Tony Calvin: Constantinople is a promising early St Leger bet

Doncaster races in South Yorkshire
The St Leger takes place at Doncaster (above) on 14 September

Tony Calvin takes an early look at the betting on September's St Leger and picks two that are worth backing now...

I am going to come at Saturday's racing afresh on Friday - a clean slate and a clear mind is never a bad thing - so I thought I would instead take a look at the St Leger.

I am happy to leave the Eclipse on the back-burner for now, for all the probable return of Enable adds plenty of spice to the Group 1 contest at Sandown.

The Leger is also shaping up into a pretty warm contest, though the difficulty is that Aidan O'Brien has a stranglehold on it, as it stands, so recommending a long-range punt on one of his carries its own wealth warning.

Perhaps someone should consider going Non-Runner, No-Bet on the race, and simply adjusting their prices accordingly. And, with the race on September 14th, a few people won't like tying up their money for so long, either.

But let's soldier on regardless, and see what unfolds as I go through the likely lads and lasses.

O'Brien looks set to continue St Leger stranglehold

Aidan O'Brien 1280 .jpg

The problem punters obviously face when looking at this Classic is starkly underlined by the fact that Ballydoyle is responsible for six of the first eight (and the first four, too) in the Betfair Sportsbook's betting, with Oaks winner Anapurna and Queen's Vase victor Dashing Willougby the "rogue" non AOB-elements.

Anapurna certainly has a likeable profile but the Oaks form has taken a few knocks since - though the seventh home, Mehdaayih, bolted up in a Group 2 in France on Sunday - and the bare form of Dashing Willoughby's half-a-length defeat of Barbados, another O'Brien possible from further down the betting list, at Royal Ascot probably won't be scaring too many.

So perhaps we really should be focusing purely on the O'Brien probables, and the betting tells us the top of that list is Japan.

A rushed preparation for the Dante meant that his close third in the Derby thrilled connections, and he went into the Hardwicke as one of the stable's bankers for the week.

And, unlike their other "shortie" Hermosa, he duly delivered in style, despite Ryan Moore giving the outside to no-one, and he is probably the number one 3yo colt in the yard just now, especially after the weekend.

But it was telling that Moore said in the immediate aftermath of the race that he thought this horse was "more than a Leger horse", and he probably has the top 1m4f races, such as the King George, on his agenda now.

The Irish Derby muddies the waters a bit for Epsom winner Anthony Van Dyck, and he certainly looked more of a stayer at the Curragh, but I wouldn't be in a rush to dismiss Saturday's 6-length winner Sovereign in any company.

Look at it which way that you want, but this is a horse bred to excel at the Leger trip (half-brother to a 2m winner) and he truly powered home at the weekend, and Anthony Van Dyck wasn't going to get near him if they went around again.

And then O'Brien can potentially wheel out Broome, whose Irish Derby run is a throw-out after his tardy start, and maybe Sir Dragonet could get another Classic airing in the early autumn.


The slow-burner that I like from Ballydoyle is Constantinople, who is one of two bets that I would consider for the St Leger at this stage, at 12/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.

He got beaten off a mark of 97 at Cork in April but since then he has put up two very taking performances.

He did really well to pick up Friday's pacey Group 3 winner Buckhurst over 1m2f in the Gallinule in May and again shaped like a stayer when second, under top weight and off a mark of 105, in the King George V Stakes over 1m4f at Royal Ascot.

With stablemates either side of him, for good measure!

We certainly shouldn't be too sniffy about the defeat in a handicap, as the time figure was very good, and his trainer was quick to point out that he was still a baby and maturing all the time.

That suggests that he probably won't be thrown into the white-heat battle of a middle-distance Group 1 in midsummer and perhaps the Leger is what they have their eyes on.

Certainly, this brother to Bondi Beach (who was awarded the race when a head runner-up to Simple Verse in 2015, and then had it taken off him on appeal) has the pedigree for it, and the run-style.

He also has a similar profile to the stable's 2013 Leger winner Leading Light. That horse also won the Gallinule then went to Ascot to win the Queen's Vase, and then was next seen out when winning the Doncaster Classic on just his sixth start, having never raced outside of Group 3 company.

My 50/1 ante-post for the St Leger

There is another O'Brien horse that I like, albeit at least a stone and more shy of the level of the horses mentioned above, and that is Joseph's Eminent Authority at 50/1.

I backed and tipped him for the Queen's Vase after his strong-finishing last-of-three over 1m4f at Leopardstown, but he was always on the back foot after a very slow start from his inside draw there, and that is never a good thing with the first bend coming so quickly.

He didn't actually look blessed with much pace, that is for sure, but he got a messy trip throughout and he took a while to get organised in the straight, too.

But he stuck on well to take fifth once he got on an even keel, and I think the experience, and Doncaster, could play even better to his staying strengths, as a full-brother to the Gold Cup third Master Of Reality would suggest.

He may be just too damn slow and lazy to be mixing it in Classic company (some of the family have worn headgear), but there is plenty of potential for progress after just three starts and a strong gallop at Doncaster will definitely suit, as I suspect he will never be doing anything too snazzy off a slow pace.

He could be the big improver in the field so, on balance, I think there are two bets worth chancing at this point, so in we go.

Good luck. Back on Friday.


Profit and loss total +233.4
April 14 2017 to June 29 2019 inclusive (all recommended exchange bets are settled at Betfair SP)

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