The final field is now known for the season’s final Classic of the season, the St Leger Stakes, and the oldest British Classic sees nine rivals go to post for Saturday’s feature contest.
A near-£400,000 winners’ purse is on offer, and Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien saddles three of the nine runners in the race, including ante-post favourite Idaho in what is usually a fascinating contest. Who can forget the controversy of twelve months ago when the Ballydoyle maestro’s Bondi Beach traded blows with Simple Verse on the run-in and the protracted stewards’ enquiry that followed which saw Simple Verse lose the race and then be reinstated at a later appeal.
Let’s hope there is no such drama this time around, but that we do enjoy a race worthy of being labelled a Classic!
And Idaho looks the logical starting point.
The Galileo colt had placed in all four starts this term, including in both the Epsom and Irish Derbies behind the top-class Harzand, and he took advantage of the absence of that horse when contesting the Great Voltigeur last time where he came with a sweeping run to collect the prize from stablemate Housesofparliament.
The choice of Seamie Heffernan, he sets the standard on form for the others to aim at; however, he has to prove he has the stamina for this trip, although he certainly didn’t appear at the end of his tether at the finish when winning at York last time. If he does stay this additional quarter-mile he could prove hard to beat; but there may be value elsewhere at the likely prices given the Ballydoyle runner is likely to go off odds-on on Saturday.
Idaho (right) had Housesofparliament behind when winning the Great Voltigeur at York.
Housesofparliament was an impressive winner of the Group Three Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket in July prior to finding only Idaho too strong at York, beaten almost two lengths behind his stablemate. A Dundalk maiden winner earlier in the season, he has been progressive since; while his run behind Idaho is arguably the best supplementary form, he likely needs to find some improvement to take this prize and upset his more fancied stablemate.
Sword Fighter meanwhile is a proven stayer, having won over further when taking the Queen’s Vase back in June at Royal Ascot, beating Harbour Law.
Aidan O’Brien’s third runner followed up with success in the Group Two Curragh Cup, beating Landofhopeandglory by two lengths, and ran another cracker at Goodwood behind Big Orange on his latest outing where he perhaps was just feeling the quicker ground.
Conditions at Town Moor on Saturday shouldn’t be quite so quick, and the Galileo colt can give another good account back against his own age group. Donncha O’Brien can’t make use of his 3lbs claim in this contest, but he nevertheless looks to hold solid claims and he could well be set for a big run at a tidy price.
Harbour Law has developed into a useful stayer for Laura Mongan, winning back-to-back contests at Salisbury and Sandown earlier in the season, and the Lawman colt pushed Sword Fighter to less than one length in the Queens Vase.
That run was followed up by a defeat behind Housesofparliament in the Bahrain Trophy where the drop in trip on quicker ground might have gone against him, as he held every chance inside the final furlong but couldn’t find an extra gear when it mattered.
While he arguably isn’t far behind both Ballydoyle runners, and he should appreciate this extra furlong he nevertheless looks to have something to find, and he may lack the scope of a few of these to find the additional improvement required.
George Baker could get a good Classic spin from Laura Mongan's Harbour Law.
Harrison boasts a good pedigree for this contest, being a son of the 2006 St Leger winner, but Mick Channon’s colt has just one win to his name, which came in a Goodwood maiden as a juvenile.
He’s run some good races in defeat, twice finishing third earlier in the season behind Primitivo at Ascot and Housesofparliament at Newmarket in the Bahrain Trophy; but he has disappointed since, failing to beat a rival home at Goodwood behind Ulysees in the Gordon Stakes.
No match for Idaho at York, he looks up against it in this company.
) however looks an ideal sort for this contest, and John Gosden’s progressive Dansili colt has made up into a very smart perfomer.
A winner on the Kempton all-weather in June, he looked to need every yard of the trip when third to Across The Stars at Ascot in the King Edward VII Stakes, finishing ahead of Housesofparliament; and he returned from a break to gain a narrow short-head verdict over Duretto at Chester last time.
Not helped there by having to make his own running, he showed plenty of determination to hold off the runner-up where he always looked to just be doing enough; that form hasn’t been done any harm by subsequent good runs by the seventh and tenth horses home, and this additional furlong could well bring about further improvement.
Likely to get a strong pace to aim at, with Sword Fighter and Harbour Law both inclined to set of in front, the Dansili colt is likely to have more to come over this stiffer test, and still unexposed he can give John Gosden a fifth St Leger success.
Muntahaa (far right) could thrive for this stiffer test of stamina, and the progressive Dansili colt can land the big prize.
Ventura Storm and Ormito are closely matched on their clash at Hamilton two starts ago, where the former had the latter just over one length behind when winning the Listed Glasgow Stakes, giving Andew Balding’s runner-up 4lbs.
The Zoffany colt followed up by winning a French Group Three contest, but he goes markedly up in trip now and he didn’t look as if he were looking to go further than the twelve furlongs last time. Conversely, Ormito followed up his runner-up effort at Hamilton by filling the same position behind Kings Fete in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury, beaten just over one length.
He had shaped as if he didn’t quite get home in the Queen’s Vase previously, but this trip looks within range based on that Newbury outing. While his overall form isn’t quite up to the level required to win this, he can give his running although is likely to come up short behind a couple of these.
Ventura Storm arrives at Doncaster seeking a hat-trick of wins.
The field is completed by JP Shanahan’s The Tartan Spartan who comes into the race on the back of just two previous starts, having won on debut at Thirsk prior to running a creditable seventh behind Sword Fighter in the Queen’s Vase.
He showed his stamina that day, despite not being an obvious staying type on pedigree; but this is a tougher ask for the twice-raced The Carbon Unit colt, and he probably lacks the requisite experience needed to win a race like this.
Aidan O’Brien saddles a strong hand, with Idaho looking the likeliest winner if he sees out this additional quarter-mile, having looked strong at the finish of the Great Voltigeur at York, where had stablemate Housesofparliament behind.
Both have to prove stamina, whilst Sword Figher is proven over the distance. However, MUNTAHAA
) looks to have been trained for this, and John Gosden’s charge should relish this additional trip having looked to need every yard of the twelve furlongs at Ascot, prior to grinding out a win from the front at Chester next time.
The stoutly-bred Dansili colt had Housesofparliament behind when finishing into third in the King Edward VII Stakes behind across The Stars and Beacon Rock, where he was perhaps a shade unlucky not to grab the runner-up spot. Having to cut out the running at Chester next time was a good effort by the Gosden horse despite those tactics being far from ideal; but he should get a strong pace to aim at now, and the long Doncaster straight will help him find top gear.
While he arguably needs to progress again, he looks the main danger to Idaho, and he can upset the Ballydoyle runner to hand John Gosden a fifth St Leger success.
2016 ST LEGER SELECTION – MUNTAHAA