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
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