Our racing expert has a couple of fancies on the opening day of the St Leger meeting at Doncaster.
The Listed Scarborough Stakes looks to be between the four runners rated 100 and higher and they include El Astronaute and Final Venture, who are closely matched on their running at York last month. The former enjoys a 2lb pull for a neck beating and has since run okay in Listed company, but he was a beaten favourite in this race last year and, not always the quickest away, he could prove vulnerable to the year younger GLOBAL APPLAUSE.
The latter horse was very quick out of the gates when landing a competitive handicap in comfortable fashion at Sandown 11 days ago (5f, good to soft) despite having to mount his challenge on the slowest part of the track, and it’s clear a change of scenery has done him the power of good. Formerly with Ed Dunlop, who trained him to win the Listed National Stakes as a juvenile before losing his way a bit, he looked better than ever on his first outing for “Sprint King” Robert Cowell and there should be plenty more to come given his trainer’s knack of nurturing speedy sorts like him. His ability to act on ground with cut in it is a further positive and the same can’t be said of some of his rivals, so I’m more than happy to support him with my cash.
The fillies’ handicap over 1m4f looks competitive and that should ensure we get a fair price on my idea of the winner, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained CRYSTAL HOPE. She looked very good when winning a Sandown novice (1m2f, good to soft) on her reappearance back in April, the form of which has worked out well, and she was then far from disgraced when third behind subsequent Grade/Group 1 winners Sea Of Class and Athena in a Listed contest on her next start at Newbury.
Her most recent outing in a good quality Listed fillies’ contest at Salisbury in August was probably needed given she’d been off for 88 days and it was the way she was plugging on at the finish which makes me think she’ll relish today’s longer trip, with the easy ground another thing in her favour. Granted she might not be able to match the same heights as her smart half-sister Crystal Ocean, but she can surely win another handicap off her current mark (91) before stepping back up in class and is with the right trainer to keep progressing.
Of her rivals, I’ve got most respect for Brian Meehan’s Spirit Of Appin as she’s a filly on a roll after wins at Lingfield and Ffos Las and while she hasn’t been winning by far, she shows a lot of determination and may still be ahead of the handicapper. This is her first try over 1m4f, mind, and her pedigree is mixed in terms of staying this far.
All odds were correct at time of posting.