2018 St Leger Festival Handicapping Preview

The St Leger Festival is one of the most prestigious racing events on the British racing calendar. It spans four days and this year it takes place from 12-15 September. Its feature race, the St Leger Stakes, is the last of the five Classics (along with the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, the Oaks, and the Derby).

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The big event is just one of several Group races that take place during the festival. It is the only Classic event to take place in the North of England and Doncaster racecourse is known for its modern upgrades which make it a splendid day out for everyone, racing lover or not. As always, I will cover three of the main races including the 2018 St Leger on the final day.

Today’s races under consideration are the Park Hill Stakes, Champagne Stakes and, of course, the St Leger Stakes. Each of today’s race previews offers a little background information on the race itself, a look at past winners and betting trends, a look at this year’s contenders and a comparison of the odds across major horse racing betting sites.

Park Hill Stakes

Day 2: Thursday, 13 September

This Group 2 race is open to fillies and mares aged 3yo+. It is a real test of stamina over 1m 6f, and 115 yards and 3yos receive a nine-pound weight allowance. The race is named after an estate (Park Hill) that was once owned by Anthony St. Leger. It was first run in 1839 and was given Group 2 status in 1971. Fillies and mares aged 4yo+ were allowed to compete in 1991, and while it was temporarily demoted to Group 3 status in 1991, it was restored as a Group 2 event in 2004.

Previous Winners

YearWinnerOdds (SP)
2013The Lark15/8
2014Silk Sari8/1
2016Simple Verse3/1

Betting Trends and Information

There are 7 runners at the time of writing with Pilaster as 2/1 favourite followed by Horseplay at 9/4. The rest of the field is 7/1+

  • 18/21 winners finished in the top five in their previous race.
  • 19/21 winners were 3yo or 4yo.
  • 18/21 winners had an OR of 99+; two other winners had their first race.
  • Only 5/21 favourites have won the Park Hill Stakes.

When we apply some of the trends, we are immediately down to five contenders including the two favourites. Alas, that’s about as good as it gets because the list includes multiple Group race winners. Although Horseplay has the highest OR, Pilaster fares particularly well with the weights and has three straight wins.

Even though favourites don’t perform well in this race, it is hard to make a case for anyone outside the top two in the market. The Aiden O’Brien trained Sizzling has performed well in Ireland recently and could represent a value bet at 7/1 although her last UK appearance was a disappointing last place at Ascot in June.

Park Hill Stakes Betting Odds

God Given6/16/16/1
Isabel De Urbina18/118/118/1

Champagne Stakes

Day 4: Saturday, 15 September

This is another Group 2 race with a long and illustrious history. It is open to 2yo colts and geldings only and is run over a distance of 7f and 6 yards. The Champagne Stakes was first run in 1823 and was originally open to male and female horses. The initial one-mile distance was shortened to 6f in 1870 but extended to 7f in 1962. It has only been a male-only race since 1988.

Previous Winners

YearWinnerOdds (SP)

Betting Trends and Information

A few days ago, there were 51 potential entrants but now, there are just six runners confirmed for the Champagne Stakes. Too Darn Hot is the almost unbackable favourite at 1/2 with Dark Vision next at 4/1 and the rest of the field 8/1+.

  • 15/22 winners also won their previous race.
  • 21/22 winners did so at SP odds of 8/1 or shorter.
  • 21/22 winners were in the top 5 of the betting market; 15/22 were in the top 2.
  • 18/22 winners last ran 16-60 days before the race.
  • 17/22 winners had 1-3 season runs.

On the face of it, the Champagne Stakes appears to be pre-determined with Too Darn Hot deemed to be too darned good for the rest of the field. However, it is never wise to discount horses in a high-grade race. You can make a case for Dark Vision who is unbeaten in three races and won a Group 2 at Goodwood in July.

However, Too Darn Hot obliterated the field in a Group 3 at Sandown and will unquestionably take all the beating, especially with Frankie Dettori on board.

Champagne Stakes Odds

Too Darn Hot1/21/24/9
Dark Vision4/19/25/1
Phoenix Of Spain8/115/27/1
Bye Bye Hong Kong16/118/116/1
Van Beethoven25/122/120/1

2018 St Leger Stakes

Day 4: Saturday 15 September

The last of the Classics is also the longest race of the five at 1m 6f and 115 yards. The St. Leger Stakes is also the oldest Classic having been formed in 1776. It was founded by a politician and army officer named Anthony St. Leger. The first St Leger took place over a distance of two miles but was cut to 1m 6f and 193 yards in 1813.

The race is open to all 3yo horses except geldings, and fillies receive a three-pound allowance. The St Leger still has historical significance as it is the final leg of the English Triple Crown (along with the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby), but this extraordinary feat is seldom attempted in the modern era.

Camelot came the closest by winning the first two legs only to finish second to Encke in 2012. While there have been 12 Triple Crown winning horses, Nijinsky was the last in 1970 and is one of only four in the 20th century as three wartime winners are usually discounted.

Previous Winners

YearWinnerOdds (SP)
2013Leading Light7/2
2014Kingston Hill9/4
2015Simple Verse8/1
2016Harbour Law22/1

Betting Trends and Information

There are 12 confirmed entries in the St. Leger Stakes although that number may change before the race starts. Kew Gardens and Lah Ti Dar are the joint 15/8 favourites with the rest of the field 7/1+.

  • 21/21 winners finished in the top 4 in their previous race.
  • 17/21 winners did so at SP odds of 8/1 or shorter, but there have been four 12/1+ winners since 2009.
  • 12/21 favourites have won the race.
  • 21/21 winners last ran 25-85 days before the race.
  • 19/21 winners had 3-5 season runs.
  • 16/21 winners had an OR of 109+; four of the other five had no assigned OR.

As you can see, recent trends suggest that the days of guaranteed shorter odds winners are over which means that there may be value outside the two favourites. We can reliably remove horses that finished outside the top four last time out, along with those that have an OR of 108. After doing this, we are left with just five possible contenders.

It is hard to make a case for Dee Ex Bee at 11/1 after finishing almost four lengths behind Kew Gardens at Longchamps on the same terms. Loxley was second in a Group 3 in Newmarket in July while Old Persian is an interesting entry at 7/1 having beaten Kew Gardens at York last time out. While he gives up two pounds in the St. Leger, he should not be written off.

However, Lah Ti Dar appears to be a very special horse indeed and was a sensational 10-length winner at York in a Listed Race. We suspect that she will be the clear favourite by race time and is unquestionably the one to beat.

St Leger Betting Odds

Lah Ti Dar15/815/87/4
Kew Gardens15/82/19/4
Old Persian7/17/17/1
Dee Ex Bee11/111/111/1
Southern France14/112/114/1
Raymond Tusk20/120/118/1
Maid Up25/125/125/1
The Pentagon25/125/125/1
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