While the undoubted highlight of the William Hill St Leger Festival is the world’s oldest classic itself – the William Hill St Leger, due off at 3:35 on Saturday – the four days also come at a crucial stage in the two-year-old campaign.
You can be sure that the meeting will seal some juvenile reputations, damage some others, and introduce some new faces to the scene.
Consider the identity of last year’s winners from this age group. They included a subsequent Stewards’ Cup winner in Khaadem, dual-classic-placed Fleeting, a Nunthorpe runner-up in Soldier’s Call, a Royal Ascot winner in Sangarius and a champion two-year-old and Sussex Stakes/Prix Jean Prat winner in Too Darn Hot. That is a tough act to follow!
Going back further, the 7f conditions event on Friday – since upgraded to listed status – is the race in which Frankel recorded his widest-ever margin of victory (13 lengths) in 2010.
“Looks something special” and gives the “strong impression that he’s already Group 1 standard” speculated Timeform afterwards, and it looks as though they were right!
It is, therefore, worth paying plenty of attention to the youngsters, as well as to the more established types, over the four days of action that run from Wednesday to Saturday inclusive, and which will all be shown live on Sky Sports Racing.
There are three Group 2s to look at, as well as several lesser contest and nurseries, each of which could just throw up a smart juvenile or two along the way.
Best of all is the Pommery Champagne Stakesover 7f at 3 o’clock on Saturday, the race won by Too Darn Hot 12 months ago. This year’s champion two-year-old elect, Pinatubo, is entered but seems more likely to head to Ireland.
In his presumed absence, the coast is clear for MUMS TIPPLE to confirm, or perhaps do the opposite, the massive impression he made when winning by a Frankel-like margin last time in a Sales Race at York, my in-depth analysis of which is to be found here.
Mums Tipple has since been the subject of a reported – and unsuccessful! – £3m bid, having cost just €26,000 as a foal and £45,000 as a yearling. His participation here has an awful lot riding on it, and he looks to have a good chance of winning at a trip which may prove to be his maximum.
Mums Tipple has 11 lb and more in hand on my figures over the likes of the Solario winner POSITIVE, the Gimcrack winner THREAT and the Superlative winner MYSTERY POWER. The enigma that is Visinari is a possible runner, and it is not difficult to see a galloping 7f suiting this giant-striding colt very well, but he is also entered elsewhere.
The William Hill May Hill Stakes at 3:45 on Thursday has the same Group 2 standing but is less classy and tighter judged on ratings. BOOMER (Prestige Stakes), WEST END GIRL (Sweet Solera) and LOVE (Silver Flash) are Group winners rated between 103 and 99 by me, but they may all have to look to their laurels if the Richard Hannon-trained CLOAK OF SPIRITS turns up.
She has run once and won once, at Ascot, where her overall time and sectionals combined (latter available as a PDF download bottom right on the results section of this site) point to her being potentially even better than those aforementioned rivals.
The remaining Group 2 for two-year-olds is the Flying Childers Stakes at 3:45 on Friday. ALLIGATOR ALLEY,FLAMING PRINCESS and WHEELS ON FIRE are all useful, but not as useful as A’ALI, who was last seen coming fifth to crack French juvenile Earthlight at Deauville, but who was the winner before that of the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix Robert Papin at Deauville.
A’Ali should be fine with the return to the minimum trip, and Frankie Dettori has already been engaged.
GOLDEN DRAGON is another Flying Childers possible, though he may have better prospects in the 6f Conditions Stakes which opens the meeting on Wednesday. His Windsor win was covered – as all performances at the course are – by Total Performance Data in the results section on this site. He ran a useful time but fairly efficient sectionals, and would have prevailed more clearly but for wandering.
MISTY GREY may represent about the best form in this race but is exposed after seven starts, an accusation which cannot be levelled at either the Hugo Palmer-trained HAMISH MACBETH (beat two next-time winners at Salisbury on the second of his two wins) or the Charlie Appleby-trained LAZULI (won well at Newmarket only start).
It sometimes does not take much to win valuable Sales Races, such as the Weatherbys Racing Bank £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes at 3:15 on Thursday. GLASVEGAS has a Royal Ascot third in the Windsor Castle Stakes to his name and HARPOCRATES came second in the Acomb Stakes at York last time, but both were helped by the run of the race (if in contrasting ways) and there are likely to be a host of hopefuls having a crack at them.
VISINARI’s alternative Doncaster engagement is in Friday’s Flying Scotsman Stakes (the “Frankel” race), in which he could be faced by MOLATHAM and ROYAL CRUSADE – both dealt with in that recent ATR Sectional Spotlight – among others.
The Visinari I thought we had on our hands after his debut would win this easily, the one who was then a close third in the July Stakes at Newmarket might still prevail, but the one who got thrashed at Goodwood last time would not. Perhaps only Visinari knows which Visinari we will see!
There is also a two-year-old maiden at the same 7f distance at 4:55 on Friday, in which there are unraced Godolphin prospects and some other promising types at the five-day stage. Along with the opening Sceptre Stakes for older fillies, it should provide some useful time and sectional comparisons at the same distance if nothing else.
Remember that Doncaster is one of the growing number of courses covered comprehensively by TPD, with the data showcased in the results section on this site. There is good entertainment to be had in looking forward, and in the event itself. But there is plenty to be gained from analysis afterwards, too, and that can be crucial where good punting is concerned.