2021 St Leger Shaping Up To Be A Classic In Every Sense

Welcome to Gavin Beech's weekly racing column for Bookmakers.co.uk. A veteran racing journalist, Gavin provides his opinion on the latest talking points across flat and jump racing.

2021 St Leger Shaping Up To Be A Classic In Every Sense
2021 St Leger Shaping Up To Be A Classic In Every Sense

The final classic of the 2021 Flat season is still over two months away and there is potential for an awful lot to change in that time, but as things currently stand, ante-post St Leger lists have a hugely exciting feel to them.

The Derby winner, the Irish Derby winner, the Irish Derby runner-up and third, Bolshoi Ballet – sent off favourite for the Derby – and Alenquer, a hugely progressive colt who took his career record to three wins from four starts with authoritative success in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

If they all turn up, this could be one of the strongest St Leger's for a very long time. Chances are that Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation will decide against running both Derby winners in the race but both Adayar and Hurricane Lane, who jointly head St Leger betting lists, shape like very strong stayers that will relish the long, galloping Doncaster straight.

Had he not lost both front shoes at Epsom, Hurricane Lane might well be an unbeaten dual Derby winner. We'll never know for sure, but a rematch between the two would be fascinating and, if that happens on Town Moor in September, then we really do have a St Leger to look forward to.

Bolshoi Ballet would be a fascinating St Leger runner. He was found to have quite a severe cut after the Derby which goes some way to explaining his disappointing finishing effort, but there was so much confidence in him going into Epsom that there may well have been something else amiss on the day.

Given the speed he showed in winning the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, it might be that connections opt to come back in trip but Aidan O'Brien has never publicly queried the stamina of Bolshoi Ballet so I would be a little surprised if he didn't turn out to be a mile and a half horse, at least.

O'Brien has recently been quoted saying the Great Voltigeur in August is on the radar for the son of Galileo and that would suggest connections think Bolshoi Ballet could be a potential St Leger candidate.

However, if Ballydoyle have a ready-made leger horse it is surely Wordsworth. He was ultimately well beaten in the Irish Derby but wasn't done any favours by the winner in the home straight and he would have finished a bit closer to the front two had he not been squeezed for room.

Wordsworth, who showed that stamina was his strong suit when second in the Queen's Vase, can close the gap on Hurricane Lane and Lone Eagle over the extra two furlongs.

Buick Tough To Stop In Jockeys’ Title Race

Oisin Murphy has a real fight on his hands if he is going to retain his jockeys’ title and it is no surprise that we have a new favourite in this market.

William Buick’s wings have been clipped by an 11-day ban which began on Tuesday of this week, but last year’s runner-up has signalled his intent with 15 winners in the last fortnight.

It is unlikely that Buick’s lead over Murphy will be intact by the time he returns but there appears to be a clear determination on the 32-year-old's part to finally seize a prize that he has long been tipped to claim.

Before the 2021 title race got underway, Buick gave the following quote to the media: “It’s no secret that it’s a big ambition of mine and I’ll be giving it my best shot this year.

“I’ve come close a couple of times, without quite threatening, but I’ve never before put my heart and soul into chasing it as much as you need to.”

And this is exactly what we are seeing play out. Buick is arguably the most driven jockey in the weighing room right now and the decision to team up with super-agent Tony Hind is clearly already paying dividends but he can’t afford many more lengthy bans like the one he is currently serving for his ride on Reshoun in the Ascot Stakes.

If he can keep out of the stewards’ room, he’s going to be tough to stop this year.

Clutterbuck Booking Was A Bit Of A Head Scratcher

The reasoning behind booking talented apprentice Rhys Clutterbuck for the ride on Trueshan in last Saturday's Northumberland Plate was perfectly understandable.

Trueshan, who was bidding to become the highest-rated horse to win a handicap in this country, was conceding weight to all of his rivals so Clutterbuck's 5lb claim was a welcome reduction to his mount's welter burden.

However, there was one small problem. Clutterbuck, who operates largely in the south of the country, had never previously ridden at Newcastle. Connections clearly decided that it wasn't a significant enough drawback but I'm not so sure.

Let's get one thing straight, Trueshan wasn't beaten because of the jockey booking, but that's not the point. The notion that experience of a track and its nuances is not an important factor for jockeys is a rather baffling one, especially in a race as competitive as the Northumberland Plate, where even the smallest of edge’s can make such a big difference.

In my book, experience of how races are run at individual tracks is a crucial part of jockey’s armory and one that shouldn't be underestimated, even if the track in question isn't deemed to be particularly idiosyncratic.