Race of The Day Saturday September 15
15:351 mile 6 furlongs 115 yards

William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group 1)

Doncaster

  • Current Favourite  Lah Ti Dar
  • Current Odds 15/8
Race Analysis Runners 12 Going Good (Good to Soft in places) Distance 1 mile 6 furlongs 115 yards

Race Overview

The final British Classic race of 2018, the £743,000 William Hill St Leger, is also the world’s oldest Classic, first run in 1776, the year the United States won its independence from Britain. A race steeped in history, it is the final leg of the Triple Crown, a thorough test of stamina at the highest level over nearly a full circuit of Doncaster’s Town Moor track, in total 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 115 yards.

Many great horses have won the St Leger – the likes of Nijinsky (1970), Bustino (1974), Oh So Sharp (1985), Reference Point (1987), User Friendly (192), Conduit (2008), are among some of the great names of the modern era to have landed the spoils. It’s a race in which the relatively few fillies who take part have a decent strike rate, the most recent to oblige being Ralph Beckett’s Simple Verse in 2015.

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Former champion trainer John Gosden

Favourite Lah Ti Dar

How good is the unbeaten Lah Ti Dar? We’ll find out at 3.35 on Saturday afternoon, but so far the filly trained by John Gosden (pictured) has looked very smart in winning all three races, including a 10-length demolition of the opposition in the listed Galtres Stakes at York last time. This is a lot tougher, but she could be anything.

Horse racing - Charlie Appleby

Other Contenders

For a long time the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris winner Kew Gardens was favourite for this race and he remains a major contender. Great Voltigeur Stakes winner Old Persian and fellow Godolphin representative Loxley should both go well and are trained by Charlie Appleby (pictured), as too might the unpredictable Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee, among others, in a fascinating contest.

Race Analysis

There are 12 runners set to face the starter for this year’s St Leger but, in truth, it would be a surprise if the winner came from outside of the top five in the betting; Lah Ti Dar, Kew Gardens, Old Persian, Loxley, and Dee Ex Bee. The remainder have decent form, but on balance have it all to do, including Maid Up, the Andrew Balding-trained filly who has been supplemented at no little expense to take her chance in this great race.

LAH TI DAR is impeccably bred and has done everything asked of her so far – but at a much lower level. The big question is just how well she will fare against some tough and talented colts, and then, of course, there’s the other unknown in the extended mile-and-three-quarters, a trip she’s never faced before.

Judging by the way she travels and the way she stayed on so powerfully at York three weeks ago over a mile-and-a-half to win the listed Galtres Stakes by no less than 10 lengths, the odds are that the daughter of Dubawi will stay.

She’s never yet had to really battle for a victory – her three successes being achieved without having to go head-to-head with any rival – but her family all had the right spirit. Her mother, Dah Re Mi, was a terrific Group 1 winner, her sister So Mi Dar was a very classy Group 2 winner, and her year younger unbeaten brother Too Darn Hot (set to run half an hour earlier in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes) looks a seriously good prospect and is the current ante-post 2000 Guineas and Derby favourite.

Given the above, and given the record in the race of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori, on balance there are enough positives to side with Lah Ti Dar – who missed bidding for the Oaks due to a minor setback – and she can write her name in the history books with a St Leger victory and maintain her unbeaten record.

Kew Gardens is a big threat and for a long time was favourite for this race. He’s a battle hardened thorough stayer who won Royal Ascot’s Group 2 Queen’s Vase in fine style, beating stable companion Southern France with plenty in hand), then dropped back to 12 furlongs to win what was probably a sub-standard renewal of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in July.

The Aidan O’Brien team were just beginning to emerge from under a cloud and had said in advance that this son of Galileo wasn’t fully wound up when he stayed on at the one pace to be third in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York three weeks ago, won by Old Persian, who was receiving 2lb. With the yard back on song and the step back up in trip certain to suit, Kew Gardens could expose any frailties in Lah Ti Dar and looks sure to run a massive race.

Old Persian is a very progressive Charlie Appleby-trained colt who ran on strongly to win the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot before disappointing just a week later in the Irish Derby when surely he hadn’t had time to recover from his Ascot exertions. He showed his true form at York, staying on strongly to beat Cross Counter and Kew Gardens, and there is every reason to believe he should stay the extra two furlongs plus on Saturday. He looks a rock solid each-way bet at current odds of 8/1.

Loxley, also trained for Godolphin by Charlie Appleby, is still unexposed having won four of his six career starts including the last two; a 10 furlong listed race at Deauville, and a 12 furlong Group 3 at the same track last time out where he handled the soft ground well and won with something in hand. Any rain would help his cause and there could be more to come from this likeable son of New Approach.

The joker in the pack is Mark Johnston’s Dee Ex Bee, a horse with loads of talent but who is something of an in-and-out performer. He won twice as a juvenile (including on heavy ground) and ended that campaign finishing second to Kew Gardens over nine furlongs in the listed Zetland Stakes at Newmarket. Beaten just half a length by Young Rascal in the Group 3 Chester Vase in May, the son of Farhh ran the race of his life when staying on gamely to finish a tremendous runner-up to Masar in the Derby (looking every inch a St Leger horse), after which he was well fancied for the Irish equivalent but ran no sort of race, finishing seventh to Latrobe.

Third to Kew Gardens in the Grand Prix de Paris in July, beaten over four lengths, he appeared to have let himself down when only second of four to Cross Counter in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, until it was revealed that the winner had broken a long-standing course record.

It might just be that Dee Ex Bee is a possible Cup horse for next year and the the extra distance of the St Leger might finally bring out the best in him. Although he has twice been put in his place by Kew Gardens, I would not be at all surprised if he turned the form around and at double-figure odds he appeals as a sporting alternative to Lah Ti Dar, for those who don’t want to take fairly short odds in a Classic.

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Betting.net Selection

Lah Ti Dar
15/8
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Betting.net Danger

Dee Ex Bee
16/1

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Paul Alster Betting.net

Written by Paul Alster

Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.