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The St Leger is one of the UK's leading races and the Group One highlight is the fifth and final Classic of the season.

The race is the third leg of the 'Triple Crown' and it is Doncaster's leading race fixture.  We have expert horse racing tips for the feature contest and we'll be looking to find the winner of this year's showpiece.

2016 St Leger tips - 16/1 shot to back

We take a look at Saturday's St Leger and our expert has a 16/1 shot to back in the final Classic of the season.

Selection - SWORD FIGHTER (16/1, Coral)

When analysing any of the Classic races these days, there is the potential to sound like a broken record, but Aidan O’Brien really does hold the key to the Ladbrokes St Leger on Saturday at Doncaster.

Idaho is the odds on favourite (current best price 5/6), and certainly seems to have an awful lot in his favour. He was a snug winner of the Voltigeur Stakes last time at York, where he settled well, and showed a good attitude to quicken inside the final furlong to get on top of stablemate Housesofparliament. Before that win, two placed efforts in both the Epsom and Irish Derby’s marked him down as a Group One contender, and though he is now 0-3 at that level, he is facing his weakest Group One field to date on Saturday.

The only slight concern would be that he has yet to race beyond a distance of one mile and four furlongs, and though he seemed to see the race out well in the Voltigeur, on his previous start in the Irish Derby, his effort appeared to flatten out somewhat in the closing stages (albeit against the top class Harzand). His run at Epsom also appeared that of a horse that could be suited by a drop to a mile and two furlongs, with even Aidan O’Brien suggesting as much for next season (a path trodden by Idaho’s full brother Highland Reel).


Idaho wins The Betway Great Voltigeur at York.

With that in mind, there is definitely a case to be made for seeking each way value elsewhere. John Gosden’s Muntahaa is a likeable grey colt by Dansili, who is improving steadily with each run this year (unraced as a two year old). That said, I feel he has a big step up to take after winning a Chester handicap by only a short head last time out. His Royal Ascot third reads fairly well (he finished in front of Housesofparliament), but that literal reading also leaves him with a bit to find with Idaho.
Red Verdon would make some appeal based on his Irish Derby fourth, for all that he appears held by Idaho on that running. He should improve for the longer trip, but trainer Ed Dunlop was quoted during the week as saying it had been ‘a struggle’ with the horse having some health issues.

Sword Fighter (16/1) is another Aidan O’Brien inmate, who has improved steadily throughout the season. Although well beaten last time when fifth in the Goodwood Cup, his run was better than that, as he raced up with the pace, and appeared to lose his action in the closing stages on the tricky downhill track, finally surrendering the lead inside the final furlong. That was no disgrace against battle-hardened campaigners such as Big Orange and Pallasator, and racing against his own age group on Saturday should be easier. 

His previous wins at Royal Ascot (Queen’s Vase) and the Curragh (Curragh Cup) demonstrated his toughness, and his front running style will ensure no hiding place on the stamina front for any of his rivals. It is also worth pointing out that in both those wins, he turned over better fancied stablemates, so he is possibly a horse that saves his best for the racecourse. On form lines, there is very little between him and much shorter priced horses (like stablemate Housesofparliament), so looks to be the value of the race.

He may well go off in front and set the race up for a classier horse like Idaho, but at 16/1 he has excellent place prospects, and may well go off plenty shorter on the day depending on jockey bookings. His attitude and consistency are admirable, and he is worth an each way bet at current odds.

Selection - SWORD FIGHTER (16/1, Coral)

ST LEGER - THE HISTORY OF THE RACE

The St Leger Stakes is the oldest of the five British Classics (completed by the 2000 Guineas, the 1000 Guineas, the Derby and the Oaks), and was first won way back in 1776 by Allabaculia. In 1778 it was first run at Town Moor (Doncaster), and has been run there ever since. Originally run over two miles, it was shortened to one mile and six furlongs in 1813, a distance that tests the stamina of the three year olds.

Historically, the St Leger has been a great source of sires for National Hunt (jumps) racing. The stamina and bravery required to win the race are qualities much desired by jumps breeders, and winning colts can look forward to an increased demand at stud. Currently past St Leger winners such as Milan, Millenary, Scorpion, Brian Boru and Shantou are all standing as National Hunt stallions with much success (Milan has sired Champion Hurdle winner Jezki amongst many other Grade One performers).

the final leg of the triple crown

It is also a race which is famous for being the third leg of the ‘Triple Crown’, a title given to any horse who completes the Classic treble of the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the St Leger. To win the Triple Crown, horses must be precocious enough to win the 2000 Guineas over a mile a Newmarket in May, possess the balance and class to take the Epsom Derby in June, and the stamina and endurance to take the St Leger in September. Given the unique test it presents, it will come as no surprise to hear that the last horse to achieve the feat was Nijinsky back in 1970 (the great mare Oh So Sharp won the female version – the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger - in 1985). In recent times, Camelot (trained by Aidan O’ Brien) attempted to complete the Triple Crown, but failed by just three quarters of a length to overhaul Encke for their rivals Godolphin.

ST LEGER EXPERT TIPS

The St Leger tends to favour late developing types, and not many winners make their two year old debut before August, with some horses not racing as a two year old at all. That said, class is definitely a requirement for winners, with winners almost always having achieved at least a placing in a Group race before St Leger victory. Plenty of winners have come from either the English or Irish Derbys, with placed horses in those races often being aimed at the St Leger. 

Stamina is also a major component of winning the St Leger. At one mile and six furlongs, it is a long way removed from the six and seven furlong races that populate the majority of the racing calendar. As such, not many horses are even bred to be suited by such a test. One should look for horses by sires with proven stamina over at least one mile and four furlongs (Derby winners are a good place to start). 

The majority of St Leger winners have already won over at least one mile and four furlongs before they arrive at Doncaster.

As regards trainers, John Gosden and Aidan O’ Brien are the two with the best recent record. Scorpion, Brian Boru, Milan and Leading Light are all recent winners for Aidan O’ Brien, and it is no coincidence that those horses were mentioned above as successful National Hunt stallions, with the ties to the Coolmore breeding operation. John Gosden also has an impressive record, with Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel counting among his more recent winners (Masked Marvel also holds the record for the fastest St Leger time).

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