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Autumn brings a raft of top-class Flat racing action, both at home and on the international stage, but for 3-year-old colts or fillies with Classic aspirations there is only one target on the radar and that is the St Leger at Doncaster.
Of all the big prizes at the backend of the Flat campaign, none have a history as rich and deep as the St Leger, the last of the five domestic Classics.
The 2021 St Leger has a new headline sponsor in Cazoo, who also have the Oaks and Derby in their sponsorship portfolio.
The used car retailer has taken over from Pertemps, who themselves picked up the race in 2020 when William Hill decided to end an 11-year association.
What is the St Leger?
Established in 1776, the St Leger is the oldest of the five Classics and one of the oldest top-level races run anywhere in the world. It was created by Anthony St Leger, an army officer and politician who lived near Doncaster, and as such it takes its name from him.
The Final leg of the English Triple Crown, which begins with the 2000 Guineas and continues with the Derby, it also completes the Fillies' Triple Crown, following on from the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks.
Triple Crown winners have been thin on the ground in recent years and only Camelot in 2012 has come close to completing the rare treble. No horse since Nijinsky in 1970 has achieved it.
The St Leger is the longest of the Classics and is run over 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 115 yards, which is two furlongs further than the Derby and Oaks. The most important asset of any St Leger contender is stamina, which is one of the reasons why Triple Crown winners are so rare. Horses that are bred to stay this far rarely have the speed or turn of foot required to win a Guineas over a mile and vice versa. The St Leger is firmly one of the biggest betting heats of the year with the best betting sites.
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What can we learn from previous renewals?
By this time of year, the Classic crop has already been well established and the cream has risen to the top, which can be a big help to big race punters. The St Leger roll of honour is a who’s who of the top breeding operations and trainers. 16 of the last 23 renewals have gone the way of Godolphin (6), Aidan O’Brien (6) and John Gosden (4), with those three also having several runners-up and third places.
Favourite-backers have had more than their fair share of luck in the St Leger, with four of the last eight editions going the way of the market leader, while only one horse priced bigger than 8/1 has won the race in that period.
The most important Leger trial is the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, which has produced ten of the last 23 Doncaster winners, although the Queen’s Vase has also proven to be very useful – Kew Gardens won it before taking the Leger and Harbour Law placed in the 2016 running before causing a 22/1 shock on Town Moor.
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Who Leads The Market in 2021?
Irish Derby winner Hurricane Lane heads the market at 11/4 with Bet365, he finished his race strongly at the Curragh to run down Lone Eagle in the final strides and the Godolphin star appears to have all the right credentials.
His only defeat in five career starts came at Epsom behind stablemate Adayar but Hurricane Lane lost both front shoes during that Classic which may well have cost him his chance.
The vibe is that the sone of Frankel is going to head to France for the Grand Prix De Paris rather than tackle older horses for the first time in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.
Either way this classy, strong-galloping colt would be a huge player if team Godolphin decided that he should take his chance in the season’s final Classic.
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Who’s Next In The Market?
Derby winner Adayar, a stablemate of Hurricane Lane, and another son of Frankel trained by Charlie Appleby for Godolphin. Adayar is the 4/1 second favourite with William Hill in the St Leger ante-post market, a full brother to 2-mile winner Anglophile and the way he galloped out in the final furlong at Epsom under Adam Kirby strongly suggests that he will have no issue going up a couple of furlongs later in the season.
It looks as though Adayar is going to be the Godolphin representative in the King George so it will be fascinating to see how he copes with classy older horses like Love and Pyledriver.
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Any Other Contenders?
Aidan O’Brien, a six-time St Leger winning trainer since 2001, nearly always attacks the race with one of his best 3 year old's and Wordsworth looks a prime Ballydoyle candidate at this stage having run a screamer in the Irish Derby. He looked a proper stayer when second in the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot so he has the stamina and the class to be a big player at Doncaster in September.
The O’Brien team might also be tempted to aim for Doncaster with High Definition, who will relish the long galloping Town Moor straight. He needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Irish Derby but that is entirely possible.
Lone Eagle, beaten a whisker at the Curragh, is top price 10/1 with 888Sport for the St Leger after taking his form to a new level last time. He is clearly very talented but there isn’t much hope from his pedigree that he would improve for an even greater test of stamina.
Cazoo Derby runner-up Mojo Star didn’t get the rub of the green at the Curragh and is undoubtedly capable of landing a big one but his pedigree doesn’t scream stayer so he would be vulnerable in the final two furlongs if he turns up in the St Leger.
Stowell was just over a length behind Wordsworth at Royal Ascot but he blotted his copybook with an inexplicably below-par performance in the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket.
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