Doncaster's St Leger festival takes place on Town Moor this week with the possibility of the Legend of Camelot being written into the history books on Saturday in the final classic of the season, the St Leger.
The Aidan O'Brien trained colt is bidding to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Nijinsky in 1970 after wins in the first two legs, the 2000 Guineas and the Derby. If he manages to pull it off it may be the last time we see the feat achieved for many more years as it's unusual for trainers to target the Leger with their valuable stallion prospects.
The reason is that to win over a mile and three-quarters can devalue a stallion as they tend to attract the jumping breeders rather than the more commercial flat breeders. However, the fact that he has the Guineas over a mile and the Derby over a mile-and-a-half on his CV means he is sure to be much sought after when he retires to stud.
So, will he stay one mile, six furlongs? Aidan O'Brien thinks so, but there is always some doubt. He is a son of Montjeu who stayed a mile-and-a-half well and has now sired four Derby winners. O'Brien says he is built more like a miler so there has to be some doubt, but he is a class act and that may get him through.
One thing is for sure, the team at Ballydoyle would not have taken on the challenge had they not thought him capable and I think he will be hard to beat. However, at the prices I will be watching rather than backing him.
He takes on eight rivals and Thought Worthy was given the nod of approval with the news that he will be the mount of William Buick. Having spoken to trainer John Gosden, he was given the steer to ride the Great Voltigeur winner. Frankie Dettori picks up the ride on Gosden's other runner Michelangelo.
Buick and Gosden are a formidable partnership with some top-class victories this season, but it's worth remembering that they have teamed up to win this race for the past two years too. The horse was given a great ride to win at York and he may not get the opportunity to dictate in this race, but the overall form of this full brother to 2007 Leger winner Lucarno, is good.
Michelangelo isn't to be disregarded, though, and with headgear on he could raise his game and he is still improving. Main Sequence is bidding to reverse the placings with Thought Worthy for David Lanigan and Ted Durcan. Guarantee is an improver for William Haggas and takes the step up from handicap company.
I think you could do worse than back Ursa Major each way or in the market without the favourite. At 16/1 he is a decent price and has every chance of a big run. He won the Leger Trial in Ireland last time out and now Johnny Murtagh is back fit he takes over again at Doncaster for trainer Tommy Carmody, who trains at the yard Murtagh owns on the Curragh. He runs in the colours of owner Andrew Tinkler and has been supported this week.
Let's have a look at some of the other major races at Doncaster this week then. On Friday the Doncaster Cup is the feature and Saddler's Rock is bidding to bounce back after a disappointing effort at York last time. He is a top-class cup horse but doesn't want soft ground so hopefully there won't be any more rain on Town Moor. He won this race last year and to be honest with you I find him hard to oppose as he has the best form on offer in this two-mile, two-furlong Group Two.
Last year's Leger winner Masked Marvel has plenty to prove this season and John Gosden is fitting the blinkers for the first time on Friday. It would be great to see Times Up run a big race for John Dunlop, who announced his retirement from the training ranks on Thursday. This horse won the Lonsdale at York beating the improving High Jinx (Saddler's Rock in behind) and can reach the frame again.
Colour Vision has to concede weight to his rivals thanks to his win in the Ascot Gold Cup. As I've followed Saddler's Rock all season I'm going to stick with him to bounce back proving there is no more significant rain. There is a quality support card too with the Flying Childers the opening race on the card. This is a red-hot five-furlong juvenile Group Two with Sir Prancealot setting the standard for Richard Hannon.
I like the look of the David Brown trained Fire Eyes who will be ridden by Graham Lee. His dam won this race and connections paid plenty for him this year as a breeze up. He was beaten by Hoyam at York last time out but is slightly better off at the weights and I hope that's enough.
The Mallard Stakes is a one-mile, six-and-a-half furlong handicap and there are some real old favourites in this. However, the old guard may have to make way for an improving three-year-old, Sir Graham Wade, who won the Old Borough Cup at Haydock last time out. Caravan Rolls On has won more races than he's lost and Peter Chapple-Hyam targeted this race after his latest win at Newmarket. He is a real threat to the favourite. The ten-year-old Blue Bajan isn't without a chance either, but I'm going with Mark Johnston's Sir Graham Wade to win again under a penalty.
The May Hill Stakes is a one-mile Group Two for two-year-old fillies. Certify is your likely favourite for Mahmood Al Zarooni and she comes into the race unbeaten in two starts. She won the Sweet Solera last time out beating subsequent Moygalre winner Sky Lantern a length. Ollie Olga looks capable of giving her a race for Mick Channon, but sadly it seems she may not run as she has come into season at the wrong time. She has had the three starts and also has a line of form through Sky Lantern whom she beat by half a length in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last time out. If she doesn't line up then Certify is going to be hard to beat, but pretty short in the market too!
Onto some of the other races on Saturday and the Champagne Stakes has attracted a field of six. Dundonnell is the horse I'm most looking forward to seeing in this race. Roger Charlton's colt won the Acomb Stakes over this distance at York last time out and looks exciting. He is learning all the time and can enhance his Guineas prospect for which he is currently 16/1 with Sky Bet.
The Portland Handicap looks wide open as usual with Prodigality Sky Bet's 6/1 favourite. Ron Harris has done a great job with this horse since picking him up for just £11,000 last year. He has a light weight in this and deserves to be favourite. I want to have James Fanshawe's Hallelujah (10/1) on my side as she looks like a progressive sprinter and has a Group entry on Champions Day. I hope this five-and-a-half furlong isn't too sharp for her and is my selection providing the ground doesn't dry up between now and Saturday.
The Park Stakes is a Group Two over seven furlongs and Richard Hannon's Strong Suit is a major player. He finished a five-lengths seventh behind Society Rock in the Sprint Cup at Haydock last weekend and the step back up to seven furlongs will suit. I think if the ground remains good or easier I'd like to have Godolphin's Soul on my side. He missed the Sprint Cup owing to the fast ground and although he is just short of top class he has some decent form to his name, including a fourth place to Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee (Society Rock in fifth) and that stacks up well here. Lethal Force needs things to go his way and for the blinkers to be as effective for a second time.
In Ireland on Saturday it is Irish Leger day at the Curragh and Aidan O'Brien is bidding for ANOTHER classic victory in 2012. He runs Fame and Glory who hasn't run since disappointing in the Ascot Gold Cup. He ran too bad to be true there and I've found to my cost that to take this horse on after a disappointing effort can be very expensive!
There are some interesting horses in opposition, namely Michael Owen's Brown Panther who was second to Mount Athos last time out. Aiken ended a winning run in the Hardwicke last time out but John Gosden won't be sending the horse out for fun. Hartani was second to Ursa Major in the Leger Trial last time out and if that one runs well in the Leger at Doncaster it would give me the courage to take the favourite on.
On the same card the Vincent O'Brien Stakes is the other Group One (formerly the National Stakes) and we are going to get a look at Jim Bolger's unbeaten colt Dawn Approach. He faces seven rivals for his first run since winning the Coventry at Royal Ascot in June. He is currently 8/1 favourite with Sky Bet for next year's 2000 Guineas and has been snapped up by Godolphin who now own him. He bypassed a couple of targets due to the easy ground and although he may have to cope with softish conditions in this race I think he will win.
Saddler's Rock in the Doncaster Cup
Fire Eyes in the Flying Childers
Sir Graham Wade in the Mallard Stakes
Certify in the May Hill Stakes
Dundonnell in the Champagne Stakes
Hallelujah in the Portland Handicap @ 10/1 with Sky Bet Soul in the Park Stakes
Ursa Major in the St Leger @ 16/1 with Sky Bet (each way)
Hartani in the Irish Leger Dawn Approach in the Vincent O'Brien Stakes