There's an excellent card at Doncaster as the 2014 St Leger Festival rolls on, and that is where we head for today's crack at the Placepot...
13:40- The opening nursery has a competitive look to it, though Vesnina stands out on the back of her staying-on fourth in a good renewal of the Group 3 Dick Poole Stakes and is likely to go close. That Salisbury effort came over six furlongs and, while Vesnina will benefit from running over seven furlongs and beyond in time, she should appreciate this slight step up in trip. She is joined in the Placepot by Angels Wings. Charles Hills is having a good time of things with his juveniles this term - Dutch Connection and Muhaarar won Group races at York - and Angels Wings has shown steadily-progressive form, getting off the mark at the third time of asking, her fairly-useful performance in overturning the standard-setting favourite offering hope that she may be capable of better.
14:10- It's no surprise to see Bragging at the head of the market, her victory in a hot York handicap marking her down as a sure-fire Group-race performer, but this is competitive stuff, with a number of horses proven at the grade, and it could be worth opposing Sir Michael Stoute's hot favourite in the hope of a Placepot-busting result. The first horse we will turn to is Kiyoshi. Kiyoshi burst onto the scene with an impressive success in the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot last season but hasn't quite kicked on as expected this term, yet to win in four attempts. There have been signs of promise, however, notably a good close-up second to the talented Euro Charline over one mile at Ascot where she travelled better than the eventual winner, and a straight seven furlongs at Doncaster could prove her optimum. J Wonder's task has been made more difficult by having to shoulder a penalty but she is ideally suited to racing over seven furlongs (didn't see things out fully either start at a mile) and ought to go close with conditions in her favour.
14:40- There aren't many fillies this season proving as consistent or likeable as Arabian Comet and, though she has a bit to find on the figures, it wouldn't rank as a surprise were she capable of taking another step up here. Having progressed through the handicap ranks, Arabian Comet shaped well when runner-up in the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Goodwood and seemed unlucky not to win at York last time when undone by the drop back in trip and, more importantly, conceding first run. With some tricky races to tackle later on the card, we will bank on Arabian Comet.
15:15- The Great War perhaps hasn't fulfilled initial expectations (was sent off at odds-on for the Norfolk at Royal Ascot) but he has still proven to be a useful performer, his sixth in a red-hot renewal of the July Stakes looking better now than at the time. He shaped well over the minimum trip at the Curragh last time, conceding first run to a useful, unexposed filly, and should be well suited by returning to race over six. He is joined in the permutation by Gerry The Glover who ran well in the face of a stiff task when finishing mid-division in a sales' race at York, and Bond's Girl who ought to be suited by the return to six furlongs having hit the frame in the Super Sprint at Newbury last time.
15:45- The three-year-olds look set to dominate here, and the eye is instantly drawn to Long Cross, representing the formidable John Gosden yard. Long Cross has made a very encouraging start to his career, shaping well on debut before comfortably beating a subsequent winner at Newmarket (pair clear), looking all over a smart performer in the making. He can run well here en route to better things. Arab Dawn couldn't complete the four-timer at Royal Ascot, but he travelled very well, possibly failing to get home over a mile and a half, and should be more at home dropped back to an extended 10 furlongs.
16:25- Blue Waltz has a bit to find on the figures but Luca Cumani's filly has created a good impression so far, getting off the mark at the third attempt when justifying favouritism at Newbury last time, and remains open to plenty of improvement. She's a half-sister to three winners, including the smart Fantasia, and it would be a surprise were she not to eventually prove far superior to an opening mark of 83, for all that looks stiff enough based on the bare form.
13:40- 4, 8
14:10- 3, 11
15:15- 5, 14, 21
15:45- 12, 13
= 24 lines