I have had a busy and interesting week already and have still got the St Leger meeting to look forward to!
I was back in Scotland on Monday and Tuesday at Perth and Kelso, two of the friendliest courses you will ever visit. They are also situated in lovely countryside and given that Kelso was an evening jaunt, it gave me the chance, en route, to pop in and see Lucinda Russell and Peter Scudamore who train close to Kinross.
I arrived as Scu, the eight-time champion and now 65 and who only returned to riding out again last year, was about to get the leg up on Grand National hero Corach Rambler. It wasn’t work but just an exercise gallop up the wood shavings. Scu has always ridden Corach and absolutely loves the horse.
Both Scu and Lucinda feel that he deserves a crack at the Gold Cup next spring as they feel there is more to come!
There is certainly still more to come from the Flat season and Saturday’s Betfred St Leger may provide one of the stories of the year if Desert Hero can land the world’s oldest Classic for the King and Queen. I honestly feel that he can do it under Tom Marquand.
First of all, he is improving and the step up in distance should also eke out some further progress. Officially he is rated 110, 5lb behind the top-rated Continuous, but there was so much to like about his win in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot and then especially at Goodwood.
He travelled like a good horse there when coming from off the pace to beat the front-running Chesspiece (who reopposes) in the Gordon Stakes on soft ground, showing a great attitude. A son of Sea The Stars, he was of course bred by the late Queen and has loads of stamina on his dam’s side.
I reckon those Royal silks are overdue another Leger win, 46 years after Willie Carson wore them on Dunfermline on the famous occasion when they humbled Lester and Alleged.
It would certainly be a proud day for Yorkshire-born William Haggas.
It is currently soft at Doncaster and that is ideal for Arrest, Frankie Dettori’s choice over Gregory who has never tackled anything but a sound surface so far.
I had forgotten that Arrest was a well beaten favourite in the Derby but he set himself up for this with a win on soft ground in the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury. I think he is a dodgy favourite as he only beat a 95-rated four-year-old called Ching Shih there and she was beaten at Doncaster on Thursday. Bit connections, of course but, for me, he needs to find more.
Frankie, though, is chasing a seventh Leger win and were he to do it, he and John Gosden (going for his sixth) would have won the race in four different decades!
Gregory is now ridden by the excellent Kieran Shoemark. Gregory was probably ridden too aggressively by Frankie when only third to Continuous in the Great Voltigeur at York. Up to then, he was doing everything right in his career.
Middle Earth, the Gosdens’ other runner, won the Melrose very impressively from Denmark who reopposes on 4lb better terms for a length and a quarter. They both need to improve again.
Ryan Moore’s choice of the Aidan O’Brien quartet is Continuous, officially top-rated in the line-up and who benefited from a brilliant ride in the Voltigeur as the front-runners did too much. He acts on any ground and I am sure he will be dropped out again.
Note that he was some way ahead of Arrest on good to firm in the King Edward VII Stakes when runner-up to King Of Steel. His half-brother National Ballet stays two miles so Continuous is a danger to all.
Tower Of London looks best of the other Ballydoyle runners. He was gambled on to win the Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket but came up just short when Ryan dropped his whip. He is a brother to Capri, one of six Leger winners trained by Aidan.
So, it’s Desert Hero for a Royal win over the powerful O’Brien and Gosden camps.
Earlier, I have an inkling that Sandrine will bounce back and take the Betfred Park Stakes. She handles any ground whereas Audience, just ahead of her at York last time, may prefer it quicker.
Have a great weekend!
SELECTIONS: DONCASTER SATURDAY 3.00 SANDRINE, 3.35 DESERT HERO