Declan Rix

Declan Rix has takes a closer look at Saturday's St Leger, flagging two overpriced horses with sound collateral form.

  • Friday 11 September
  • Blog
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Berkshire can get a piece of Leger pie

On form, there is a strong case to say brilliant Great Voltigeur Stakes winner Pyledriver (121+) could be shorter in the betting (3/1) for Saturday’s Pertemps St Leger. William Muir’s stable star put on one of the performances of the season when winning by 3½ lengths at York, all while carrying a penalty in a race where nice horses could barely lead him to the two-furlong pole.

Under Martin Dwyer, the son of Harbour Watch picked up in fine style, quickened and simply wasn’t for catching. I thought Pyledriver idled when in front, too, suggesting he wasn’t a tired horse, an element of the performance that should give his supporters hope at Doncaster.

That said; Pyledriver is far from a slow horse and he tends to travel well in his races. Stamina is obviously a concern, but I’m a big believer in ability carrying a horse when certain variables may not be in their favour; and on what he have seen this season so far of the Leger field, Pyledriver is easily the best horse in race.

The Coolmore/Ballydoyle partnership run three horses – Dawn Patrol, Mythical and Irish Derby winner Santiago (111+). We are not privy to what tactics the Ballydoyle jockeys will employ - likely to help Santiago - but it would be a surprise if either Dawn Patrol and/or Mythical don’t go at least a good, even gallop.

As we saw in the Queen’s Vase – run on soft ground off a good gallop – Santiago is a strong stayer over 14f who can also travel well so, in my mind at least, it makes sense for Team O’Brien to go a good gallop; both to allow the son of Authorized to settle and also bring his stamina into play.

With how quickly Santiago hit the gates in the Goodwood Cup – too quick for his trainer’s liking – Frankie Dettori may well be instructed to miss a beat as the stalls open and go looking for cover while held-up. This could see Berkshire Rocco (110+) sit in front of Santiago on Saturday, having chased him when the pair clashed at Royal Ascot in the Queen’s Vase.

This day, Santiago comfortably held Berkshire Rocco by 2¾ lengths at the line, but I do think there is a solid case to say Andrew Balding’s inmate can get closer to his Royal meeting nemesis; and when you consider Santiago is 3/1 and Berkshire Rocco 33/1, the latter could prove to be a good value each-way bet.

A small tweak in tactical positions make eke into some of the 2¾ lengths, but contrasting ground conditions may allow Berkshire Rocco to close the gap even further. At Ascot, conditions were surely too soft for Berkshire Rocco to show his best when you assess the son of Sir Percy’s fluent action. On the other hand, Santiago is a big horse with quite a knee action who hits the ground quite hard.

The going at Doncaster has been getting quicker with each day and with Roderick Duncan – clerk of the course on Town Moore – saying he won’t water, with a dry forecast, come 3.35 on Saturday, the ground at Doncaster might well be good to firm. This may well suit Berkshire Rocco better than Santiago.

Those are two factors why I feel Berkshire Rocco may close the gap, but in form terms, the 3yo looks to have improved again from his Queen’s Vase run. In the Great Voltigeur, Berkshire Rocco put up a career best effort, improving on his Ascot run. OK, he was hammered by Pyledriver, but finished on the heels of Highland Chief and Mogul; two useful colts.

I found it quite interesting Berkshire Rocco was well-supported throughout the day before his run at York - suggesting he had maybe improved at home - and while he ran well, he did so without any cover throughout, but still got to three-furlong pole holding every chance. He didn’t have the closing kick of Pyledriver, but he is sure to thrive over the extended 1m6f trip on Saturday, when Pyledriver may not.

Owen Burrows’s inmate Hukum (112p) also deserves serious respect as he looks one of the most progressive horses in the race. The son of Sea The Stars has only raced twice this year – four in career total – and has won both.

The form of his Royal Ascot King George V Stakes success looks strong handicap form but in the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury, Hamdan Al Maktoum’s horse took a huge step forward, bolting up 2½ lengths, once again showing decent closing pace, like he did at Ascot.

He has yet to race in a strong-run contest this season and both efforts have come on ground with juice in it, on the back of significant time off. I can’t see why he won’t adapt to both a strong gallop and good to firm going, but staying in a likely stronger-run race up in class is something he needs to prove, this time, off a 28-day break.

He came out well in Simon Rowlands’s race analysis however, and you can read that here.

Joseph O’Brien’s Irish raider Galileo Chrome (106p) has been well supported this week and comes here on the back of a convincing career best; but while he is likely to stay, I do wonder if one more race just would have brought him along further; as for me, he looks like he needs to improve more than his current market odds (11/2) suggest.

Subjectivist (110) may struggle in the closing stages on the quickening ground off the back of a tough prep at Goodwood, but along with Berkshire Rocco, if there is another potential sleeper in the race, it is David Simcock’s Mohican Heights(104p) (25/1).

If would be naïve to completely rule him out, considering two runs back, he was just 4 lengths behind Pyledriver in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, in a race where he was in the worst tactical position when David Simcock’s string weren’t firing on all cylinders.

His Derby run, like so many in the field on the day, can be forgiven, but it is interesting he was only half-a-length behind Pyledriver (obviously since improved significantly and hated the track) here, despite stumbling quite badly out of the gates.

On pedigree, he should thrive over this type of trip and with Jamie Spencer doing the steering and David Simcock among the winners, he is another who looks overpriced on collateral form with one of the market leaders, just like Berkshire Rocco does.

It’s a fascinating race this year, with those to the head of the market all having questions to answer at the prices. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all plays out, and you’ll be able to watch it live on Sky Sports Racing

Declan Rix
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