It’s a Classic weekend away as we travel up to Doncaster for the final Classic of the the season, the St Leger, the oldest of the five British Classics. Originally staged in 1776, it is the longest of the five Classic races for three year old thoroughbred colts and fillies at 1mile, 6 furlongs & 115yards and forms the third leg of the British Triple Crown that also includes the 2000 Guineas and The Derby.
Across the Irish Sea spread over Saturday and Sunday the Irish Champions Weekend takes place at Leopardstown and The Curragh with a feast of top class racing lined up. Included on the card is the Irish St Leger amidst a host of Group 1 racing that also includes the National Stakes and the Flying Five Stakes for the sprinters.
Here we look forward to the highlights in store for the rest of the week.
Wednesday 9th September
It is always wise to follow Richard Hannon’s entries in the Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes as his father, Richard Hannon Sr won this race on several occasions and Richard Hannon Jr has continued that tradition.
He is represented this year by Cloak Of Spirits who although a maiden so far this term did finish second to the outstanding Love in the 1000 Guineas and has since occupied the same position in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom. This easier contest is sure to have been the target though this daughter of Invicible Spirit will meet two very good rivals in Sir Michael Stoute’s Jubiloso and Charlie Appleby’s Althiqua.
These three can fill the top spots on the opening day of the four day feast on the Town Moor track with the vote going to Althiqua who has competed at this level twice this year with credit and has the ground to suit.
Thursday 10th September
The feature races on the second day of the four at the South Yorkshire track are the Group 2 May Hill Stakes for 2 year old fillies over one mile and the Group 2 Park Hill Fillies Stakes over 15 furlongs.
Watch out for Roger Varian’s Zabeel Queen in the May Hill who was impressive on debut though John Gosden’s Indigo Girl makes obvious appeal with Frankie Dettori having his feet in the stirrups after Rob Havlin gave her a hands and heels ride on debut at Yarmouth to win in equally smooth fashion.
The Park Hill Stakes, run over the St Leger trip, can go to Roger Varian’s Believe In Love who arrives here on a five-timer after a brace of wins at Newmarket. However, the Frankel fillies emerging this season at these extreme trips just seem to be getting better and better so Alpinista from Sir Mark Prescott’s regarded stable has to enter calculations.
Alpinista’s second to 1000 Guineas winner, Love looks solid form for this and she gets the vote for Thursday’s feature.
Friday 11th September
It’s the turn of the out and out sprinters on Friday in the Flying Childers Stakes and a chance for Michael Bell’s The Lir Jet to get back to winning ways after hitting the bar twice in the Prix Robert Papin at Chantilly before finding Jessica Harrington’s Lucky Vega too hot to handle in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh last time out.
With Apprentice Jockey in waiting, Cieren Fallon on board The Lir Jet should be heading for the blue skies and away from the field with the ground on Town Moor to suit.
The biggest threat is Ger Lyons’ Frenetic who has a dazzling turn of foot out of the stalls and although this daughter of Zodiac has had a busy schedule she does get the 3lb sex allowance which could spell danger for The Lir Jet and a great contest awaits.
Saturday 12th September
With a feast of top class action on both sides of the Irish Sea the final Classic of the British season is the highlight of the card at Doncaster. Aidan O’Brien’s Santiago and William Muir’s Pyledriver head the ante post markets and both are deserving of that standing.
Santiago won the Irish Derby at The Curragh and Pyledriver was victorious in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot before going on to take the Great Voltigeur at York when last seen so both hold strong claims.
In a fascinating battle of the David and Goliath of the training ranks, Pyledriver is taken to relish the extra trip and take the honours in a top class renewal.
Aidan O’Brien’s son, Joseph Patrick O’Brien, who is making his mark very quickly as an first-rate trainer in his own right has the smart prospect Galileo Chrome to make a race of it while Mark Johnston’s Subjectivist and Ed Walker’s English King can make the frame too.
Across the Irish Sea, at Leopardstown, the Irish Champion Stakes looks one of the races of the season as Charlie Appleby’s Ghaiyyath, the highest rated horse in training this term takes on the might of Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle operation in Magical, Japan and Anthony Van Dyck.
The outstanding 10 furlong front runner that is Ghaiyyath could face his biggest test yet away from home soil and with Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star, winner of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and John Gosden’s hugely improved Lord North thrown into the mix this has to be the race of the weekend.
Ghaiyyath is taken to keep his unbeaten record this season intact but it will be a race to savour with Magical no doubt in close attendance should Charlie Appleby’s star middle distance runner fail to take the sting out of his rivals coming into the home straight. On the flat track that is Leopardstown, Ghaiyyath is backed here to do just that and gets the nod over Magical and Alpine Star.
Sunday 13th September
Irish St Leger day at The Curragh on a card which contains no less than four Group 1 races and surely C&D winner, Twilight Payment must have a great shot for young trainer, Joseph Patrick O’Brien.
Like the British race of he same name, the Irish St Leger does form part of the Classic season but unlike the British version is open to older horses and geldings such as Twilight Payment, the seven year old who has been better than ever this term and can take top honours again. The main threats are likely to come from Ralph Beckett’s pair of fillies, Manuela De Vega and Antonia De Vega with the former the preferred of the two especially should the ground ease underfoot.
Dermot Weld’s Search For A Song also holds C&D form and although the daughter of Galileo has yet to visit the winners’ enclosure this year she cannot be discounted while Roger Varian’s English raider, Fujaira Prince can pay for the cost of his ticket with a bold show.
In a brilliant week of racing there are too many highlights to anticipate in this short piece and there can only be hope that next season sees the inclusion of the public that adds so much to our great sport, the Sport of Kings.
This preview has been brought to you by our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff