Doncaster’s St Leger meeting has really kicked into gear with a fine card today filled with valuable action and competitive racing a plenty. Arguably the most fiercely contested race of the day looks to be the Sceptre Stakes (2.10), where many of the 16-runner field can consider themselves serious contenders for honour today.
Favourite of them is Bragging, a very impressive winner in handicap company the last twice in well contested races at Newmarket and York the last twice, drawing away in the style of a group horse both times. However, whether she deserves such short favouritism for such a race today can be called into question despite her obviously progressive nature and she makes for a good betting market.
J Wonder has run four times this season, and won twice and been seventh twice. When she has run over seven furlongs this season she has won twice, in the Fred Darling and then when landing the Oak Tree Stakes, while in her two unplaced runs, she has pulled far too hard too early over a mile and finished a combined total of 11 lengths behind in the French Guineas and Coronation Stakes. Today, over her perfect trip once again, she holds a fine chance if able to repeat her latest win at Goodwood, when she came with a withering late run to beat Muteela, Indignant and Valonia (a subsequent Listed winner) at Goodwood last time when carrying the same Group 3 penalty as today. A repeat of that performance is sure to make her very hard to beat and she looks to be a knocking each/way bet at the prices.
On 2-year-old form Kiyoshi and Joyeuse would take the beating but the former has not shown last year’s form despite running to a decent level (cheekpieces may work along with the drop to 7f though) and the latter seems to be a 76 furlong specialist. Al Tahkira hasn’t been seen since May, but was just a head behind J Wonder in the Fred Darling and looks to be a massive price if in top form. Lucky Kristale could be in the same basket, having not stayed 1m this year in two runs, but there’s one clear choice for me today.
In the Park Stakes (2.40), a chance is taken on Venus De Milo running to something like her best. This has been a poor season for the Aidan O’Brien filly but she was clearly amiss in the Yorkshire Oaks last time and her previous two efforts in Group 1 company would give her a better chance than a price of 13/2 currently suggests even against Seal Of Approval and Arabian Comet. This should suit her far more than then 10 furlongs she’s been tackling and she can be chanced at a tempting price with stamina her forte.
In the Wetherbys Hamilton Insurance Stakes (3.15) it may pay not to look past the obvious and back Fox Trotter to give connections a big payday. The form of his clear cut maiden win here – a rarity for the Meehan yard – has worked out well on a line through the runner up Brown Sugar and his fourth in the Richmond Stakes behind leading 2yo Ivawood has also been boosted by the performance of jungle Cat, who was nosed out of the Gimcrack. The way Fox Trotter finished that day suggested that he was well worth his place in group company, and receiving a great deal of weight from his rivals today, he makes strong appeal to go well.
The crownhotel-bawtry.com Handicap (3.45), Long Cross is sure to be highly liked for the John Gosden team after his maiden win – which had looked to be a comfortable and promising success at the time – was boosted by Soviet Courage going and then winning by 13 lengths last Tuesday. As much as he will take the beating, it’s not enough to put me off Mange Ali, who came with a withering late run to win one of the most hotly contested handicaps of the season at Ascot when last seen. He was too keen on his last attempt at the trip but with a more retrained ride this time around, he should go well in a bid for a follow up today and he just makes more appeal than Arab Dawn and The Corsican, both of whom look extremely progressive.
1 pt each/way J Wonder, 2.10 Doncaster (15/2 Sportingbet, 7/1 general)
1 pt win Venus De Milo, 2.40 Doncaster (13/2 general)
1 pt win Fox Trotter, 3.15 Doncaster (11/2 general)
1 pt each/way Mange Ali, 3.45 Doncaster (7/1 general)