Talking Horses

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

St. Leger 2013 Preview

Feather in the Cap - Cap O'Rushes looks the value in the St. Leger
The 2013 classic season is rounded out on Saturday by the oldest classic of them all the Ladbrokes St. Leger.

The stamina test run over an extended 1m6f at Doncaster’s Town Moor course will pit the best of this season’s three-year-old colts and fillies against each other; and the St. Leger is the one classic that is renowned for throwing up a surprise or two, as evidenced last year when Godolphin ‘outsider’ Encke ruined the Camelot Triple Crown dream.

The Leger has arguably become the forgotten classic in recent years and without the Camelot story going in to this year’s race, the 2013 renewal hasn’t really received the hype and coverage that 2012’s race did. Without a truly stand-out star from this year’s classic generation in the line-up as well the race doesn’t quite have the excitement and anticipation built around it this year that it has in the past. That said what we do have is an extremely competitive looking race and one that looks wide open in terms of potential winners.

The Oaks winner and the Derby second and third all line-up, as well as a host of other potential improvers, creating a really intriguing field for the 2013 St. Leger.

The best place to start as usual though is at the head of the market, especially given that one of the co-favourites is my idea of the winner of the race. In previous years I’ve been quite keen on a horse for the Leger well in advance of the race and although Galileo Rock’s performance in both the Epsom and Irish Derbies caught my eye as outstanding Leger trials I’m not as sold on him as I was on my fancies from the last couple of years, perhaps due to the price.

He has been on my radar for some time for the race but 4/1 is by no means a great price, however he does rate the most likely winner.

He’s only had five runs to date but the David Wachman inmate is the joint-highest rated horse in the field on official ratings.

Galileo Rock won a pretty poor Leopardstown maiden on his debut impressively before running fifth in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Newmarket on his second start, that represented the sum total of his racing at two. He came back at three in good heart though when a staying on third in Sandown’s Classic Trial before running third in the Epsom Derby an filling the runner-up spot in the Irish Derby.

He’s always looked a stayer and is bred to be so, being closely related to top stayer Sadler’s Rock, one suspects this has been his target all year and in my eyes he definitely looks like the most likely winner on paper.

Disputing top spot at the head of the market with Galileo Rock is John Gosden’s Excess Knowledge and like his rival at this point comes in to the race having only won a maiden.

He does however have some good form in the bag in spite of not getting his head in front since his maiden victory. Twice placed at Listed level, Excess Knowledge turned in arguably his best performance to date when just denied in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood last time out.

Hailing from the Gosden yard instantly gains you respect in the Leger in my book, with the leading trainer having such a fantastic St. Leger record and the market support this one has received clearly shows that plenty of people think he can enhance that record; does he deserve to be as short a price as he currently is though? I have my reservations.

Aidan O’Brien could saddle three in the race, though after being turned over at odds on at Galway earlier this week it would be somewhat of a surprise to now see Eye Of The Storm line-up.

In Leading Light and Foundry though the Ballydoyle master could have two major contenders. The latter has only raced twice but his second to the top class Telescope in the Great Voltigeur – a leading Leger trial – shows that he is more than deserving of his place in this field.

Foundry had a few of the other horses in this field behind him that day and coming in to the race so lightly raced, could still have plenty of improvement in him and if that was the case surely it would put him right there at the finish.

Leading Light is unbeaten since losing on debut and will be one that is running on when perhaps some of the others have cried enough. Winner of the 2m Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot when last seen (Feel Like Dancing 2nd) stamina is the name of the game with this one but he has also won, and won well, over 1m2f so isn’t without a touch of speed.

It’ll be interesting to observe the Ballydoyle jockey bookings but they genuinely look to have two excellent chances of avenging Camelot’s agonizing defeat in the race twelve months on.

Epsom stars Libertarian and Talent both will need to leave behind abysmal runs in Ireland last time out if they are to get on terms here.

Oaks winner Talent was a distant last in the Irish equivalent, and with no explanation offered you need to truly believe this one can bounce back to support her here.

Prior to that capitulation she’d been extremely progressive and though her work in the build up to this race has reportedly been nothing special, the same was said of her work before the Oaks and look what happened there.

She’s the only filly in the field so will get weight from all her rivals and does possess a turn of foot that could prove a difference maker, but it’ll be a big ask for her to bounce back to her best in a race as wide open as this, and against the opposite sex but it would by no means be a shock result.

Libertarian has looked another strong stayer this term but also trailed in at the back of the pack in the Irish equivalent of a race he ran so well in at Epsom. He’d looked unsuited by Epsom’s idiosyncrasies when a fast-finishing second in the Derby and many, myself included, thought he’d put his strong galloping style to good use in the Irish version.

He is a Dante winner and given Trading Leather’s subsequent exploits that win looks impressive, but having now moved from the Burke yard to Charlie Appleby the horse that shares top official rating with Galileo Rock will need to rekindle that early summer form if he’s to get involved in the shake-up here.

Like Talent it’s a big ask after a break on the back of an abhorrent run but it would be no surprise to see him go well.

Of the remainder it’s Cap O’Rushes that interests me most, because like Encke last here he seems to have been completely forgotten about in the market. He won the Gordon Stakes Excess Knowledge was second in yet that one is disputing favouritism and Cap O’Rushes can be backed at 20/1.

The son of New Approach was also fourth in the Irish Derby and ran fourth under a big weight in the King George V at Royal Ascot. I may just be getting caught up in the correlation between last year’s winner and this one but for me he looks overpriced compared to some of his rivals, who on what they have actually achieved, look underpriced.

In the wake of Galileo Rock’s short price, Cap O’Rushes would be my idea of some each-way value in an ultra-competitive and extremely wide open contest, though Galileo Rock does tick most of the boxes and still rates the most likely winner.

St. Leger 2013 - Best Odds:

Excess Knowledge 4/1
Galileo Rock 4/1
Leading Light 6/1
Foundry 13/2
Libertarian 8/1
Talent 16/1
Cap O’Rushes 20/1
Feel Like Dancing 20/1
Secret Number 20/1
Great Hall 25/1
Eye Of The Storm 33/1
Havana Beat 50/1
London Bridge 150/1
Ralston Road 200/1


Cap O’Rushes 0.5pt each-way @ 20/1 (Bet Victor, William Hill)

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