Tony Calvin: Solid favourite for Saturday's St Leger but an outsider firmly on my radar
The final Classic of the season, the St Leger, is the highlight of Saturday's racing, and our man Tony Calvin takes an early look at the staying contest...
"Kew Gardens He was certainly ridden like it was a trial for the Classic, finishing well from off the pace under his 5lb Group 1 penalty, and he is the only horse in the line-up who has won over the Leger trip, having trounced Southern France in the Queen's Vase."
I was going to leave the ante-post chat alone this week but I had a couple of hours on my hands early this afternoon, so I thought I would take a quick peek at the St Leger.
Kew Gardens is the obvious starting point, and he dominates the market at [2.56] on the exchange, and predictably shorter on the fixed-odds front, where he is as low as 5/4 in places.
It is easy to see why he is so short, especially as Lah Ti Dar looks likely to go down the Arc route and Wells Farhh Go (has traded at a low of 5/1 on the exchange) is out for the season.
Then again, the filly was left in the race at midday on Monday and is currently still the third favourite in the market at around the 7/1 mark, having traded at 3/1 in the aftermath of her York success, so maybe we are just about to hear about a change of heart?
Gardens a worthy favourite with strong form in the book
Kew Gardens isn't necessarily favourite by default though, as he has the strongest form claims of the probable runners - Lah Ti Dar would narrowly be if running, with her sex allowance - even if his current rating of 117 shouldn't immediately send the opposition scurrying for cover.
Okay, the Grand Prix de Paris may not be the strongest Group 1 in the pattern book, but he won it convincingly from an improver who is apparently Arc-trial bound, and he was third favourite for the King George after that victory.
He had to sit out the Ascot race after he was laid-low in the run up to the race but the promise of his third to Old Persian and Cross Counter in the Voltigeur was there for all to see.
He was certainly ridden like it was a trial for the Classic, finishing well from off the pace under his 5lb Group 1 penalty, and he is the only horse in the line-up who has won over the Leger trip, having trounced Southern France in the Queen's Vase.
Southern France could well get closer here after a promising fourth in the Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh last time - he is one of seven Aidan O'Brien's possibles at the five-day entry stage on Monday, and shaped better than the bare form suggests last time - but there is no doubt who is the Ballydoyle number one.
Loxley the pick of the Godolphin trio?
There is some uncertainty as to who the leading Godolphin contender is though.
Old Persian is an obvious candidate after his Voltigeur success under a 3lb penalty, and is second in the market at around the 6/1 mark, but Loxley was a fair shortener towards the end of last week - it wouldn't have taken much cash, mind you - and last month's Clarefontaine Listed race winner, the unexposed and unbeaten Brundtland, is two from two and a real dark one at the 33/1+ mark.
Of that trio, Loxley has an attractive and likeable profile.
The only "blemish" on his dancecard this season was a second to the aforementioned Wells Farhh Go in the Bahrain Trophy and he has looked good in a brace of Deauville wins since. He also took care of Raymond Tusk on his reappearance.
Form working out for improving outsider
Recent Goodwood scorer, the 105-rated Maid Up, was supplemented on Monday, perhaps indicating what a winnable Classic this could be, and you have others in here with the form to figure, notably Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee and Irish Derby 1-2 Latrobe and Rostropovich - I was a bit surprised to see Latrobe rated just 114 - but the one that fascinates me is Proschema.
Fascinates is probably too gushing a description, but I will admit to backing him at 100s and 80s and 66s, each way, at the start of last week to win a fair few quid (I was taking a fiver each-way wherever I could get it), and I have been nibbling away, win-only, on the exchange, too.
He is still available at 70/1+ and bigger on the latter platform, and that interests me, though I do like the place part of the fixed-odds punt better, it must be said.
He entered some Derby lists after his runaway win in a soft-ground 1m4f Haydock novice in April, and then he went off 10/1 when sixth in the Chester Vase.
He was very disappointing over the Leger course and distance in June but he was put away for two months afterwards, suggesting maybe all was not well, and has returned with two solid efforts at Goodwood and York.
I was quite taken with his third under a big weight on fast ground in the Melrose last time - form that I rate highly - and I can see him surprising a few people on Saturday, especially if there was a bit of ease in the ground, though good would be fine.
The York winner Ghostwatch was a highly-creditable second to a well-treated First Eleven when stepped back down to 1m4f, perhaps not ideally, at Ascot on Saturday, while the York fourth, Mekong, bolted up at Haydock at the weekend.
Not many of the others from the race has been out since, though the eighth, the 81-rated Heart Of Grace, improved to finish fourth in a French Listed race last Friday.
It's a long shot, but Proschema has, and had, been attracting a lot of interest from Aussie buyers - that said, any horse with a pulse that has form over 1m6f is being courted Down Under - and I think he is a horse with a lot of potential.
He is tactically-versatile, too, but hopefully he will be ridden with straight with the Ballydoyle massive in here.
In short, I think he has more going for him than his current St Leger price and official rating of 103 suggests. And you only have to go back to the 2016 renewal when the pre-race, 102-rated Harbour Law caused an upset.
I won't play now, but Proschema is firmly on my tipping radar for Friday's column.
Don't tell anybody, though.
Minimum Bet Guarantee on ALL races at selected tracks
Betfair's 'minimum bet guarantee' on all Class 1 and 2 races in the UK and Ireland - which means all customers are able to bet to win a minimum of £500 - has been extended to cover ALL races at the following tracks this week:
Tues 11 Listowel, Catterick & Worcester
Weds 12 Doncaster, Listowel & Kempton
Thur 13 Doncaster, Listowel & Epsom
Fri 14 Doncaster, Listowel & Salisbury
Sat 15 Doncaster, Leopardstown, Chester, Chelmsford & Listowel
Sun 16 The Curragh & Ffos Las