Tony Calvin assesses the latest moves in the St Leger market after the five-day declaration stage on Monday, and explains why a [60.0] shot on the Exchange has piqued his interest...
"His best runs have come on decent ground but he didn’t go badly on his sole start on soft ground to date, in a Group 1 in France last season, and I can see him outrunning his odds on his first start at the trip."
There was a certain amount of market-correction after the five-day declarations for the St Leger on Monday with most of the media focusing on the shortening of Defoe.
All bookmakers clipped him in from a general top-price 6/1 but I think it is a fair stretch to label it as any kind of significant gamble, even if there was talk of a tipping line putting him up early yesterday afternoon.
As with saw with Brando in the Haydock Sprint Cup last week - and that move didn't go too well as he ended up going off at a bigger price on Saturday than he was on Monday - these early market moves are borne more out of the weather forecast, with the layers predicting what way the market will shift, than any significant weight of money.
Basically, bookmakers were probably just taking understandable, evasive action, rather than bets, and now the dust has settled it is not surprising that he trades as the [5.8] third favourite on the Exchange behind market leaders Crystal Ocean and Capri. There is little between the trio, though.
I don't think many would argue that Defoe is the form horse coming into the race - Irish Derby winner Capri clearly sets the standard, and I think Crystal Ocean's Goodwood win also reads better, too - but you can make a fair case that he will be the horse most suited by the likely conditions on Saturday, and that is where yesterday's price-shortening comes in.
It is currently soft at Doncaster with an unsettled forecast all week, so at least we know what ground we are going to get, and Defoe is three from three in testing conditions.
But he is going to have to raise his game a fair bit from his Geoffrey Freer win, where he was maybe fortunate to win, and keep the race after a stewards' inquiry (though he was never going to lose it there, in truth), given he sliced up the ¾-length runner-up Wall of Fire at the furlong pole.
I get that he is progressive, a mud-lover and pretty much a guaranteed stayer, but he is no 9/2 poke for me.
The fact that Capri has been off since that Curragh win on July 1st is not ideal, though - that said, the stable's 2013 winner Leading Light was having his first race since Royal Ascot when obliging - and I imagine the likelihood of deep ground isn't filling connections of Crystal Ocean with confidence.
Sure, he won the Gordon Stakes on soft ground, but he would probably prefer a better surface and the combination of testing conditions and 1m6f115yd will test his unproven stamina to the full.
This is no three-way go though, and I think you can make a decent case at the prices for 10 of the 13 entries, the exceptions being likely Ballydoyle pace-setters Abyssinian and Air Supremacy (outclassed) and The Anvil, who has been disappointing since his Chester Vase third. The latter is not a no-hoper though.
And nor is the other possible pace angle in the race, Douglas Macarthur, and he is the horse that interests me most of the outsiders at a current [60.0] on the Exchange.
His early-season form ties in very closely with Rekindling and Capri - he won the Derrinstown - and he ran well under a possibly too-aggressive ride when seventh in the Derby.
I don't think it was ever the plan for him to get to the front in the Irish Derby next time but I could not believe they didn't make the running with him in the Voltigeur last time, where he was tried in a first-time hood.
If that was a plan, it failed, and if he takes his chance on Saturday - and he hasn't been mentioned in any dispatches that I have heard or read - then I would hope they ditch the headgear and let him stride on again.
His best runs have come on decent ground but he didn't go badly on his sole start on soft ground to date, in a Group 1 in France last season, and I can see him outrunning his odds on his first start at the trip. But I have to keep my powder dry for now.
The other "money" horses for the race in the last 24 hours have been his stablemate Venice Beach and Yorkshire Oaks runner-up Coronet, and they are just two more with solid-enough claims in a Classic that has plenty of depth to it.
More on this race in Friday's column, when we will know more about the final line-up, the Ballydoyle runners (they have six of the 13 in here), the likely pace and the ground.