The Flat racing season is rapidly heading towards its conclusion. This weekend is one of several remaining in the schedule before the winter horses take centre stage over jumps. The St Leger at Doncaster and the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown are the two undoubted highlights on what promises to be a very good Saturday of racing.
With so much to look forward to and so many options for punters, we’ve done the hard work by going through the form and the stats to pick out this week’s best Saturday Racing Tips.
1:45 Portland Handicap
Class 2, 5½f
The day’s live action at Doncaster starts with a typically strong renewal of the Portland Handicap. The top part of the market includes several tempting options including last year’s winner Stone Of Destiny. He is available at odds of 8/1 and will be popular but Jawwaal could turn out to provide more bang for your buck at a bigger price.
Michael Dods’ five year old has excellent form at Doncaster including winning two five-furlong handicaps over the summer. Those wins saw his rating reach a career-high but he is carrying just one pound more than when placing 12th in the Portland Handicap last year. Providing he doesn’t make the sort of mistake at the start which has cost him at times this season, Jawwaal’s form is good enough to suggest he can outrun his mark of 99 and win this at a generous price of 11/1.
2:00 tote+ Stand Cup Stakes
There aren’t many five year olds in training with as few miles on the clock as Alignak. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge hasn’t been seen since winning this race almost exactly 12 months ago but he goes into this year’s renewal as the 2/1 favourite. That says as much about the horse’s ability as that of his trainer to prepare his horses away from the track and Alignak will be difficult to beat.
The market suggests that Alounak is the horse most likely to get the favourite beaten. As good as Andrew Balding’s six year old is, it could be worth avoiding the upper part of the market entirely and taking the 22/1 available about Dhabyah’s chances. She’s given two very contrasting performances since being added to Joseph O’Brien’s stable. If she can run as well at Chester as she did in Bellewstown in July then Dhabyah can go close to adding some black type to her record so back her each way.
2:20 Champagne Stakes
Group 2, 7f
It’s not always easy to assess the strength of a piece of form. A performance that looks very impressive may not stand up to the test of time if the standard of opposition is poor. It’s that scenario that will worry backers of Reach For The Moon who is 4/5 to win the Champagne Stakes.
The Queen’s horse has done nothing wrong in his career so far and won his first Group 3 race last time out at Sandown. None of the five horses he beat that day will go on to win at the top level so does that take away from what was a visually very impressive win? Not if you listen to Frankie Dettori and John Gosden. They were both taken with the way he got the job done in a race lacking in pace. Dettori only had to gently ask for Reach For The Moon to ease away so there is plenty more in the tank, likely enough to win a first Group 2.
2:35 Homeserve Handicap
Class 3, 1m6½f
The second of two ITV Racing contests from Chester is this staying handicap. This is a long way from the highest calibre race of the day but that presents opportunities. Perhaps the best of those is the 16/1 available on Red Derek. Connections are taking the bold decision to step him up in trip after he failed to see out shorter trips recently. The hope is that his preference for running prominently can see him settle into a nice rhythm and save enough for the closing stages. If he holds on then Red Derek can land a decent place return or maybe just go all the way to win.
2:45 Irish Champion Stakes
Group 1, 1m2f
There are just four confirmed runners here meaning that this is the smallest field for the Irish Champion Stakes in the last 10 years. As ever with small fields, there is a danger that the race is a tactical one and that the chances of the favourite are sabotaged. While St Mark’s Basilica clearly has the talent to overcome a race that isn’t run entirely to suit, he is yet to win on good ground and is a shade too short at 11/10 to offer value to win a fourth Grade 1 of the season.
If indeed the race doesn’t pan out for the Ballydoyle star then Poetic Flare will be right there to take advantage. The 16/1 winner of the 2,000 Guineas has consistently run well subsequently despite winning just once more. Jim Bolger has been praying for genuinely good ground at Leopardstown and having got his wish, Poetic Flare can end his season as impressively as he started it.
3:00 Cazoo Park Stakes
Group 2, 7f
For all that the Park Stakes has fallen apart a bit with just six runners confirmed, we still have an engrossing contest ahead of us. The betting is headed by Laneqash who made a belated first start of the season last time out. Roger Varian is hopeful that his three year old will come on for that run but the threat of the bounce factor and the challenge of taking on older horses means he is a favourite to avoid.
Second favourite Danyah has proven that he is a reliable performer so will get a lot of support. He is stepping out of handicaps for this though. Going from strongly run, big field events to a small field Group race with no guarantee of pace could be his undoing though so the selection is Glorious Journey at 11/4. He has been a wonderful servant to connections over the years and after winning a Group 3 last time out, this consistent and very likeable six year old can add another big win to his CV.
3:35 Cazoo St Leger Stakes
Group 1, 1m6½f
Godolphin have won the St Leger an impressive six times but you have to go back to Mastery’s success in 2009 for the last time that the famous blue silks sat atop the victor. That winless run looks sure to be broken this year according to the betting. After following up success in the Irish Derby with a win in the Grand Prix de Paris, the plan appeared to be that Hurricane Lane would skip the St Leger and be kept fresher for a return to Paris for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He still holds an entry for the Arc but connections delighted racing fans by confirming that he would head to Doncaster.
Although some extremely high-class horses such as Camelot and Shergar have failed to live up to their pre-race billing in the St Leger, half of the last eight renewals have gone the way of the favourite. It would be a real surprise were Hurricane Lane not to oblige at odds of 4/5. However, that price will put some off so it could be worth supplementing a bet on the favourite with an each way play on Sir Lucan at 20/1. He can be a bit keen but if he relaxes out at the back of the field then Sir Lucan can come on strong late on to run into a place.