Mark Johnston’s well-regarded colt is back in much calmer waters in this nursery after feeling the pinch in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York last time. Entries at the highest level in the Middle Park and Dewhurst Stakes underline the promise he has clearly shown in winning twice already in novice company - the latest at Yarmouth under a penalty - and I expect him to defy a mark of 90 as he steps up in trip on this handicap debut. The booking of Frankie Dettori is another obvious tick in the box.
Nigel Tinkler’s good looking chestnut hasn’t won since last summer but has shown on several occasions that he retains plenty of ability, and has become dangerously well handicapped. In fact, top apprentice Cieren Fallon’s 5lb claim effectively puts him a stone below his last winning mark. Roundhay Park, who ran creditably at this track in last year’s Portland Handicap, did well from a poor draw at Thirsk last time but is better berthed on this occasion in the middle of the pack. He has made the frame here, at Haydock and at Ripon over 6f this summer though, significantly, all his wins have been achieved over the minimum trip.
Kevin Ryan is enjoying a golden summer and has a colt of considerable potential in Repartee, who looks ready for this slight step up in trip after posting a rock-solid performance in the Gimcrack at York. With a lofty rating of 101, he is much better in at the weights than the majority of his rivals and is confirmed in great heart by his in-form trainer who won this last year with The Great Heir. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, Repartee will be partnered by ‘Mr Doncaster’ himself, Andrea Atzeni, who won this for the same owner in 2017 on Laugh A Minute. Repartee is one of three runners in the race for Ryan, who also pitches in Highclere’s promising Byline.
This daughter of Golden Horn has improved with every run, winning a novice on debut at Haydock before going down only two lengths in a resolute performance in the Listed Star Stakes at Sandown in July. Mark Johnston’s filly took her form to another level in the Group 3 Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket last month, staying on stoutly over 7f to reverse the placing with two fillies who finished ahead of her at the Esher track. This step up in trip on a decent surface looks and ideal trial for the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile later in the autumn, with the evergreen Franny Norton deservedly keeping the ride on the race’s top-rated contender.
Jedd O’Keeffe places his horses meticulously and looks to have found a good opportunity for this gelding in a handicap that has cut up rather unexpectedly. His second run back after wind surgery was a highly encouraging second over this trip at Ascot only last week, when he was well supported but probably found himself a little too far back to reel in the winner. This is a step up in grade but the son of Charm Spirit - a winner over the straight mile here back in May - can make an impact off his relative featherweight. When you take smart apprentice Sean Davis’s 3lb claim into account, he races in receipt of 19lb from the progressive Mutamaasik.
Mark Johnston’s strapping colt also holds an entry in what promises to be a deep renewal of the Group 2 Champagne Stakes but this drop in grade can see him get back on track after two slightly disappointing defeats in better company. Johnston blamed himself for running him over an inadequate trip in the 6f July Stakes so better was expected over 7f in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood. However, regular partner Frankie Dettori felt compelled to make plenty of use of him from an inside draw and he couldn’t keep up the gallop when it mattered. Seven furlongs on this more conventional track promises to play to his strengths in a race that can prove an ideal springboard to something like the Group 2 Royal Lodge.
There’s plenty to admire about this imposing chestnut, whose trainer Nigel Tinkler is enjoying another fine season. Citron Major, a winner over 6f at Windsor in early August, is allowed to run off the same mark as when third in the valuable Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon. He ran on well behind subsequent Listed winner Dakota Gold that day, coping with softer ground than he had previously preferred. A sounder surface on Town Moor will be a plus and I expect the cheekpieces he wore for the first time at the Garden Racecourse to be retained.
David O’Meara looks set to have several chances in the traditional cavalry charge, but Arecibo appeals as his best chance following a string of impressive efforts in similar company. He resumes on the same mark as when beating all but the winner on unsuitably soft ground in the Be Friendly handicap at Haydock and should prove more potent on what promises to be a sounder surface. Perhaps more notable was his placed effort over this intermediate trip at York’s Ebor Festival, when he got within three parts of a length of subsequent Listed scorer Dakota Gold. Stable jockey Danny Tudhope has been pencilled in for the ride on a gelding who offers value at around 14-1 and looks capable of progressing into better company in due course.
Simon's ST LEGER FESTIVAL SELECTIONS:
5.20 ROUNDHAY PARK
3.45 WEST END GIRL (Nap)
5.30 CITRON MAJOR (NB)