Idaho has every right to head the St Leger betting at Doncaster but 4/6 seems plenty short enough for a colt having his first try at this trip of a mile and six and a half furlongs (3.45pm, Saturday).
Trained by Aidan O’Brien (pictured), Idaho is certainly the classiest act in the line-up with impressive form over a mile and a half but If the rain arrives in the quantities predicted any shortage of stamina is surely going to be exposed.
Idaho finished second in the Irish Derby beaten only half a length by Dermot Weld’s Harzand having previously finished third, beaten nearly three lengths by Harzand in the Epsom Derby. Most recently Idaho ran on convincingly to take the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York under Seamie Heffernan, getting the better of his pace-making stablemate, Housesofparliament, by nearly two lengths.
Heffernan retains the ride and is understandably bullish about his chances, thinking that there is more to come from this son of Galileo. He may well be right but over this distance in conditions that are less than ideal we have to look elsewhere.
The obvious starting point is John Gosden’s 5/1 second favourite Muntahaa, a striking grey son of Dansili out of a Linamix mare. This colt scored on good ground over just short of this distance in the Chester Stakes, a decent handicap in late August. Muntahaa soon took the lead and ‘just held on’ to win by a short head under Graham Lee despite making life difficult for himself by veering right at the start.
In his previous run at Royal Ascot Muntahaa was beaten a length and a half into third by Across The Stars in the King Edward Stakes after getting ‘intimidated’ by a rival. Muntahaa has been known to do some intimidating of his own, trying to take a chunk out of any runner within reach. That type of behaviour usually results in a rapid gelding operation but Gosden has chosen to persevere with Muntahaa as a colt, preferring to quieten his unruly tendencies with a hood. The stable is in good form and, with an official rating of 113, the handicapper rates him joint second best to the 120 rated Idaho but this is another horse who might find his stamina stretched. Owned by Hamdan Al Maktoum, Paul Hanagan will take the ride.
Housesofparliament (7/1) shares a rating of 113 and has a Group 3 victory over a mile and five furlongs to his name. He took the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket in July, beating Sir Michael Stoute’s Platitude a length and a half. He had been held up in the midfield by Ryan Moore and stayed on well, forging ahead in the final 100 yards on the good to firm ground.
Sharing a sire with his more fancied stablemate, this will be Housesofparliament’s first Group 1 start. He finished pretty well for a pacemaker at York and is likely to be ridden differently here. Colm O’Donoghue partners him suggesting that he is viewed as the second string. He wears a tongue tie as usual and is probably at his most effective on a sound surface.
The Ballydoyle team tactics are going to be interesting and it looks likely that Sword Fighter (12/1) will be ridden most prominently of the trio. He often makes the running but was kept just behind the pacesetting Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange in his latest effort at the end of July. That was over two miles and Sword Fighter took the lead about a furlong from home but weakened when it mattered and was beaten about four lengths into fifth.
In his previous start this colt succeeded in the Group 2 Curragh Cup over this distance on yielding ground in late June, beating his more fancied stablemate Landofhopeandglory two lengths. Only nine days before that win he sprang a massive surprise at Royal Ascot. He started as a 33/1 outsider and won the Queen’s Vase, a listed race over two miles, beating Harbour Law nearly a length.
This fellow son of Galileo will not be troubled by some give and has plenty of stamina. He has gained his rating of 112 over this trip which has to be a plus. He is partnered by Donnacha O’Brien suggesting that Ballydoyle view him as the third string but he has obvious claims, especially if the rain gets into the ground.
Jockey George Baker wants as much rain as possible for Laura Mongan’s first ever classic runner, Harbour Law (25/1). If it arrives Baker thinks he has a decent outside chance. This son of Lawman cost just £30K at the breeze-ups and has something to find off his lowly rating of 102 but, while class may be lacking, his stamina is not in doubt.
Harbour Law finished within a length of Sword Fighter at Royal Ascot and was far from disgraced in his first encounter of Group company. He was only beaten two lengths by Housesofparliament in the Bahrain Trophy on a quick surface that predictably left him slightly tapped for toe. We have not seen him since that run two months ago so he will be fresher than most. From a relatively unknown stable, success here would resemble a fairytale but he is certainly an interesting each-way prospect at his current price.
Mick Channon’s Harrison (50/1) finished a short head in front of Harbour Law at Newmarket in third and was subsequently disappointing at Goodwood, tailed off in the Group 2 Gordon Stakes. Most recently he finished eight lengths behind Idaho at York. He looks very unlikely to emulate his sire, Sixties Icon, who won this race a decade ago.
A rating of 111 suggests that Ventura Storm (16/1) is far from a no-hoper. Trained by Richard Hannon, he was last seen a month ago winning a Group 2 at Deauville on his first attempt at a mile and a half. As a son of Zoffany he is not exactly bred to get this trip but Ventura Storm has scored in his two runs since being stepped up in trip.
In July he was successful in a listed race over a mile and three furlongs at Hamilton on soft suggesting he has the stamina for further. He may well put in a decent performance but looks more likely to place than take top honours.
Ormito (25/1) finished second, just over a length behind Ventura Storm receiving 4lb from him at Hamilton. Most recently he was the runner-up again in a Group 3 at Newbury over a couple of furlongs further behind Sir Michael Stoute’s Kings Fete. Trained by Andrew Balding and partly owned by racing presenter Emma Spencer’s mother, Emma thinks he is up against it in this company but they have hopes of gaining a minor placing.
The 100/1 outsider of the field, The Tartan Spartan, is having just his third ever start. Saddled by Pat Shanahan, he won his maiden at Thirsk over a mile and a half in April and was then beaten six lengths in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot where he was outpaced and then stayed on. Those efforts have earned him a rating of 96. His owner/breeders Thistle Bloodstock Limited have never experienced Group 1 success and look unlikely to here.
Our Preview’s St Leger Stakes Betting Tip Verdict
Idaho may prove to be a good thing but memories of his stablemate, The Gurkha’s defeat at a similar starting price when stepping up in trip in the Eclipse are too fresh to make him an attractive punting prospect.
If stamina is at a premium the 25/1 outsider Harbour Law stands a very decent chance of grabbing a place at least under the capable George Baker.
- Our St Leger preview’s betting tip has to be SWORD FIGHTER. Ballydoyle have underestimated him before and this colt’s combination of class and proven stamina make him a solid value each-way prospect, currently best priced at 12/1 with Bet365 who are paying ¼ the odds on the first three places.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.