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It’s the first of four days on the Town Moor in Doncaster today, which will culminate in the race that gives the meeting its name, the St Leger. We get underway at 2pm, with a competitive looking nursery. The ground is currently good officially.
2.00 Doncaster: Two-year-old handicappers get us started, and there are some old friends of me already in here. The likes of Finn Class and Master Carpenter have provided me with decent returns in their short careers, but there’s no place for sentiment here.
The best profile fits according to the Race Analysis Report are Braidley and Fair Ranger. Braidley has run well on all three starts, and only found one too good in this grade last time. That was over a mile, though his maiden win was over today’s trip of seven furlongs, so that looks a positive. He ought to be thereabouts.
Fair Ranger is a Hannon juvie and is respected on that basis alone. However, he has more to recommend him than just good stabling: Richard Hughes takes over for the first time, and he’s looking to build on a decent effort in the York sales race on his previous outing. Before that, Fair Ranger had won on his only attempt at seven poles and run the talented Cool Bahamian to a neck in this class.
Of the rest, I’ve been following Jazz closely since his third in a strong nursery at Goodwood that’s worked out all right. He was sixth last time in another strong nursery, and I’m fairly sure he’s got one of these in him. At around 4/1, his price is a bit skinny, but he’s a chance, for sure. And Finn Class dotted up last time to take his distance record to three from three. That was a low enough class race, but he won with plenty in hand and gets in here with a nice weight, especially as jockey Louis Steward claims seven pounds.
A – 2 (Fair Ranger), 8 (Finn Class)
B – 4 (Jazz), 6 (Braidley)
2.30 Doncaster: Just five go to post for this juvenile conditions race, and the betting is interesting. Despite Justice Day being clear top-rated by eleven pounds on official figures, he’s only the third favourite. But that feels wrong to me, as his three length defeats in both the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes and the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes are about the pick of the form.
Expert has also competed at Listed and Group 2 level, both times over seven furlongs, and both times beaten far enough. I can’t see why he’d be a shorter price than Justice Day.
Lightning Thunder has the most scope to improve after just one run, a win in a Newbury maiden. But the ten runners to have come out of that race and compete again have yet to record a win between them.
The other two, Free Code and Scruffy Tramp, have both picked up a couple of wins so far. Of the pair, Free Code is the one I prefer, and he completely missed the break in Ireland last week having been pretty well-backed (including by me!). He’s better than that and might just prove it here, as the best value in the race to my eye. Justice Day is the other I like in a race where either I’ve got the market wrong, or the market has it wrong. (Note, I suspect I know which one it is… ahem)
A – 1 (Justice Day), 3 (Free Code)
3.00 Doncaster: The Scarborough Stakes, a Listed five furlong sprint, and plenty of familiar names line up, most notably the eleven-year-old, Borderlescott. It’s a very open renewal, and the two I like against the field are Justineo and Excelette. Both like to be on the pace, and plenty of others in here do too, so there’s a chance of a burn up compromising a fair number of chances but, despite that, these two tick all boxes.
Specifically, they both have placed track form; both have plenty of form on the ground; both have gone well in this elevated company; and both may be capable of a little more than they’ve shown so far.
Masamah, another who’ll chase the pace, is a horse I love. I just suspect, however, that he’s lost a quarter stride of speed since his heyday, and that might be the difference between winning and losing. On the bright side, Ryan Moore climbs atop for the first time, so he’ll not be wanting for a robust steering job.
And though three year olds have a poorish record in the race, I’m drawn to young Bungle Inthejungle, a hold up horse in a sea of speed. It’s just possible that if they all fly forward and if he isn’t totally outpaced, Bungle Inthejungle could saunter over the top of them late in the play. It will be exciting stuff to watch should that happen, though it’s far from a percentage call! His form this year is better than it looks – he’s been running in Group 1 races over the minimum and not beaten too far – and this represents a drop in class. At 20/1, he’s playable for small money.
A – 4 (Justineo), 9 (Excelette)
B – 6 (Masamah), 8 (Bungle Inthejungle)
3.35 Doncaster: What?!!! Yes, it’s the Legends Race. Old boys (and girls) to you and me. Fifteen line up for this mile Classified Stakes and, if we’re lucky, none of the ‘former glories’ riding will have passed on to the other side before they’ve passed the post…
I’m not really a fan of sticking these types of novelty event in the middle of the card: they’re rarely run to form and they bugger up placepots. Mind you, that said, the three runnings of this particular novelty event have all been won by the favourite, so maybe that’s the line to take. In which case, Callmeakhab, ridden by Michael Hills and trained by brother, Charles, could be the one.
There’s no doubt Michael will have insisted on being put up on a fit one, and he’s about the most recently retired of these riders, so those are reasons to be cheerful. As a three year old (the horse, not Michael Hills), he’s getting a bit of weight for age and, in a very, very tight ratings span – just three pounds separate all fifteen runners – that’s another plus. With a fair chance he’s been laid out for this, Callmeakhab makes the ticket.
Winslow Arizona is progressive, but has been hit quite hard for his win off 50 last time, going up ten pounds. He may be able to overcome that, but wouldn’t necessarily be well handicapped. Dana’s Present on the other hand steps back up to a sensible trip having run over six furlongs last time, and been unsurprisingly outpaced in the process. In fairness, that was so that he could run on the beach at Laytown, and he’s back to more familiar conditions today.
All four wins to date have been over this trip, and he should run well in what could be the placepot-busting race.
A – 3 (Dana’s Present), 14 (Callmeakhab)
B – 9 (Piceno), 10 (Sardanapalus)
4.10 Doncaster: Five runners again, and a quintet of largely disappointing types. Elkaayed has done less wrong than most of these, and at a higher level. The drop back in trip will suit, and I think he’ll probably win. Gatewood returnds after a failed Australian experiment, and if recapturing his best form, he’d make the pick pull out all the stops. Currently, that has to be a medium-sized ‘if’, though.
The others probably aren’t good enough.
A – 4 (Elkaayed)
4.45 Doncaster: That’s better. An eighteen runner seven furlong handicap, and this is best left to the specialists. Regal Dan, a course and distance winner, has much to recommend him. He’s been in the frame on all four starts on this going; has been placed on four of six runs in this class; and habitually runs well in big fields.
The one niggle is that he doesn’t win that often: just once in his eleven race career. Ryan Moore will help him get his nose in front this time, and that’s always a positive.
Secretinthepark is a specialist in this sort of race, and is unbeaten in two races at seven furlongs. He was staying on when just failing in a big field over six last time, and this looks spot on.
The other secret, Secret Art, should also go well. He stays a bit further than seven-eighths, but is fully effective at that trip nevertheless. Purcell is interesting after being withdrawn from his intended race last weekend. He’s stepping up to seven furlongs and should stay just fine. He normally races close to the pace so will have first run on many of his rivals; while Life Partner is unexposed and deserves this step up in class after winning over the trip at Newmarket last time.
A – 2 (Secretinthepark), 15 (Secret Art), 16 (Regal Dan)
5.15 Doncaster: And we close with a massive field five furlong sprint. Course specialist Eland Ally is at the right end of the handicap to make a good fist of things, and he’s drawn amongst the pace on the low side of the stalls too.
Trainer Tom Tate is in form, and 25/1 is a very big price about a horse with plenty of placed form under today’s conditions (although, in fairness, his win record is poor).
Of the more obvious contenders, Threes Grand, Sir Pedro and Even Stevens are fancied to run well. But in such a big field, I’m demanding a big price and rolling with Eland Ally.
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All picks – 4 x 2 x 4 x 4 x 1 x 3 = 384 bets
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