The St. Leger Stakes at Doncaster is obviously the highlight of Saturday’s terrestrial racing coverage, but with the favourite, Camelot, currently on offer at odds of 2/5 or shorter, the race makes only limited appeal from a betting perspective.
Nevertheless, armchair punters still have plenty of potential betting opportunities, with the Portland Handicap (3.00 Donc), the Park Stakes (4.15 Donc) and the Corbettsports.com Handicap (2.10), at Chester, all looking competitive affairs.
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For a race of its nature, the Portland Handicap (3.oo Donc), run over 5 furlongs 140 yards, is a fair, if not exceptional, race for favourites. Two favourites, Poet’s Place in 2010 and Halmahera in 2002, have won in the last 10 years, although the average starting price of the winner in that period was over 12/1.
This year, the market is headed by Ronald Harris’ 4-year-old, Prodigality, who has yet to finish out of the first two in five starts this season. The son of Pivotal travelled well throughout when winning the Brighton Bullet Handicap over 6 furlongs three starts ago and was beaten only a short head in the William Hill Silver Trophy Handicap off his revised handicap mark next time.
He was beaten at odds-on on his most recent start, but a return to faster ground should show him in a better light. He certainly looks one for any shortlist at odds of around 7/1.
Another runner who should be suited by a return to faster ground is Roger Charlton’s 3-year-old, Rex Imperator. The son of Royal Applause looked a decent prospect when winning easily at Windsor in June and has had plausible excuses in defeat on his three runs since. He pulled too hard at Newmarket in July, was denied a clear run at York in August and was staying on when hampered at Bath last time.
Making excuses for beaten horses can be an expensive game, but today could well be his day and he looks good value at around 10/1 to make amends for his recent ill-luck.
Immediately after the St. Leger, the Park Stakes (4.15 Donc) features four Group 2 winners, in the form of Libranno, Penitent, Soul, Strong Suit and Lethal Force. Richard Hughes was criticised by some observers for his riding of Strong Suit when he failed by just ¼ length to overhaul the 25/1 outsider Lethal Force in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on his penultimate start. However, Strong Suit appeared to need every inch of 7 furlongs that day and may need to step up to a mile.
He ran respectably when reverting to 6 furlongs in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock last Saturday, but it would no surprise if Lethal Force beat him again here, along with Majestic Myles, Pastoral Player, Soul and Libranno, who all finished behind him at Newbury. Forcing tactics seem to suit Lethal Force and he may still have more improvement in him. His current odds of around 5/1 make plenty of appeal.
Over at Chester, the Corbettsports.com (2.10) Handicap looks best left to David Evans’ recent course and distance winner, Verse Of Love. The 3-year-old has won three of his last four starts and, although 4lbs higher than when winning by a short head here two weeks ago, apprentice Katia Scallan takes off a valuable 5lbs.
He has made all on his last two starts and is well positioned, in stall 4, to put front-running tactics to good use once again. Everything appears to be in his favour and he looks a good bet to complete the hat-trick.