David Cleary makes the case for an outsider to make the first three in Saturday's classic at Doncaster...
"On breeding, Youth Spirit has a pedigree of contrasts, but he's always been campaigned as if he's a middle-distance plus performer that one might expect with Camelot as his sire."
At first glance, the St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday might seem distinctly unpromising from a punting point of view. The 4/6 favourite Hurricane Lane holds rock-solid claims. He's been beaten just once in six starts, the form of his wins in the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Paris the best in the race by some way. although he is stepping up nearly three furlongs in trip, he has stamina on both sides of his pedigree, so there looks every chance he could actually improve for the longer distance.
The ground might be a question mark, the executive at Doncaster continuing to water on Monday, with little more than a few showers in the forecast on going officially Good to Firm at the time of writing. Hurricane Lane has raced only on good or softer. His defeat came in the Derby at Epsom, when he could finish only third to his stable-companion Adayar. However, the nature of the track looked to be his undoing, as much as any lack of ability. There should be no excuses on that score at Doncaster.
So, there appear to be few holes in the favourite, but there are 13 still entered in all, six of them trained by Aidan O'Brien, including the supplemented High Definition. It is possible that contingent will be reduced, possibly significantly, which means there is some appeal in trying to find an each-way option.
Mojo Star: most likely candidate if the favourite fails?
The runner-up in the Derby, Mojo Star, really ought to be second favourite for the Leger, that effort behind Adayar better form than any of these, bar Hurricane Lane, has achieved. Mojo Star, three-and-a-quarter lengths in front of Hurricane Lane, was really strong at the finish of a well-run race at Epsom. Although he was sent off a big price that day, there's no real reason to question the form, splitting two of the three best middle-distance three-ear-olds in Europe. Mojo Star himself didn't get the chance to confirm it when having no luck in running in the Irish Derby.
Trials failed to highlight a strong contender
Half a dozen of the rest contested either/both of the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and the Great Voltigeur at York. Ottoman Empire beat Sir Lucan half a length in the Gordon, with Youth Spirit, conceding 3 lb to the pair, running to a similar level in fourth. At York, a length separated The Mediterranean, Youth Spirit, Sir Lucan and Scope in second-to-fifth placings behind the gelded Yibir. There's little to choose between those five on form, the question is which of them might improve most for the extra distance and increased emphasis on stamina that is likely at Doncaster.
Ottoman Empire is perhaps less obviously a thorough stayer than most and he's yet to run in a properly-run race. The Mediterranean has a record of gentle progression, but he was surely seen to good advantage making the running in the Voltigeur. Sir Lucan shapes as if he will be suited by the Leger distance, but he's possibly a little quirky; having looked a likely winner in both trials, he didn't fully deliver in either.
Youth Spirit might be the best option. On form there's little to choose between the five mentioned, but the way he finished at York, ridden more patiently, offered hope that a well-run race over further could show him to advantage.
On breeding, Youth Spirit has a pedigree of contrasts, but he's always been campaigned as if he's a middle-distance plus performer that one might expect with Camelot as his sire. The fact his dam is a half-sister to the speedsters Brando and Blaine - both by speed-influencing stallions - has never really been relevant.
Definition yet to justify high reputation
The sixth to contest the Gordon or Voltigeur is the supplemented High Definition. He ran a race full of promise when third to Hurricane Lane in the Dante Stakes at York back in the spring, but his efforts when favourite for the Irish Derby and the Voltigeur have been poor. Having been added to the race, he will presumably turn up at Doncaster and he may finally justify his reputation, perhaps with headgear fitted, but he's not a bet.
The remaining five include three makeweights, the filly Save A Forest, who would surely be better off running in the Park Hill, in terms of winning anything at least, and Interpretation. The last-named has won the last three of his four races, scoring over a mile and six furlongs at listed level at Leopardstown last time. He's been a front runner in winning those races, which may be his role on Saturday. None of his form looks strong and this represents a big step up in grade.
Hurricane Lane will take all the beating. That has been clear since the St Leger was named as his target and remains so. The trials were inconclusive, so the places are very much up for grabs. There is clearly a case to be made for backing Mojo Star at 7.513/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook, with the market not really giving him the full credit for what he did at Epsom. However, Youth Spirit at 26.025/1 is a more appealing bet, each-way, particularly with a chance that the field could cut up.
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