The St Leger betting suggests that it should be a close run race after the stamina-testing mile and three quarters at Doncaster (3.45pm Saturday).
Storm The Stars and Bondi Beach are neck and neck at the top of the market but is it realistic to expect the first two home in the Great Voltigeur to lead the way again after such a hard race?
For William Haggas’ Storm The Stars (2/1), the last two furlongs will be unknown territory but he did get the better of Bondi Beach by half a length at York, despite hanging badly left in the final stages. He may not have run straight but his determination not to be passed was impressive. His efforts had to be backed up by jockey Pat Cosgrave’s equally spirited defence of his performance in the stewards’ room afterwards. The result stood.
Whilst Cosgrave pushed Storm The Stars on from flagfall at the Knavesmire, some pundits believe that Joseph O’Brien let the field get away from him on Bondi Beach, leaving him with too much to do. Would different tactics have provided a different result? Possibly, but the jury is out on that one.
Cosgrave also partnered Storm The Stars in the Derby. He was outpaced on the quick ground, finishing third, eight lengths behind Golden Horn. In the Irish Derby he was runner-up, five lengths behind John Gosden’s Jack Hobbs on similar ground. In both races he kept on at the same pace in the final stages, suggesting slightly further or slower ground would suit him. It was no accident that his York victory was on good to soft.
Unlike Storm The Stars, Bondi Beach (7/4) has already scored over this distance. He took the Group 3 Curragh Cup at the end of June, beating his more fancied stablemate, Order Of St George by a short head. His then jockey Seamie Heffernan had him up with the pace and had to resort to hands and heels after parting company with his persuader a furlong out.
Joseph O’Brien will not get the chance to try different tactics here, after much jockey-shuffling Colm O’Donoghue will partner this son of Galileo for the first time as Order Of St George will not be crossing the Irish Sea.
Aidan O’Brien (pictured) also saddles the third favourite, Fields Of Athenry (5/1). We last saw him running well and finishing nearly seven lengths behind the surprise winner of the Ebor, Litigant, in fifth place. That was under Joseph’s little brother, Donnacha O’Brien. Fields Of Athenry was forced to race wide and possibly went for home a bit too soon, fading in the final 100 yards.
Another son of Galileo, this colt won his previous two starts under Seamie Heffernan. In early August he took the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown over a mile and a half. In July he made all to win a listed race at the same track over this distance on yielding to soft.
He is rated just 2lb lower than Storm The Stars and looks likely to give a good account of himself here. The in-form Silvestre De Sousa is booked to partner him for the first time.
Ralph Beckett sends out the only filly to line up, Simple Verse (8/1) and he has done well with fillies in the Leger. He came second with Talent in 2013 and third with Look Here in 2008. To go one better would be quite an achievement as no filly has won since User Friendly in 1992.
Connections have stumped up the £50K required to supplement Simple Verse suggesting a degree of confidence but that’s not such a big deal considering that she is part owned by Qatar Racing. Their pockets are bottomless.
This daughter of Duke Of Marmalade has about 7lb to find to trouble the leading trio but she benefits from the 3lb fillies allowance and looks progressive over this trip. She has won her last two starts. Most recently she took the Group 3 Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood (over this distance) at the end of July. That was on good ground. She has never encountered a slower surface.
It takes a leap of faith for this St Leger preview to see any of the other runners coming out on top. Perhaps the French raider, Vengeur Masque (25/1) could run into a place in this seven-runner field. He won a small race at Compiegne over a mile and a half on good to soft in June and started as the favourite in a Group 3 at Deauville in early August. He was found wanting and finished third, beaten about two lengths, but kept on at the same pace suggesting a greater distance might suit him. His trainer Mikel Delzangles is no fool either. Umberto Rispoli takes the ride.
When Richard Hannon was asked about the chances of Proposed (66/1) on Friday he suggested that he might win if he started a day early. He will get the trip – but not in the same timescale as the others. Hannon hinted strongly that it was Julie Woods (the owner) who was keen to let the colt take his chance. Proposed’s rating of 93 suggests that Woods is an optimist hoping for a good day out rather than a visit to the winner’s enclosure.
For Medrano (33/1) the first time use of a hood will have to bring about a minor miracle. He finished 26 lengths behind Storm The Stars in the Voltigeur, leading until three out and weakening over a furlong from home. As a son of Archipenko, mud should help his cause but not enough for him to score for his trainer, David Brown, here.
St Leger Preview’s Betting Tips Conclusion
This looks a fairly open renewal with four runners having realistic chances. Simple Verse is up against it as a filly and untested on softish ground. There is little to choose between the three market leaders but the Voltigeur has often proved the most valuable form guide for this race. It would be no shock to see Bondi Beach reverse the placings but William Haggas is enjoying a great run of form and we can trust Pat Cosgrave to keep things simple. Rain softened ground should help Storm The Stars’ chances, bringing his dogged determination to the fore.