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First run in 1776, the St Leger is the oldest of English horse racing’s five famous classics. Open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies, the race has fallen from grace in recent times, primarily because connections of top-class performers over 10 to 12 furlongs have become reluctant to run them over the mile-and-three-quarter trip for fear of their pride and joy being labelled a stayer.
Winning the St Leger can have a detrimental effect on the bloodstock value of a three-year-old colt, with breeders preferring to send their mares to stallions who have won Group One races over shorter distances than the St Leger’s 14 furlongs and 132 yards, which is just under 3,000 metres.
Most editions of the St Leger have taken place in Doncaster, with the English race inspiring a number of similar events around the world, although many of its close relatives are not restricted to three-year-olds. A good example of this is the Irish St Leger, which is held at The Curragh annually.
The 2012 St Leger is the most eagerly anticipated running of the race and it is all thanks to one horse – Camelot. The Aidan O’Brien-trained son of Montjeu is undefeated in his five career starts and, after taking out the 2,000 Guineas and Derby, he is bidding to become the first colt since Nijinsky in 1970 to win the English Triple Crown.
Whichever way one looks at the St Leger, it is all about Camelot and how he runs. First, will he become only the second English Triple Crown winner since the end of the World War II? And second, does he constitute a value bet?
Yes and yes. The only reason why there has not been more English Triple Crown winners is because connections have shied away from running their 2,000 Guineas-Derby winners in the St Leger. For example, Nashwan probably would have won all three races in 1989 had Hamdan Al Maktoum instructed Dick Hern to prepare him for the Doncaster contest.
Camelot is eight pounds clear of the next highest rated St Leger entrant and, while this year’s classic generation does not seem to a vintage one, the Ballydoyle boy can only beat what lines up against him. And he has been doing that well.
O’Brien has voiced concerns about Camelot staying the St Leger trip but he completed the Derby as fresh as a daisy and looked as if he could do another circuit of the Epsom track, while he kept on well in the final furlong of the Irish Derby on soft-to-heavy ground at The Curragh.
The bottom line is that Camelot has too much class for his St Leger rivals and, in all honesty, there is case that he should be sent off at Frankel-like odds for the race given the exposed ordinariness of those who are his competitors.
Thought Worthy won the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York by a neck from Main Sequence but it was all about the brilliant front-running ride that William Buick gave the gutsy son of Dynaformer. They went no pace whatsoever in the first half of the race and Buick made his rivals pay to get Thought Worthy past the post first in a time that was slow by more than six seconds despite good-to-firm ground conditions.
Derby runner-up Main Sequence ought to turn the tables on Thought Worthy if the St Leger is run at a true pace and shapes as the one to couple with Camelot in forecasts.
Easily the most interesting roughie in the St Leger is Ursa Major, who has won over the 14-furlong trip, doing so in a Group Three on testing ground at The Curragh last month. He is yet to race on anything other than a soft surface so one would have to question his ability to act on what Doncaster is forecast to serve up. But he is interesting nonetheless.
Camelot’s presence in the St Leger – and the short odds at which he is trading – means that bookmakers are reluctant to throw out the boat with regards to special offers. That is what happens when it is almost 10-1 bar the favourite.
Bet365 (www.bet365.com), however, has a long-standing horse racing betting offer that will be of interest to punters who are brave enough to bet against Camelot extending his unbeaten sequence to six races and making a bit of history.
The St Leger will be broadcast live on Channel Four in the United Kingdom and, therefore, it is subject to the Bet365 Racing 4-1 Special. Basically, back a winner at 4-1 or longer odds of any race shown live on Channel Four and Bet365 will give you a free bet to the same stake on the next live race on either BBC or Channel Four or the next Bet365 Feature Race, which is often the same thing.
Every one of Camelot’s St Leger rivals is going to jump from the stalls at odds of at least 4-1 so, if you are thinking of betting against the favourite, Bet365 is probably the best place at which to do so, particularly as it is one of several bookmakers which offers a best-price guarantee.
Inspect pedigrees closely
Eight of the last 10 St Leger winners, including all of the last seven, were sired by a horse with a stamina index of between 10.9 furlongs and 11.7 furlongs. Also, eight of the last 10 St Leger winners were sired by a horse who finished in the first two of the English and/or French Derby races.
Question the Great Voltigeur Stakes form
The Great Voltigeur Stakes is considered by many to be the premier St Leger trial but only two of the last 10 winners of the York contest have gone on to take out the Doncaster event as well. The value of its form is overstated.
He does not have the profile of Frankel but Camelot is a very good horse and the gap in quality between him and his St Leger rivals is every bit as wide as the one between Timeform’s all-time number one and his contemporaries.