was the last that we saw of the great horse.
1977 DUNFERMLINE (Dick Hern / Her Majesty the Queen)
The last of our great St Leger winners is the Queen’s Dunfermline. History has a habit of writing itself and in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year the daughter of Royal Palace landed the Epsom Oaks and the St Leger to make it an annus mirabilis for Her Majesty. The royal connection and sense of history was clearly lost on the punters as she started at 6/1 for the Oaks and 10/1 in the St Leger! In the Doncaster race Willie Carson got the better of the battle with race favourite Alleged, ridden by Lester Piggott,winning by one and a half lengths. However, the tables were turned at Longchamp with the Vincent O’Brien trained Alleged winning the first of his two Arcs.
ST LEGER RAF PREVIEW
The snapshot history above shows that the Great Voltigeur is a key race in pinpointing potential winners. The Roger Varian trained DEFOE (18pts) heads the Racing Ahead Form ratings, and held a host of entries including York, but ran in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on 19 August, where he showed in winning that he is a horse on the way up. Tailed off on his final start of the 2016 season in the Zetland Stakes,t he Dalakhani colt had rattled up a hat-trick of wins in his Classic season including two handicaps and the listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton prior to winning the Geoffrey Freer. The Zetland Stakes was won by John Gosden’s Ribblesdale Stakes winner Coronet, with Derby winner Wings Of Eagles in fourth and the ill-fated Permian in third place. That was a hot race that found him out, so the question is does the improving Defoe have the quality to win the St Leger?
STRADIVARIUS (17pts) has already won the Queen’s Vase and the Goodwood Cup. The son of Sea The Stars does not hold any entries prior to the St Leger at present and John Gosden may well feel that with stamina proven his colt does not need a prep run and can turn up fresh for battle on Town Moor. Andrea Atzeni is the retained jockey for Roger Varian and Sheik Mohammed Obaid, owner of Defoe, but
he has also ridden Stradivarius in his last two wins.Atzeni already has two recent St Leger wins on his CV, with Kingston Hill (2014) and SimpleVerse (2015).Whichever horse the Sardinian born jockey is on needs to be given special attention.
This brings me nicely to a point where we can highlight the deficiencies inherent in racing systems. Regular readers will know that I am a systems nut.In providing a shorthand approach to winner spotting they have their obvious merits; however they are not infallible and sometimes mightily frustrating. In order to provide transparency to the systems that I write about in this magazine it is necessary to stick with the rules even when they throw up anomalies.
But let us take a further look at Stradivarius, he has won over 1m6f (Queen’s Vase) and 2m (Goodwood Cup);however, the St Leger is run over 1m6f and a HALF furlongs. The extra 110 yards means that the colt does not get a ‘D’ in his form line which would mark him up as a distance winner and the fact he has won over further does not count either. The extra 5 points would put him on 22 points and make him our top-rated horse.
Although Defoe won over a distance of 1m5f and 61 yards in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes he is being asked to run one furlong further in the St Leger, this I would argue does not entitle him to the ‘D’ rating. I’m going to suggest that this form reading shows that Stradivarius is more than capable of being considered a distance winner as he has actually won over further. Defoe may be the higher rated officially, but in beating Big Orange the Gosden horse set down a fair marker. That said, Andrea Atzeni already has two recent St Leger wins on his CV, with Kingston Hill (2014) and Simple Verse (2015). Whichever horse the Sardinian born jockey is on needs to be seriously considered.
One to note may be Aidan O’Brien’s AIR SUPREMACY (15pts) completely unexposed son of Galileo who won his maiden at the third attempt at the Curragh on 15 July.The speed figures aren’t that encouraging but he arguably rates a better proposition than Mark Johnston’s CAPE COAST.