Races to watch during the 4-day St Leger Festival
While Doncaster's Festival is anchored by the St Leger (G1) on Saturday, the action begins Wednesday. Here's the overview of the most significant races to watch.
The Scarbrough (10 a.m. EDT) is the only black-type event on the opening card. The five-furlong dash features such senior citizens of the sprint division as 10-year-old Kingsgate Native, nine-year-old Medicean Man, and eight-year-old Monsieur Joe, but look out for sophomore Cotai Glory. Over this same course and distance in last September's Flying Childers (G2), Cotai Glory was well on his way to victory, only to duck out and unseat his rider.
One race later is the "Leger Legends" (10:35 a.m.) event over a mile. The horses are uninteresting as lower-rated types, but their riders are very memorable. Tune in just to see the likes of Johnny Murtagh, A.P. McCoy, Gay Kelleway, Kevin Darley et al back in the competitive saddle.
The seven-furlong Sceptre (G3) (9:30 a.m. EDT) could pit defending champion Kiyoshi against smart sophomore Fadhayyil, Majestic Queen and Dusky Queen. At this writing, a grand total of 28 distaffers remain eligible.
The Park Hill (G2) (10:05 a.m.) is the St Leger's companion race for fillies and mares. Godolphin's Hidden Gold and the Mark Johnston-trained sophomore Vive Ma Fille are both exiting fine efforts against males, while John Gosden's blueblood Gretchen just lasted from Sahrawi in the Chalice last out.
The Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance (10:40 a.m.) is a hotly competitive two-year-old race worth £300,000, but not worth any black-type. Weights are determined by the sire's median price for yearlings sold at the major public auctions in Europe and North America in 2014, making for quite a scrum for the cash.
The Flying Childers (G2) (8:55 a.m. EDT) is a five-furlong sprint for juveniles. Top candidates include Prix Robert Papin (G2) winner Gutaifan, last seen chasing the top-class Shalaa in the Prix Morny (G1); Easton Angel, who beat all bar Wesley Ward's Acapulco in the Queen Mary (G2) the last time she raced five furlongs; unbeaten Curragh (G3) victress Bear Cheek; Shadow Hunter, who defeated a few fellow Flying Childers nominees in the Roses at York; and Zebstar, a well-regarded sort who probably needs a cutback to this trip.
The Mallard (9:30 a.m.) is a handicap over the St Leger trip of 1 3/4 miles, 132 yards. Among the eyecatching names among the eligibles are Gdolphin's Secret Number, who would be resurfacing from a year-long layoff, and the 10-year-old warrior Forgotten Voice.
The 2 1/4-mile Doncaster Cup (G2) (10:05 a.m.) is one of the season's premier events for stayers. Tac de Boistron would be a major contender if it rained, but the forecast at this point is against the soft-ground specialist, who'll probably await France. His trainer Marco Botti has another hope in Suegioo. Other horsemen with a pair of contenders are Sir Mark Prescott (Pallasator and William of Orange) and Willie Mullins (Clondaw Warrior and Simenon). Fun Mac is in good heart at present for Hughie Morrison, while Havana Beat, Kalann and former two-time Doncaster Cup hero Times Up are also in the mix.
The May Hill (G2) (10:40 a.m.), for two-year-old fillies at a mile, could serve up a rematch of the top three from the Prestige (G3), Hawksmoor, Fireglow and Light Up Our World. The latter hails from the Richard Hannon yard, which has even stronger entries in Great Page (who's reportedly headed to Sunday's Moyglare Stud [G1] at the Curragh) and Marenko. The Mark Johnston-trained Dessertoflife, a stablemate of Fireglow, would be wheeling back on nine days' rest after plundering a German Group 3. Recent maiden winners Gypsy Eyes and Pure Diamond have plenty of upside.
The Flying Scotsman (11:50 a.m.) will attract juveniles who aren't quite ready to tackle the Champagne (G2) at this same seven-furlong trip on Saturday. There's accordingly some overlap in the early entries as connections take a look. But one worth following if he lines up is Sheikh Hamdan's Massaat, who was a fast-finishing second to Cymric on debut. The Barry Hills pupil will know a lot more second time out.
The Champagne (G2) (9 a.m. EDT) has a dozen possibles as of Monday, including Ibn Malik, a strong second in his stakes debut in the Vintage (G2); Birchwood and Air Vice Marshal, the one-two from the Superlative (G2); the Mark Johnston duo of Welford and Beaverbrook; and flashy debut winners Emotionless and Haalick.
The Portland (9:35 a.m.) is a five-furlong, 140-yard scramble that can reveal pattern-caliber horses. Last year's running of this big sprint handicap marked the breakthrough for Muthmir, so it bears watching.
The Park (G2) (10:10 a.m.) will serve as Limato's first try at the seven-furlong distance, and Henry Candy's yard is on song at the moment. Fellow sophomore Home of the Brave, as well as Godolphin's veteran Safety Check, likewise loom large.
The St Leger (G1) (10:45 a.m.) is previewed here.