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Hoping to make it Count in the William Hill St Leger

14 Sep 2017

Oisin Murphy Doncaster

The QIPCO British Champions Series roadshow rolls into Doncaster this week and that’s great news for me as it’s a track that I absolutely love. It’s a beautiful big flat galloping course with a long straight that allows us jockeys plenty of time to make our move at the business end of the race. You don’t see too many hard luck stories on Town Moor, that’s for sure.

From a racing fan’s perspective, it’s got all bases covered because there’s a lovely mix of prestigious Group races, exciting maidens and a Classic in the William Hill St Leger to whet the appetite.

The Leger is undoubtedly the highlight of the week and this year it looks a truly smashing renewal. The line-up is full of talent and you can make a pretty solid case for a number of the contenders.

My ride Count Octave comes into the race with a bit to find on ratings with the market principals but he’s still on an upward curve and has excellent stamina; which is one thing you need in spades for this race.

Whatever happens on Saturday I have no doubt he’ll make a lovely four-year-old for Andrew (Balding) to go to war with in the staying division next season.

Of the rest, I really like the profile of Defoe as he’s progressed through the ranks this season. He’ll definitely stay the trip and Andrea (Atzeni) was pretty sweet about him the last time he rode him at Newbury. Coronet is the other interesting contender for me as she’ll be getting a very handy allowance from the colts and Frankie clearly rates her highly, as he’s chosen her over impressive Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius.

Before the Classic action begins I have a busy Friday on Town Moor to look forward to, starting aboard Sibilance for Ralph Beckett. I ride work a lot for this team and so I’ve seen quite a bit of this filly on the gallops. She had her excuses the last time she ran and, in my opinion, is better than her current handicap mark. This looks a particularly strong renewal of the Sceptre Stakes though, but hopefully she can step up and finish in the frame.

Next up I get aboard Series winner Montaly in the Doncaster Cup.

I actually watched him win the Lonsdale Cup last time out from the weighing room at Newmarket and the disappointment of missing out on the ride clearly gave me a little motivation as I went on to ride a four-timer that day!

He’s a very talented individual and isn’t as complicated a ride as his late surging finishes at Chester and York would suggest he is.

There’s set to be plenty of pace in the race, with High Jinx likely to want to lead, and that should allow me to drop my lad into the middle of the pack and track the pace. Fingers crossed I can keep him covered and the pieces will fall into place on the home straight. He’s in great order at home and we’re very optimistic of a big run.

I must also add that I was thrilled to see that Rosie Jessop has been given the leg up on my old friend Pallasator in the race. She’s been his work rider for quite some time at Sir Mark Prescott’s and this is a lovely gesture by the owners for giving her the chance to get on board. She’s a very accomplished rider in her own right and could well be the key to unlocking his talent again on the big stage.

I then swap experience for youth as I partner the unraced Military Law in the maiden for John Gosden. I haven’t sat on him at home but his profile is, on paper at least, very striking indeed. He’s sired by Dubawi and his dam was a multiple winner rated 106; so you’d be very hopeful of him having a bit of talent.

That said, this will be his first racecourse experience so my focus will be on getting him relaxed and comfortable with the racing environment. It’ll be nice to see how he gets on.

I then finish the day on Lawless Secret for Simon Crisford. He shocked a few by winning his only career start at Windsor at 80/1 on soft ground; but the form of the race has actually worked out pretty well. I certainly think he’ll run well off a nice low weight and having got form on easy ground should be there or thereabouts.

Onto the weekend and my first ride on Saturday is aboard the evergreen Line of Reason for sprint specialist trainer Paul Midgely. This will remarkably be his 12th run of the season, so he’s been on the go for quite some time. His last few runs have been below par and not a true reflection of his talent; but the handicapper doesn’t seem to want to lower his mark too much and he carries a fair weight in this race.

Next up I ride Acclaim who’s a proven performer at Group level over both 6 furlongs and a mile. He’s been consistently pitched in at the deep end and has always run with credit. He was second in France recently which should set him up nicely for a big run and the seven furlongs at Doncaster should suit him down to a tee.

After the Leger, I get the leg up on Ventura Knight for Mark Johnston. He’s been saved for this having originally been entered to run on Wednesday before the softer going was confirmed.

There’s bits and pieces of rain around but if the ground comes up good then I’d think there’s a good possibility he’ll take his chance. If lining up he’ll have to shoulder top weight but I wouldn’t worry about that on any Mark Johnston two-year-old as they always seem to be so genuine and tough.

Master Carpenter then goes in the penultimate race on the card. The key to this horse is soft ground – he absolutely loves it! The last time he raced on anything with soft in the description he absolutely bolted up at York and if it’s testing on Saturday he’ll have a really good chance.

To round the Festival off I ride the inappropriately named Game Starter for Saeed bin Suroor. He won very impressively last time out and has consequently taken a 10lb hike in the handicap.

Everyone is very happy with him at home and hopefully he can show us he’s capable of progressing again.

HORSE TO FOLLOW: Herecomesthesun – A really lovely two-year-old filly trained by Archie Watson that won first time out last week at Salisbury. She’s been brought along slowly and has still got plenty of scope for further improvement. They’ll be aiming her at Group races in future, I’m sure.