What are the best bets at Doncaster on Saturday?
Heavy overnight rain is set to seriously impact on today’s action and the remaining seven runners for the Ladbrokes St Leger could be encountering soft ground come racetime.
That shouldn’t inconvenience my ante post pick Storm The Stars too much and I’m not going to desert him now for all the reasons given here. Like Doncaster, Leopardstown could also get a drenching and the much-anticipated clash between Golden Horn and Gleneagles may not happen. I’ve factored the weather into my Irish Champions Weekend piece, which includes a trio of soft-ground performers, and I’m going to concentrate here on the remaining races at Town Moor.
The big betting race – if you’re of a masochistic nature – is the Ladbrokes Portland, a handicap run over five and a half furlongs. In a wide open renewal, I’m going to take a chance on the Roger Varian-trained STEPS, who makes a quick reappearance after missing the kick in Wednesday’s Listed sprint won by Cotai Glory. Prior to that he was outclassed in two runs at the highest level and he will surely appreciate the drop back into handicap company, with his most recent venture yielding a fourth (of 20) at Epsom in June off the same mark as today’s.
What makes him really interesting, though, is the fact his last three wins have all come ground with the word “soft” in the going description, so he’s not going to mind the forecast rain one bit. His in-form trainer has decided to claim on him, with the talented Louis Steward taking a handy (and possibly decisive) 31b off his back, and another inspired move could be the application of a first-time visor. There’s plenty there then to suggest he will carry our money a long way at the current 14/1.
The betting for the seven-furlong Saint Gobain Weber Park Stakes is currently dominated by horses who are unlikely to get the fast ground they need to show their best – namely Safety Check and Limato – but you won’t find me complaining as their presence helps the price of my fancy HOME OF THE BRAVE no end. Hugo Palmer’s three-year-old might lack the experience of some of these but he’s clearly going the right way and looked a sure-fire Group 1 horse in the making when slamming the smart Gordon Lord Byron in a Group 3 over this trip at the Curragh on his most recent outing.
He looked very much a 7f specialist that day and crucially it came on ground officially described as “good to yielding” following overnight rain, so any deterioration from the current “good” is unlikely to inconvenience him. His trainer is proving himself to be a shrewd operator in just his second season and this race has likely been the plan since, with his booking of Harry Bentley, who has a 21% strike rate on the stable runners, another positive. All aboard the 5/1.
I’m returning to Roger Varian for the third and final selection, IGIDER, who was scratched from a decent race at Ascot last Friday presumably to wait for this afternoon’s Napoleons Casinos And Restaurants Handicap (1m4f). The four-year-old got off the mark at Windsor last season and he was back in the winners’ circle here in June. He was strongly fancied for the 1m4f handicap at Royal Ascot on the back of that performance, only to ruin his chance by boiling over in the preliminaries and then running too free in the race itself.
His trainer has had nearly three months to work on him since and he’s worth another chance to fulfil his abundant potential off what is a potentially generous handicap mark of 93. The fact he finished second in a race at Newbury on soft ground dispels any worries on that score and this course and distance winner can take care of six more exposed rivals.