The final classic of the season is upon us already, how time flies.
Autumn appears to have arrived, too, which means rain softened ground at Doncaster for the St Leger on Saturday which at the time of writing means one of the leading fancies may yet miss the race.
Sky Bet's 4/1 second favourite Galileo Rock has also been declared in Sunday's Irish Leger where the ground may be more suitable and trainer David Wachman is on weather watch to see where his stable star will run.
If he runs at Doncaster he comes here with a very solid chance. His pedigree is stamina-laden and his second to Trading Leather in the Irish Derby on his last start is very strong. He handles soft ground but clearly connections don't think it brings out the best in him.
The Acomb form comes under scrutiny with both the winner Treaty of Paris and second The Grey Gatsby taking each other on again. I'd be fairly confident that the pair will reverse those placings at Doncaster.
Quotes of the week
John Gosden has a very good record in this race, he runs Excess Knowledge who will be ridden by James Doyle.
The horse heads the market and, judging on his second to Cap O'Rushes in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, he won't mind the easier surface.
He was desperately unlucky there and Gosden should be confident of reversing those placings on Town Moor. He hasn't had a busy season and is the worthy favourite.
Aidan O'Brien has a strong team with Leading Light and Foundry in this Group 1. Joseph O'Brien rides the former and the latter went into many notebooks with his eye catching performance in the Great Voltigeur at York last time out when a staying on second to Telescope.
That was just his second career outing and his first of the season and he should have improved for that outing. He has the added benefit of Ryan Moore in the saddle. Leading Light won the two-mile Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot on his last outing and he looks capable of being a smart cup horse for Ballydoyle in the future.
Their big rivals Godolphin are triple handed with Libertarian (Charlie Appleby), Secret Number (Saeed bin Suroor) and Cap O'Rushes (Charlie Appleby). Libertarian was snapped up after his second (for Elaine Burke) in the Derby but he flopped in the Irish Derby on his debut for the Godolphin team and this is a retrieval mission.
By all accounts he doesn't do a tap at home so it's hard to gauge the form he is in. He will wear cheekpieces for the first time on Saturday and that may help. Secret Number is interesting for Saeed bin Suroor. He's another trainer with a great record in this classic and he thinks the rain-softened ground will be in his horse's favour.
Cap O'Rushes provided Charlie Appleby with his first group winner since taking over at Sheikh Mohammed's Moulton Paddocks Stables but the horse appeared lucky to hold off Excess Knowledge on that occasion at Goodwood and may struggle to confirm that form.
Another horse on a retrieval mission is the Ralph Beckett trained filly Talent. She won the Oaks and seemingly held a good chance in the Irish equivalent. However, she trailed in last at the Curragh and this is her first run since then.
I think this year the race will be won by Aidan O'Brien who holds two very strong chances. I can't help thinking that Joseph O'Brien may be on the wrong horse and he could see Ryan Moore win on Foundry. I was impressed with the York run and there should be more.
Granted he is inexperienced and that could count against him and I'm sure Joseph will think he's on the right one, but he offers more value and I'm sticking with him. I think John Gosden's Excess Knowledge is his biggest danger.
The Portland Handicap is as competitive as ever. 22 have been declared for this five-and-a-half-furlong dash which looks wide open. Last year's winner Doc Hay is back for more and runs off a 3lbs higher mark this time round. He hasn't troubled the judge of late but that means he is dropping back to a reasonable mark, he looks one for the shortlist.
Kevin Ryan's Bogart is one of the protagonists, too. You may remember that his saddle slipped in the Sky Bet Dash at York giving jockey Amy Ryan a heavy fall. He then went back to the Knavesmire and won a decent five-furlong handicap for which he was raised 5 lbs.
Steps finished mid division in this race last year and ran well at the Shergar Cup meeting last time out. Ajjaadd is another I'm interested in. Ted Powell's seven-year-old comes here after a great run to be second in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood and he runs off the same mark here.
David O'Meara trains Doc Hay and he also runs Elusivity (Kieren Fallon booked). His win to run ratio isn't great, but he won't mind the ground here. Confessional bounced back to form with a win at Haydock last time out. Trainer Tim Easterby won't be pleased he was raised 6lbs for that, but he has run well in this race in the past.
Barnet Fair is interesting, too, for Richard Guest off a low weight. However, he is very highly strung and I'm not sure easy ground suits him either. This is a very difficult race to find the winner of, but I like Ajjaadd and after that great effort in the Strewards Cup last time out I think he'll appreciate the slight drop in trip here.
The Group 2 Champagne Stakes is without the Paul Cole-trained Berkshire (again due to the ground) and Ger Lyons has also decided to withdraw Exogenisis for the same reason. So, that leaves six to run in this influential seven-furlong, two-year-old contest.
The money Godolphin paid to supplement the Charlie Appleby trained Outstrip for this race looks like it could be money well spent. The colt won his maiden before finishing second in the Vintage Stakes to Toormore at Glorious Goodwood and the form looks solid. Richard Hannon has won this race for the past two years and he runs the Hamdan Al Maktoum owned Anjaal.
Life won't be easy for the horse who carries a penalty for winning the July Stakes on his last start which means he gives weight to all of his rivals. The step up to seven furlongs looks like it will suit, though. Mind you connections feel he could be a horse for the Dewhurst so you would like to think he was capable of carrying that extra burden.
Cable Bay hails from the Charlie Hills yard who historically have targeted Doncaster and been rewarded with plenty of winners. This horse was fourth in the Gimcrack last time out and tries seven furlongs for the first time. The ground will suit, but I'm not sure the trip will.
The Acomb form comes under scrutiny with both the winner Treaty of Paris and second The Grey Gatsby taking each other on again. I'd be fairly confident that the pair will reverse those placings at Doncaster. At the likely prices I'm going to side with Kevin Ryan's The Grey Gatsby.
The Group 2 Park Stakes is for three-year-olds and upwards and is run over what can be the specialist trip of seven furlongs. Roger Varian has his team in great form and I think Aljamaaheer can keep up his impressive strike rate (incidentally it's a 62% strike rate for September at the time of writing!).
This horse has some smart form at the highest level and can be excused his eighth place in the Prix Jacques le Marois last time out as that was a red-hot race, but if he can reproduce his second to Declaration of War in the Queen Anne he'll take some beating. He was also an excellent third to Farhh in the Lockinge earlier in the season and there's no doubt this race looks very winnable for him.
The Irish Leger takes place at the Curragh on Sunday and sadly for Michael Owen his Brown Panther misses the race having developed a temperature in the week. He could now run at Ascot and then head to Australia for the Melbourne Cup.
If Galileo Rock turns up here he will have plenty of support and rightly so. He has the added burden of taking on older horses in this race which is something his trainer David Wachman would have preferred to avoid and in fact is the only three-year-old in the field of 11 that have been declared. I don't think that will be a problem and he should run very well.
Last year's winner Royal Diamond is in the line up again for trainer/jockey Johnny Murtagh. Connections have decided to come here again rather than head into quarantine ahead of a trip to Australia for the Caulfield Cup. He suits this course and distance well and has obviously claims having won the trial here last month. He should give Galileo Rock plenty to worry about.
Aidan O'Brien's Ernest Hemmingway beat Royal Diamond on his penultimate start, but had to settle for third behind him in the Irish Leger Trial last time out when a disappointment so he could bounce back.
Dermot Weld runs Pale Mimosa who has only had the one run this season when winning the Saval Beg back in June. Galileo Rock gets a weight for age allowance from his older rivals and I hope that's enough to swing it for him. Wait to see if he runs before you back him.
There are also possible classic clues on the card in the Group 1 National Stakes, the race won by Dawn Approach last year. Seven have been declared for the seven-furlong race, three of them for Aidan O'Brien.
Sudirman could complete a great day for David Wachman if he prevails. He is going from strength to strength winning the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes last time. He will step up to this trip for the first time, but that should suit and he's a tough sort.
Richard Hannon's Toormore comes here unbeaten in two starts but he is still weak and looks like he will be much better next year. It's interesting Joseph O'Brien has chosen the once-raced Giovanni Boldini over Wilshire Boulevard. The former has just had the one start on the all-weather at Dundalk but he hold lots of big race entries. He has an American pedigree and like many horses bred that way prefers fast ground so you wouldn't want too much rain to fall.
Wilshire Boulevard will suit the step up to seven furlongs after his second place to Astaire in the Gimcrack last time out. It's interesting that Jim Bolger starts Fiscal Focus off in this Group 1. The female line of the family hails from the family of Teofilo and he holds some very decent entries.
It's a fascinating contest and I'd be interested in Giovanni Boldini if the ground remains quick.
Foundry in the St Leger @ 11/2 with Sky Bet
Ajjaadd in the Portland Handicap @ 12/1 with Sky Bet
The Grey Gatsby in the Champagne Stakes @ 100/30 with Sky Bet
Aljamaaheer in the Park Stakes @ 3/1 with Sky Bet
Galileo Rock in the Irish Leger
Giovanni Boldini in the National Stakes (if ground no worse than good)
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