[Get Exclusive Tips on our Patreon, Ad-Free]
We’re into September now, which means one thing for British horse racing – the St Leger rolls onto our screens. The St Leger Festival has already started at Doncaster earlier this week, but we thought it would be worthwhile taking a look at the history of the race, and examining the main charges in the 2015 St Leger, which promises to be a wide-open affair.
Out of all the British Classics (the 2,000 Guineas, the 1,000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the Epsom Oaks), the St Leger is the oldest of all, having been first run in 1776. It is the final leg of British flat racing’s Triple Crown, and it is run over the longest distance of all the Classics – 1m 6 furlongs (having originally been run over 2 miles). For the most part, the St Leger has been run at Doncaster racecourse, although it has been run at Newmarket, Ayr and York to name but a few other courses.
As with the rest of the Classics, the St Leger is open to three year-old horses only, and it is usually the only time you will see the colts race the fillies in one of the Classics, with the fillies receiving a 3lb allowance from the 9 stone that the colts have to carry.
The St Leger was named after Anthony St Leger of Doncaster, who came up with the idea for the race. However, the race did not officially carry the name of St Leger until the second year of the race, 1777, a race won by Bourbon. Anthony St Leger, while going into the history books at the creator of the St Leger Stakes was also a Member of Parliament for Grimsby and served the British Army with distinction, before his death in 1786. So to think that his legacy lives on in British horse racing almost 240 years later is incredible.
Few horses have won the St Leger to complete the Triple Crown, in fact only 15, and it’s because the St Leger is a huge step up from the 1 mile of the Guineas that many trainers do not send their horses to the race because they’re just not the right type to win over that distance. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was the incredible Nijinsky, while Camelot came incredibly close in 2012, before being pipped to the St Leger by Encke by just under a length. Nijinsky’s success in 1970 followed on from Bahram in 1935, Gainsborough in 1918, Gay Crusader in 1917, Pommern in 1915 and Rock Sand in 1903. In fact, the first Triple Crown was won in 1853 by West Australian, which also won the Ascot Gold Cup in his four year-old season.
In the 2015 running of the race, none of the entrants are going for the Triple Crown, with the 2,000 Guineas going to Gleneagles, the Derby going to Golden Horn, the 1,000 Guineas to Legatissimo, and the Oaks to Qualify. In fact, on paper, it looks a pretty weak renewal of the St Leger, but that doesn’t stop it from being the highlight of a great meeting at Doncaster.
This year, there are currently two horses sharing the head of the market: Bondi Beach and Storm The Stars. These two met in the Great Voltigeur at York last month, with Storm The Stars coming out on top after a stewards inquiry. It was an interesting race, and there is no doubt that Bondi Beach may have finished closer than the half-length he ended up being behind if it wasn’t for the interference, but to say he would have won is an uncertainty. However, both horses deserve to be at the head of the market after that great run at York. Storm The Stars has decent Group 1 form behind him, while Bondi Beach is a progressive colt that’s been aimed at this race, having only have four starts this season.
Elsewhere in the seven-runner field, Fields of Athenry is another interesting runner for Aiden O’Brien (also the trainer of Bondi Beach). Fields of Athenry was seen as the favourite for this race until the Ebor, where he disappointed back in 6th. It would be safe to say that if he had bolted up in such a valuable handicap, he would be a lot shorter than the 5/1 he currently is. This colt was always being aimed at this race, and if it wasn’t for the impressive form of his stablemate Bondi Beach, Fields of Athenry would certainly be the stable’s leading fancy for the 2015 St Leger. But as it stands, he’s the stable’s second string, and the booking of Silvestre de Sousa, while a great jockey, is a bit weird when the stable tends to have its pick.
The other interesting runner in this year’s St Leger at a slightly bigger price is Simple Verse, the filly trained by Ralph Beckett and ridden by Andrea Atzeni. She won her last race at Goodwood at the end of June over the distance of 1m 6 furlongs, so the trip is not an issue. She’s lightly raced, having 3 starts on turf, and 3 on all-weather, only finishing out of the top three in her first start. The only issue with her form is that the races haven’t been of the highest quality. The Goodwood win hasn’t brought up much in the way of quality performances from the field, and her previous win at Salisbury has the same problem. She might be progressive, but it might just be too big a step up in class for her.
As for the rest of the field, Vengeur Masque, Medrano and Proposed look to be making up the numbers, and it would be a shock if any of them pulled off a win.
It looks like a clear battle between Bondi Beach and Storm The Stars when it comes to taking the honours in the 2015 St Leger, and for me, all signs point to Bondi Beach. The colt has only had four starts and has improved on each one. He was unlucky in the Great Voltigeur, and will be more battled hardened by that race. In comparison, Storm The Stars has had a long hard season, and it looked to have caught up with him at York, even if he did pick up the win. The problem we have is that the price is plenty short enough, and it might well be worthwhile taking Bondi Beach and Fields of Athenry in a reverse forecast, as Aiden O’Brien is good enough to get the one-two in this race.
So enjoy the race and hopefully Bondi Beach can get the job done.