Five things we learnt on Saturday - Defoe will stay St Leger trip

By Geoffrey Riddle@Louchepunter
Sat 19 Aug 2017

From Defoe's victory in the Betfred Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury to Perth putting up the sold out signs, Geoffrey Riddle rounds-up the Saturday action.

By Geoffrey Riddle

Defoe will stay the St Leger trip:

A day after Harbour Law produced a huge upset in the final St Leger sponsored by Ladbrokes last year Defoe edged his maiden at Ffos Las, having been sent off the 30-100 favourite.

Sheikh Mohammed Obaid’s three-year-old is now no better than 8-1 for the Doncaster Classic next month, after he stepped up in trip with some authority to land the Betfred Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Defoe is now four from four this campaign, but where we already knew he was a promising horse we now know that he is likely to last home on Town Moor on September 16.

The Geoffrey Freer was two and half furlongs further than he had ever run at 1m5f61y, and although he drifted slightly to hamper Josephine Gordon and Wall Of Fire to trigger a Stewards’ Enquiry the victory was never seriously in doubt. Whether the 8-1 is value, however, is open to debate.

John Gosden’s Cracksman heads the beating at 11-8 for next week’s Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.

Although connections have ruled out a tilt at the final Classic of the season should Cracksman win on the Knavesmire the trainer who has saddled four St Leger winners will have a tough decision to make. He also has Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius entered.

Like Stradivarius, Crystal Ocean, who was so impressive at Goodwood a fortnight ago is due to head straight to Doncaster. Capri, the Irish Derby winner, is enterd at York, but could also go straight to the world's oldest Classic.

With that in mind it might be best to wait for the dust to settle after the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival before wading in to the St Leger market.

Absence is no obstacle to success:

There were two standout training performances on Saturday at either end of the country. Tim Easterby conjured Mattmu to an unlikely 25-1 success in the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap. Barely 20 minutes later Owen Burrows sent out Massaat to shrug off a 373-day layoff to win the Betfred Hungerford Stakes at Newbury.

Mattmu finished last at Doncaster a fortnight ago, having been off the track for over a year following a failure to cover enough mares at stud.

Whatever he lacks in virility, he does not want for talent and he recalled what was required of him in one of the most competitive handicaps of the season. The five-year-old was in the lead at halfway and held off Ripon specialist Pipers Note by three quarters of a length.

In his pomp Mattmu was a Group Two winner and was running off a mark of 100, which was 15lbs lower than his highest mark.

Burrows admitted in the lead-up to the Hungerford that Massaat was ring-rusty but like he did before the 2000 Guineas last season when second to Galileo Gold, the trainer gave Massaat a tune up on Charlie Hills’s gallop in Lambourn. It worked.

Hungerford winner surely will need further:

Ante-post quotes were flying around after the Hungerford Stakes for Massaat and Burrows was in no position after the race to nominate a future target.

Running horses over an inadequate trip on comeback is a well-known tactic and it worked a treat for Jim Crowley’s mount.

Massaat held a Derby entry from early on, and ran in the Epsom spectacle but failed to stay and finished ninth, but never looked happy at the idiosyncratic course.

Before the Derby Burrows was considering running the son of Teofilo in the French equivalent, however, but Massaat is only entered in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Qipco British Champions Day on October 21 and is 16-1.

Burrows did not discount a run in the Prix de la Foret at Chantilly at the Qatar Prix de l'Arc meeting, which is also a Group One, and underlined that rain-softened going is a pre-requisite.

Massaat is an entire still, however, and surely a stallion-making victory on Qipco British Champions Day would be more alluring for her high-profile owner?

St George none the worse for Big Orange duel:

Order Of St George showed Aidan O’Brien was right to give him some rest and recuperation after his bruising tussle with Big Orange at Royal Ascot when he ran out a facile winner of the Irish St Leger Trial at the Curragh.

Order Of St George was sent off the 1-2 favourite for a race he had won twice previously, and with a furlong to go Ryan Moore took up the running and put four and three quater lengths on Rekindling.

Moore reminded everybody afterwards that his mount finished third in last season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, but Order Of St George did not win again last season after his St Leger Trial victory 12 months ago.

He was beaten by Wicklow Brave at the Curragh, and Found and Highland Reel at Chantilly and then was only fourth in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day.

Order Of St George was clipped by bookmakers to go three better at Ascot in October, and is now 5-2 for the Long Distance Cup ahead of Ascot conqueror Big Orange at 5-1 and Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius at 8-1.

O’Callaghan should call Perth for the answers:

Perth put up signs on all the avenues to the racecourse telling anybody who did not have a ticket to come.

CEO Hazel Peplinski told this website on Friday that she was trying to avoid ‘bedlam’ as her course had sold all 10,000 tickets.

It was Perth’s only Saturday fixture of the year - next season they are due to have two, and perhaps Irish trainer Michael O’Callaghan should put in a phone call to the Scottish racecourse in the morning.

O’Callaghan asked Twitter on Saturday afternoon what he thought would get more people racing. Perth obviously know the answer.

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