2014 Ladbrokes St Leger Preview, Trends, Dosage, Tips
It's now less than a fortnight until the St Leger concludes the Classic action for 2014, and there are still 21 engaged for the race. With Leading Light winning last year, and going on to prove a worthy Cup horse; and Conduit claiming Breeders' Cup Turf glory afterwards in 2008; the race is still capable of producing top class winners.
And let us not forget that as recently as two years ago we witnessed a horse - Camelot - denied the now super rare feat of winning the Triple Crown. That he was denied by a horse which subsequently tested positive for banned substances adds further colour to the recent race history, and it is in that context that we cast our eyes upon the score and one remaining entries for the 2014 Ladbrokes St Leger.
2014 Ladbrokes St Leger Dosage Trends
Dosage figures are one of racing's more enduring pseudo-sciences. They essentially rate the genealogy of horses and offer insights into such as likely precocity, brilliance, and stamina or speed.
Clearly, for a race run over the best part of two miles (less 308 yards), stamina will be a pre-requisite and, with most entries not having raced beyond a mile and a half before, any insight into their likely ability to hang tough for another quarter mile and more is welcome.
Ben Aitken's excellent dosage trends analysis from last year revealed a strong profile, albeit one against which many competitors align. Leading Light fitted the dosage bill optimally, and Ben's three core trends (updated to include Leading Light) are as follows:
16/16 had 16 points or more in their DP
12/16 had 22 points or more in their DP
15/16 had a DI of 1.48 or below
13/16 had a DI of 1.07 or below
0/16 had a DI of 0.68 or below
Centre of Distribution:
14/16 had a CD of .026 or below
0/16 had a CD of -0.13 or below
You can assess these figures for yourself if you'd like at http://www.pedigreequery.com/
Here's how this year's entries match up on dosage, with optimal dosage profiles emboldened and *'d.
|Kingston Hill||Roger Varian||120||4||20||0.9||0.10|
|Snow Sky||Sir M Stoute||111||8||18||1.25||0.39|
|Alex My Boy||Mark Johnston||105||17||26||0.58||-0.31|
|Forever Now*||John Gosden||106||17||22||0.76||-0.05|
|Kings Fete*||Sir M Stoute||104||21||28||0.87||0.07|
|Kingfisher*||A P O´Brien||111||21||24||0.92||0.17|
|Streetcar To Stars||John M Oxx||106||26||12||0.85||-0.17|
|Granddukeoftuscany*||A P O´Brien||—||26||30||1.07||0.17|
|Winter Thunder||S bin Suroor||105||51||12||1.4||0.50|
|Adjusted*||A P O´Brien||95||67||38||0.69||-0.13|
|Min Alemarat||Marco Botti||95||67||24||1.09||0.21|
|Indian Maharaja||A P O´Brien||98||67||18||1.12||0.28|
|Blue Hussar*||A P O´Brien||99||81||46||0.77||0.04|
It may (or may not) be instructive to note that none of the first four in the betting has a perfect dosage profile.
2014 Ladbrokes St Leger Trends
Let's look at some of the wider race trends before paring the 21 down to a smaller number for form analysis.
16 of the last 17 winners finished on the podium (i.e. 1-2-3) last time out.
Horses have won at all prices up to 25/1 in that time, but nine favourites or joint favourites have obliged also.
Of the 13 winners with a published Official Rating since 1997, all were rated at least 109.
None of the 18 horses to have run within the previous fortnight won, and only one placed. All winners since 1997 had run within 90 days, though.
All of the last 17 winners had previously finished first or second in a Group race.
So we're looking for a horse with good recent form (123 last time), class (rated 109+, and first or second in a Group race), nicely rested but not off for too long (15-90 days optimal).
The short list comprises just Windshear and Snow Sky.
2014 Ladbrokes St Leger Form Preview
With all of the preparatory races now concluded, the form is in the book. Almost all of it is over shorter distances, and in lower grade, which makes for an interesting punting puzzle, in which the jolly is Derby second and Coral-Eclipse fourth, Kingston Hill.
This horse has had more absences than runs, generally due to the state of the ground, and it will again be possible that connections decide not to risk him if the turf is too quick on the Town Moor. Although he was 'only' fourth last time, that was in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse, and he - like most other horses behind the front-runners - was given too much to do over the mile and a quarter trip that day.
Whilst ten furlongs would be sharp enough for a Derby second, there is no guarantee that he'll get the extra trip of the Leger, a question at least mildly echoed in his dosage numbers, which are solid rather than optimal. The bottom line with Kingston Hill is that he's an ante-post nightmare: he has a clear form chance, and fair chance to stay, and is a worthy favourite... IF he lines up. Piling in at 3/1 with that doubt, especially when he's engaged in the Prix Niel the next day, is not sensible, though he may become an on the day play.
Romsdal is the first of Johnny G's three in the betting - priced at 7/1 tops - and the trainer's record in the race offers a clue to this fellow's prospects. Winner of four St Legers in all, Gosden has trained three of the last seven, and two of the last four.
Having been third in the Derby, three lengths behind Kingston Hill, Romsdal was a disappointing back marker in the King George, never landing a blow. Looking back to that Derby bronze for optimism, it's hard to find. He was losing ground to Kingston Hill in the final furlong, not gaining it, and despite the high class of his last encounter he was never a contender.
Snow Sky looks a more interesting player. Sir Michael Stoute's first choice for the race - he also has the promising Kings Fete entered - has been improving through the summer, and his form looks robust enough.
Third to Eagle Top in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, he then showed good battling attributes to hold on by a neck from the fast-finishing Windshear, in the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. That recognised Leger trial was a feather in his cap, and he lost little in defeat to a highly progressive rival in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York, another key St Leger trial.
Postponed, the horse that beat him there, is very unlikely to be supplemented for the final Classic, his trainer Luca Cumani not believing he will stay. But Snow Sky was plugging on well there, and the eight length-plus gap to other Leger entries makes it very hard to see the likes of Hartnell, Granddukeoftuscany, Marzocco and Indian Maharaja reversing form.
Windshear and Hartnell are next in the market, and the latter beat the former by a couple of lengths prior to that drubbing in the Voltigeur.
Although we do have to overlook that moderate effort the last day, Hartnell's previous form gives him a chance. He won the Listed Queen's Vase over two miles at Royal Ascot, showing there are no concerns about stamina; and he followed that up with victory in the mile and five Group 3 Bahrain Trophy. Stamina is assured then, but what about class? It was a better race in which he was found out at York, even accounting for the fact that the trip was on the sharp side, and this wouldn't be the deepest St Leger field ever assembled. Hartnell, who might try to make all depending on whether front-running tactics are deployed by Ballydoyle, will have burned many non-stayers off by the quarter mile pole.
Whilst Windshear has been consistent, he's been beaten - as mentioned - by Hartnell and Snow Sky, and has a habit of finding one too good (form reads 1212222). That's not to say he's ungenuine though: far from it. He was most unlucky not to get the win after being given plenty to do at Goodwood (a neck behind Snow Sky), and he was clear second at Newmarket (behind Hartnell), both races holding Group 3 status.
With a hold up ride again likely, he'll be staying on through beaten horses, and looks the best each way option at this stage.
Forever Now is Johnny G's second bullet, and he's fairly interesting. No match for Hartnell in the Bahrain Trophy, he improved a chunk to short head Alex My Boy in the Listed March Stakes at Goodwood. He made all there, over a mile and six, though he was running on vapour by the line. I'm not certain he'll stay a truly run mile six and a half, even though the dosage data gives him the benefit of the doubt. He is improving though...
Alex My Boy is Mark Johnston's second string, behind Hartnell. While he hasn't achieved as much as that one, he is moving forward apace. A winning run that started in a Class 2 handicap at Haydock in July, and took in a four length thumping of a lesser field of handicappers a month later, was ended when he just failed to catch Forever Now last time. Given a stiffer stamina test in the St Leger, I think he'll reverse the form, without that being enough to claim such a prestigious prize.
One I cannot envisage winning is Aidan O'Brien's Kingfisher. Second in as weak an Irish Derby as you'll ever see (winner, Australia, aside), he held on for that position by dint of having been Australia's pace maker. He then made the pace for the same horse in the Juddmonte and finished last. Before those runs, he'd been well thumped in the Derby; and before that, he'd shown an ability to handle deeper turf in the Dee Stakes at Chester. It would be pretty disappointing if he was good enough to win.
2014 Ladbrokes St Leger Tips
It looks to be a shallow renewal of the oldest Classic, albeit one with quality at the top end of the market. Stamina questions abound, including in the case of the ante post favourite, Kingston Hill. That's not the biggest concern with him though, as his ground dependency makes him a precarious 'futures' proposition.
With that in mind, my play will be to back one each way against him, and have a win saver on the day, should the Derby second line up.
The one I want in my corner is Windshear. He's been running really well all season, and stamina looks his thing. He meets the trends snugly, he has two solid ticks out of three on dosage, and he has a pedigree (by Hurricane Run out of a Hernando mare) which - dosage points aside - screams stayer.
Windshear looks as though he'll go on any ground - he's been running well on good to firm but both wins have come on soft - and he has a touch of class. He'll avoid any early pace battles, travel well into the contest and, with the long Donny straight in his favour, can outstay most - and hopefully all - of his rivals.
10/1 each way, a quarter the odds, with Betfred and totesport looks like the bet.
Each way selection: Windshear 10/1, quarter the odds 1-2-3