KILDARE, IRELAND - JUNE 30th: Joseph O'Brien riding Camelot (GB) win the Group 1 Irish Derby at Curragh racecourse on June 30, 2012 in Kildare, Ireland. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Camelot (GB), winner of the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Epsom Derby, leads a field of 11 in Saturday's Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes at Doncaster, the final leg of the English Triple Crown. While the Triple Crown doesn't typically garner the attention that its American counterpart does, due primarily to scheduling, conditions and other factors, this year's run by Camelot looks to end an over 40 year drought. Not since the great Nijinsky swept the Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger in 1970 has a horse successfully navigated all three races.
At a mile and three-quarters, the St Leger Stakes is a stern stamina test in the final leg of the English Triple Crown. Camelot is the heavy, heavy favorite to win the St. Leger, with some U.K. bookmakers offering him at odds as low as 1/3.
|Group 1 Ladbrokes St Leger Stakes; Post Time: 3:40pm BST|
|3||1||Encke||M. Barzalona||M. Al Zarooni||33/1|
|7||2||Thomas Chippendale (IRE)||T. Queally||H. Cecil||25/1|
|8||3||Thought Worthy||W. Buick||J. Gosden||11/1|
|6||4||Michelangelo (GB)||F. Dettori||J. Gosden||12/1|
|9||5||Ursa Major (IRE)||J. Murtagh||T. Carmody||20/1|
|5||6||Main Sequence||T. Duncan||D. Lanigan||8/1|
|1||7||Camelot (GB)||J. O'Brien||A. O'Brien||2/5|
|2||8||Dartford||R. Havlin||J. Gosden||300/1|
|4||9||Guarantee (GB)||P. Makin||W. Haggas||16/1|
Let's take a look at the potential field for Saturday's St Leger Stakes:
Group 1 St Leger Stakes
1 ¾ Miles
Standing on the brink of history, Camelot has swept all five of his career races, including the 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and Irish Derby in 2012. His Derby win was quite strong as he was a full five lengths clear of runner-up Main Sequence at the wire. In his prior races, he's tended to sit comfortably near the rear of the field before commencing a late run in the final quarter mile. In the Irish Derby, even though the field was quite small (just five horses), he still settled near the rear; with a race that appears to have much more pace than the Irish Derby, Camelot should once again find himself near the back of the pack during the early parts of the race.
A son of Galileo (IRE), Chamonix will try group company for the first time in the St Leger after a couple of wins against soft competition in Ireland. He was an impressive winner in a listed race at Galway in his last start while going 12 furlongs over ground rated "Heavy". It's tough to see this colt stepping up to win at this level.
Hmmm. Dartford. This colt has raced seven times and has yet to taste the fruits of victory. Yep, he's a maiden running in the Group 1 St Leger. He is purely a rabbit.
Another American-bred in the field, this one by Kingmambo. Encke has run credibly against Group 2 and Group 3 horses in his last two starts but hasn't won at this level and has yet to beat a horse anywhere near the quality of Camelot.
One of the more solid rivals in the field, Guarantee is 4-3-1-0 lifetime and has won three straight races including his last race at 14 furlongs at York. This will be his first test against group company.
Guarantee typically does very little running in the early stages of the race and will be looking to pick up the pieces in the final furlongs.
6-Imperial Monarch (IRE)
A classy colt that comes into the St Leger following a win in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp in mid-July. That race came over ground rated as "Soft", a condition that seems to suit him to a "T". In his four career races, his three wins have come over ground rated "Soft", "Heavy" and "Yielding to Soft". If the ground were to come up on the soft side on Saturday the chances of Imperial Monarch would improve greatly. On the other hand, if the ground is "Good" or better, he'll have a much tougher task.
Second to Camelot in the Derby on June 2nd, Main Sequence is the clear alternative to Camelot with U.K. bookmakers at approximate odds of 7/1. He's struggled a bit since the race at Epsom, finishing 4th to Imperial Monarch in the G1-Grand Prix de Paris and 2nd to Thought Worthy in the G2-Great Voltigeur Stakes.
Won a listed stake at Goodwood in late May but finished 3rd to Noble Mission and Encke in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes in late July over the same course.
9-Thomas Chippendale (IRE)
This Sir Henry Cecil trainee should be up near the front of the pack in the early stages as he attempts to use his early speed to his advantage over what should be a less testing surface. He won the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot in late June over "Soft" ground but was a disappointing 5th at 4/1 odds in the G2-Great Voltigeur at York.
This colt is one of the more interesting contenders in this field. He's an American-bred, a son of Dynaformer out of a Diesis mare (Vignette) and he comes into the St Leger off of a win in the Group 2 Voltigeur Stakes at York on August 22nd. He beat fellow rivals Main Sequence, Encke and Thomas Chippendale that day. He ran in the Epsom Derby back on June 2nd but was a well-beaten fourth to Camelot, eleven lengths behind at the wire.
11-Ursa Major (IRE)
Ursa Major is another colt that appears to absolutely crave soft and/or heavy ground. He's raced six times in his career, the first two over a standard track and the last four over grass. He won the Group 3 Irish St Leger Trial Stakes on August 25th over ground rated "Soft to Heavy". This 1 ¾ mile distance shouldn't be an issue if the ground is to his liking.
It's tough to see any other horse stopping Camelot's coronation on Saturday but, as is typical, anything can happen in horse racing. The biggest issue appears to be the ground; there are several colts in this field that have the ability to run a big race against the favorite but only if the ground is to their liking. With a current rating of "Good to Firm" it will likely be very tough for horses like Ursa Major or Imperial Monarch to put forth their top effort.
Given the microscopic odds on Camelot there is little money to be made betting on the favorite, but perhaps there will be some opportunities in the North American exacta pools. If the ground continues to be on the firm side, it might be smart to toss the soft turf horses and look for value with the horses proven over firmer footing.