St Leger Festival | A Hurricane is brewing – The Top Three

Breeders' Cup

Yesterday’s day two at the St Leger Festival didn’t go the way I had mapped out in my head.

Wonderwall’s disappointing effort at Chester when sent off the well-backed favourite eclipsed my feelings throughout the day of much hope and yet no success.

Today seems like a tough day at Doncaster, yet three horses stand out to me in some of the big contests of the day.

Let’s pray for some Saturday luck to fall my way.

 

2:25 Doncaster – Hurricane Ivor @ 20/1 with BetVictor – 1pt EW

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There’s something brave about putting up a horse in a 22-runner sprint handicap that I can’t quite describe and after hours of looking and relooking at this race, I considered leaving this contest and moving on.

However, seeing Hurricane Ivor at 20/1 tempted me, especially with the season that he has had for his new yard in Ireland.

The Jessica Harrington-trained six-year-old was a regular runner in the UK between the start of 2021 and the end of 2022 for William Haggas, landing a memorable success in the 2021 renewal of the Portland Handicap off an official rating of 102, 10 pounds higher than his current mark.

After that run, the Ivawood gelding won the Group 3 World Trophy Stakes in what turned out to be his last hurrah for Somerville Lodge.

His poor form in 2022 saw connections switch the experienced sprinter to Harrington’s base ahead of the 2023 season, something that sparked improvement when fifth in the Listed Woodlands Stakes on soft-to-heavy in April behind Moss Tucker, a Group 1 Flying Five Stakes winner since.

Another promising run in the Habitat Handicap at the Curragh and four slightly below-par runs since have resulted in the handicapper dropping him 11 pounds since June, a staggering fall through the weights.

Admittedly, some may say that the former 110-rated animal is regressing, but excuses can be made for all four of his recent defeats, notably due to ground, the wrong trip, and a change in tactics that didn’t work.

The Harrington stable tends not to waste too many darts when sending one over the water to the UK and with Hurricane Ivor, they have a proven horse in these conditions.

 

3:35 Doncaster – Arrest @ 9/2 with William Hill – 1pt Win

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This year’s St Leger has turned me inside out trying to work out which one to side with, and after much deliberation, Arrest is the one who comes out top of my list to land the final Classic of the year.

Immediately following his Group 3 Geoffrey Freer victory at Newbury, his claims for Doncaster’s feature event of the year were slightly murky based on the form of the race.

At the time, beating Ching Shih by just over a length while in receipt of three pounds from the runner-up didn’t look amazing and after David Simcock’s four-year-old finished a well-beaten fourth earlier this week in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes, further questions about that race started to grow.

However, a second look shows that Oisin Murphy positioned Ching Shih in plumb last and benefitted from a small pace collapse while the horses that raced prominently along with Arrest from the front – Jack Darcy, Klondike, and Kemari – finished in the final three.

Furthermore, Jack Darcy has since comfortably won the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville while employing similar tactics and Shandoz, who was seven lengths behind Arrest in the Geoffrey Freer, ran to an RPR of 110 on his next start when fifth behind Bay Bridge in the Group 3 September Stakes.

Let us not forget that he put six lengths between him and Adelaide River, an Irish Derby and Grand Prix de Paris runner-up, in the Group 3 Chester Vase while also taking a wider route around the tight track.

Today, John & Thady Gosden’s Frankel colt will race with his preferred softer ground under his hooves and with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, Arrest looks like a tailormade Leger horse.

 

5:20 Doncaster – Liberty Lane @ 13/2 General – 2pt Win

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The finale of the St Leger Festival, like the rest of the day, is a competitive contest on paper and despite the enticing profiles of Sonny Liston, Brunch, and Blue for You, my vote falls onto the head of Liberty Lane, one of four three-year-olds in the race.

Although this seems like a long time ago, the three-year-old by Teofilo was a well-backed favourite for one of the concluding handicaps on Stewards’ Cup day at Glorious Goodwood before racing was called off.

The persistent rain that day scuppered Karl Burke’s plan for a big handicap prize, however, with some juice in the ground this week, connections have set their sights on today’s £50,000 contest.

Although the unexposed colt has yet to find the winners’ enclosure since his debut on soft at Nottingham, he was unlucky to run into Waipiro on his next start before an admiral run on slightly unsuitable ground in the Group 2 Dante Stakes.

Although he was disappointing on good-to-firm ground at Royal Ascot, his performance at Newmarket over a mile on rain-softened ground was more like the real Liberty Lane.

With his high knee action, today’s tacky surface should suit well and off a mark of 97 – alongside a four-pound weight-for-age allowance – Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s homebred colt is a serious player in the final race of the meeting.

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