The highlight of Doncaster’s Flat season is upon us. A preview, courtesy of GBI Racing, is below.
The Listed Scarbrough Stakes should be an absorbing affair, the 1000m contest featuring a clash between a high-class gelding struggling to get his head in front this season in Muthmir, and flying Yorkshire filly Thesme who is incredibly also to win in 2016 despite being in the form of her life as she showed when an excellent close-up fifth in the Nunthorpe Stakes last time out. Another smart performer in the line-up is the quirky Pearl Secret, who will appreciate any cut in the ground more than most of his rivals.
For many, though, the most keenly-anticipated race of the first day at Doncaster is the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Classified Stakes, won last year by Gannicus – ridden by a certain AP McCoy.
The 1600m contest sees 14 former jockeys return to the saddle in aid of the Northern Racing College and the Injured Jockeys Fund’s Jack Berry House. A total of £650,000 has been raised since the first running of the race in 2010.
This year’s line-up is headlined by two former champions in Joseph O’Brien and Richard Hughes (left). O’Brien captured the Irish Flat jockeys’ championship in 2012 and 2013, while Hughes claimed the British equivalent for three consecutive years between 2012 and 2014.
The action on Town Moor moves up a gear with the staging of the Clugston Construction May Hill Stakes, won last year by Turret Rocks. Kilmah, the winner of the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last weekend and back on a firm upward curve, gets the chance to move up in distance for this 1600m Group Two contest.
Blending, an impressive Newmarket maiden winner last time out for John Gosden, looks Kilmah’s greatest threat on paper, although connections of Rich Legacy, a luckless fourth behind Kilmah at Goodwood evidently fancy their chances of reversing those placings.
Staying fillies and mares get their chance to shine in the 2900m Group Two DFS Park Hill Stakes, with last year’s St Leger winner Simple Verse out to regain the winning thread, although the progressive three-year-old Abingdon was a good winner at York’s Ebor meeting last time out and looks a big danger.
Elsewhere on the card, there is plenty of cash up for grabs in the Weatherbys Hamilton £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes.
Another high-class day of racing at Doncaster with the Japan Racing Association Sceptre Stakes, the Pepsi Max Flying Childers Stakes and the Weatherbys Stallion Book Flying Scotsman Stakes all of interest.
Having smashed the course record for two-year olds at Goodwood when bolting up in the Molecomb Stakes, Yalta found the competition too hot in the Nunthorpe afterwards, but would be an interesting contender for the Flying Childers, a Group Two for juveniles over 1000m.
His trainer Mark Johnston also has a strong contender in the shape of The Last Lion though, the speedy Choisir colt having taken the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton last weekend.
The highlight on the card though, is the 250th renewal of the Doncaster Cup, for which last year’s winner Pallasator is pencilled in again. The versatile Clondaw Warrior, second 12 months ago, is set to try again for Willie Mullins, having won the Galway Hurdle and finished second in the American St Leger in the last couple of months.
Mullins’ Wicklow Brave and Lonsdale Cup winner Quest For More are also both in line for the Group Two prize. Staying regulars Clever Cookie and former Gold Cup hero Trip To Paris are also set to line up, with Yorkshire handler Peter Niven hoping Clever Cookie can bounce back to his best.
“Obviously, Doncaster is a drying track and we will have to keep an eye on the ground as I know they are forecast some rain. He also has an entry in the Irish St Leger so we will see,” Nivan reported earlier this week.
The Ladbrokes St Leger, the final Classic of the British season, is the highlight and it is Aidan O’Brien who once again leads the chase in search of a fifth win in the race.
Red-hot favourite Idaho was placed in both the Derby at Epsom and the Irish equivalent, and was a comfortable winner of the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last time out; he is likely to prove hard to beat.
O’Brien can also call on Royal Ascot and Curragh Cup winner Sword Fighter, Housesofparliament, Kellstorm, The Major General, Triplicate and Unicorn as possible starters.
“You never can be confident but we have always thought he would get the trip in the Ladbrokes St Leger. He seems to relax and is a full-brother to Highland Reel who stays a mile and a half well,” reported O’Brien of Idaho earlier this week.
John Gosden has a contender in Muntahaa, owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and second-best in the ante-post market. Gosden hopes “he will get the trip – I just don’t know if he will get it quick enough!”
Another interesting contender is Richard Hannon’s Ventura Storm, a revelation since stepped up in trip for Middleham Park Racing and an easy winner of a Group Three in France last time out.
Laura Mongan’s Harbour Law, second in the Queen’s Vase, will be a first Classic runner for his trainer. No female trainer has taken the St Leger before, Amanda Perrett having saddled Demophilos to finish runner-up to Milan.