Handicappers' blog

The head handicappers at the BHA give their verdict on the pick of the action from the Leger Festival at Doncaster, headed by Logician’s victory in the world’s oldest classic.

  • Wednesday 18 September
  • Blog
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LEGER JOY FOR LOGICIAN

Logician’s success in the St Leger – a sixth win in the race for Frankie Dettori and fifth for trainer John Gosden - was the highlight of the St Leger Festival. Matthew Tester assesses the season’s final Classic…

LOGICIAN went into the William Hill St Leger a worthy favourite but with some questions to answer.  He was racing over two and a half furlongs further than he had tried before. His style of racing suggested that he would cope; but his mother had done all her winning at a mile and her mother had done all her winning at seven furlongs. Logician’s father is Frankel.

Connections had also expressed concerns that this big horse might not like the quick ground. Unbeaten in four starts prior to Doncaster, one of them a Group 2, could Logician step up to Group 1 level and show his best? The simple answer is “yes”, breaking the track record in the process, but racing is rarely simple.

The race was actually full of questions beforehand and, to some extent, still is.

Sir Dragonet had been narrowly beaten when fifth in the Derby, a performance which merited a rating of 117, but had lost his only race since which was over ten furlongs. Could he run to his best? Il Paradiso had finished only a little over a length behind Stradivarius when third in the Lonsdale Cup over two miles last time. But Stradivarius only seems to pull out enough to win and the other two opponents that day each bled after the race. Dashing Willoughby had won over fourteen furlongs but his form at twelve furlongs looked better.

And then there was Sir Ron Priestley. He was rated at 108 before the race compared with Logician’s 115 but, the winner of five of his last six races, could he improve enough?

After the race most things looked clearer. Sir Ron Priestley does look to have improved again in finishing second. Sir Dragonet did not reproduce over the Leger trip on fast ground what he had in the Derby and on easy ground at Chester. Dashing Willoughby faded and still looks better at twelve furlongs. Il Paradiso had everything his own way but seemed to lack the speed to cope when the others quickened. But what about the winner, Logician?

He won, and he won with authority. The winning margin of two and a quarter lengths would typically be treated as three pounds superiority over the Leger trip. The second and third (Nayef Road) were separated by only one hundredth of a second and each of them went into the race rated 108. So a bare appraisal might make Logician as low as 111 for the win. That would be a very low figure historically for a Leger winner and surely wouldn’t do Logician justice.

It seems much more likely that Sir Ron Priestley and Nayef Road have run career-best performances in their first Group1 race. I moved them up to 112 each but one could make a case for them being 110. There is also one piece of evidence that they should be 114. Ratings are only ever our best expression of merit based on the information available at the time. There is no “correct” answer and the level of the race could move up or down based on subsequent performances. As for Logician, I moved his rating up to 117, believing that he won more decisively than the bare minimum of three pounds would suggest. In the five most recent St Legers the winner had been credited with figures between 114 and 120, with 117 the median figure.

My personal belief is that Logician won despite the fast ground and the extended distance. There is no reason why this figure of 117 is anywhere close to the maximum that he will achieve in his career.  He has only raced five times, has improved with every run and is a big horse who has not yet finished maturing. I suspect that he will be kept to twelve furlongs in future and that ground this fast will never be perfect for him. I also suspect that he will be capable of performing well into the 120s next year, which would make the Arc a real possibility.  But only if Enable has retired!

THREAT DEFIES PENALTY IN CHAMPAGNE STAKES

Doncaster staged the latest round of pattern races in the British juvenile season and, unsurprisingly, Threat proved the star of the show with his Pommery Champagne Stakes success, writes Graeme Smith...

THREAT, Richard Hannon’s chestnut, was the pick on form going in, with his Gimcrack success having earned him a rating of 113, and he didn’t have to better that by much to add a second Group 2 to his portfolio.

With a false pace leading to a bunched finish (speed figure of just 77) the level of form was rather limited, but the 3-lb penalty Threat shouldered for that success at York upgraded his performance and left him just 1 lb off the average winner of recent years at 114. There’s no doubt he’s an admirable juvenile and a stronger tempo to help him settle might bring about even more improvement.

Royal Crusade ran to a figure of 109 on only his second start and was just a neck off Threat, having travelled into things just as well as the winner. There’s probably also an upside to the third-placed Juan Elcano. He looks more of a galloper than the first two and a stiffer test of stamina promises to help.

The William Hill May Hill Stakes attracted a couple of previous pattern winners in West End Girl and Boomer. The former failed to fire for whatever reason but the latter’s Prestige Stakes win had been endorsed a couple of times, including by Stylistique in the earlier nursery, and another good run on her part in finishing second provided substance to POWERFUL BREEZE’s winning performance of 105. Interestingly, that was exactly the figure historical standards for the race suggested.

I’d been unconvinced as to the depth of the novice Powerful Breeze won at Newmarket last month but she’d recorded a fairly useful time as well as stringing the field out that day. Having taken this step up to Group 2 company in her stride, the next step for her is surely a Group 1, with the Fillies’ Mile looking an obvious target. Incidentally, the average performance of the winner from the last five years of that race is 114.

My colleague Chris Nash assessed A’ALI’s Wainwright Flying Childers success and has him running 3 lb off the 112 he’d achieved in the Prix Robert Papin.

MOLATHAM produced a useful performance elevated to listed company in the Weatherbys Global Stallions App Flying Scotsman Stakes. This was another false test and busy finish, but he didn’t seem as hard pushed as the half-length margin suggests so may well improve again from a slightly substandard winning figure of 102.

Of course, the performance of the last week or so in the two-year-old division was undoubtedly Pinatubo’s blistering success in the National Stakes at the Curragh. In fact, it could well be the performance of the decade. As Sunday forms part of the next racing week I’m unable to look at that until after the Doncaster ratings have been filed but suffice to say I’m well aware of the style he did it in and the scorching time he clocked. Watch this space…

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