The focus is very much on the two-year-olds for the opening day of the St Leger meeting at Doncaster on Thursday, with three of the four live ITV4 races being for the youngsters.
The most interesting horse across the three heats is DRAGON LEADER 2/1 in the 14:25, whose connections are once again aiming for a decent-sized Sales race pot rather than aim at one of the Pattern races. That policy paid dividends last time with Clive Cox’s juvenile taking the field apart at York, and the race conditions here see him receive nearly a stone from his most obvious rival Johannes Brahms.
Having initially had some stalls issues, Dragon Leader seems to be making up into a useful performer with the only query being if the ground comes up soft. Clive Cox has had an excellent season with his juveniles, with 17 winners and an actual/expected ratio of 1.37 (meaning he’s had 37 per cent more winners than the prices they went off at suggested he should have done).
The feature race is the Group 2 Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes (15:35), the fillies’ Leger over the same trip of 14½f, where GOLDEN LYRA 6/1 can put a somewhat disappointing campaign behind her over a trip further than she has faced so far.
Her run in France last time in the 1m 4f Group 2 Prix De Pomone received a boost when the winner of the race, Melo Melo, ran Warm Heart close in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille at Longchamp on Sunday, and the extra distance could bring about another step forward.
ONE SELECTION AT EPSOM
My personal port of call on Thursday is Epsom, where the lightly-raced ANTICIPATING for David Menuisier looks the best bet on the card (16:35).
Having only his fifth career start and a second one in handicaps, he can benefit from there being a greater emphasis on stamina than last time at Windsor. That was the first realistic chance he had of winning a race and, with both Corporate Raider and Estehwadh usually going forward, this pace set-up looks more favourable.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Our horse of interest away from the main action is GOLDEN MOON in the 19:00 at Chelmsford, who has achieved little on the face of it but comes from a stable that look as if they are emerging from a quiet spell. Golden Moon’s last two runs occurred during that period, and he could take advantage of what has been a rapidly falling mark.
He also appears to be the most likely pace angle and, from stall 1, can dictate under Marco Ghiani. William Knight (along with Nigel Twiston-Davies) featured in last weekend’s corner turner list of yards who are worth keeping a close eye on.
STABLE TRACKER HORSE
STRONG JOHNSON is becoming a stable stalwart and is the first horse to have run three times for the tracker having won at Redcar and then finished second at Ripon. He had dropped a long way since coming over from Ireland to join Paul Midgley and still has scope to be competitive for a while yet.
He is drawn in stall 2 in the opener at Doncaster (13:15) so will be committed to the right-hand flank, but is uncomplicated and can hopefully get a better tow into the race than he did at Ripon where he could not get cover early.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Here’s Thursday’s list of riders heading for venues where they have done well in the past:
- Doncaster – William Buick (97 winners from 464 rides with an actual/expected ratio of 1.17). Closing in one 100 winners at the track, this is only his third visit of the season with his previous one in June yielding a 16-1 double.
- Epsom – Charlie Bishop (19/71 with a 1.92 A/E). Appeared on this list in my very first blog on Oaks Day and obliged by winning the Woodcote.
- Naas – Liam McAteer (11/68 with a 2.04 A/E)
STRONG JOHNSON (Doncaster, 13:15)
DRAGON LEADER 2/1 (Doncaster, 14:25)
GOLDEN LYRA 6/1 (Doncaster, 15:35)
ANTICIPATING (Epsom, 16:35)