Saturday Horse Racing Tips: Tom Collins looks to avoid Arrest in the 246th St Leger

15 September 2023

Inaugurated in 1776, the St Leger is the oldest of the five British Classics and serves the purpose of providing a true stamina test for top-level three-year-olds who are ready to make their mark at the end of the season.

Although we are talking about stamina rather than speed, this race has been utterly dominated by the two biggest flat ownerships (Coolmore and Godolphin) since 1994 with a combined 15 of the 29 renewals heading their way. The powerful operations have a strong hand to continue that trend this year with five of the nine runners between them, although only one is a single-figure price in the market.

That horse is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Continuous, who produced a clear career-best performance in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York last month and now tackles a trip in excess over a mile and a half for the first time. He has already run to the required level for an average St Leger winner in the last decade (119 RPR), but this is a pretty salty race and even confirming form with York third Gregory isn’t guaranteed.

In fact, I believe Gregory is the horse to beat despite disappointing on the Knavesmire. Frankie Dettori smashed his way through two sub-12-second sectionals early on, which left his horse vulnerable to a more efficiently ridden closer like Continuous. What’s notable is that he found a second wind inside the final furlong and this step up in trip will certainly suit him. The fact that Dettori has decided to ride stablemate Arrest is no bad thing either given you’re now getting a bigger price. 

Talking of Arrest: surely he’s the worst favourite in this race in the last ten years? I’m not saying he can’t win - of course he can - but here’s a horse who finished 10th of 14 in the Derby and fifth of six in the King George this summer. One ‘decent’ run since to beat a 95-rated rival by a length-and-a-half when getting 3lb isn’t enough to suggest he will win the St Leger. The ground might be in his favour, but it’s up for debate whether he has the talent.

All that being said, I believe the value in the race is Desert Hero. William Haggas is exceptional at placing his horses and he has freshened this son of Sea The Stars so he can produce his A-game on Saturday. Not only that, but he’s extremely ground versatile - he’s 3/3 on soft or heavy yet won on good ground at Royal Ascot - and should thrive over this extra distance. 

He seems to be completely overlooked in the market despite his strengths and Haggas has had good success with three-year-olds at Doncaster in the last five years (15/61, 25% win strike-rate for a £1 level-stakes profit of +£7.58). Another step forward from his latest run and he will prove tough to hold.

I will keep the write-ups as short as possible for the remaining two selections otherwise you will be watching the racing before finishing this column. The first up is Blue Collar, who is my strongest fancy of the afternoon in the mile 0-75 handicap (2.15) at Bath. 

This race hasn’t come up overly strong and it should offer the perfect opportunity for Richard Hannon’s juvenile to break his duck at the fifth attempt. His form figures (7640) don’t look overly strong at first glance, but he has run in a selection of red-hot maidens and actually looked a major threat on the third attempt at Newmarket.

He rallied powerfully under tender handling up the hill to be beaten just under two lengths that day, and the form has received a couple of boosts as the winner went on to take fifth in the Group 3 Dick Poole while the third bolted up at Kempton next time. 

Blue Collar’s sole subsequent effort came in a strong nursery at York and he was far from disgraced despite running against vastly superior opposition. Now he drops down to his level off a mark of 75 and should take a lot of beating as he steps up to a mile under Sam Hitchcott.

Finally, I’m getting back on the bandwagon of Sandrine in the Group 2 Park Stakes (3.00) at Doncaster in the hope that a return to softer conditions and seven furlongs will spark this filly to life.

I’ve backed her on numerous occasions and it’s probably unwise to continue being loyal at this point, but she wasn’t beaten far by the super talented Kinross over this trip last time and seemed to be near her best. Bobby’s Kitten’s progeny generally don’t want slow ground, but she won on heavy as a two-year-old and remains unexposed when the mud is flying.

Given I’m convinced she needs seven furlongs now (form figures of 1323 outside of Group 1 company over this distance), this looks a good opportunity to get back to winning ways and she’s a nice price to do so. Spycatcher is obviously the horse to beat, but the value has already gone.

Saturday’s Horse Racing Tips

Blue Collar (2.15 Bath) @ 4/1
Sandrine (3.00 Doncaster) @ 4/1
Desert Hero (3.35 Doncaster) @ 5/1


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