The Paul Mulrennan column: Kew Gardens rates pick in St Leger

By Paul Mulrennan
Fri 14 Sep 2018

Racing UK ambassador Paul Mulrennan gives his thoughts on the St Leger, Too Darn Hot, his Portland fancies, Irish Champions Weekend and more.

I am a big fan of the William Hill St Leger and I remember riding in it a few years ago when I was eighth aboard Dandino behind Arctic Cosmos.

That horse then took me to a Japan Cup, which was a tremendous experience. Those who crab the world's oldest Classic need only look at the strength of last year’s race and the event looks like it is forging ahead.

This year’s race looks a cracker and I like the chances of Aidan O’Brien’s Kew Gardens.

I know he was beaten by Old Persian, who he meets again, in the Great Voltigeur at York last time, but Doncaster is more of a test, will be on softer ground than on the Knavesmire, and I think the son of Galileo will appreciate the trip.

The key to him is that they are riding him differently than earlier in the season. Ryan Moore held him up when he won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot, and the same tactics worked a treat when he won the Group One Grand Prix de Paris.

Lah Ti Dar looks the main danger and she was very impressive at York when she won the Galtres Stakes by 10 lengths. She can only get better as that performance was off a three-month layoff but at the trip and on the ground I think the colt edges it.

Too Darn Hot looks real deal:

Another star attraction at Doncaster will be Too Darn Hot in what looks a good edition of the Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes.

From what I have seen of him, he really looks the part. Much like when you would walk into a boxing gym and would easily pick out Mike Tyson, he has the look of a real athlete about him.

He has the physique of a proper racehorse, the muscles and the walk and looked good when he beat Royal Ascot winner Arthur Kitt last time at Sandown.

I was impressed with how rival Dark Vision came from the position that he did when he won at Glorious Goodwood. He didn’t have the best of runs, had to come from way back and won what looked a good renewal of the Vintage Stakes.

To do that he must be a good horse. You could make a case for Acomb winner Phoenix Of Spain, too, but he probably has to step up a bit to trouble the front two.

Open Wide worth a second look:

For me, one of the most interesting races at Doncaster is the William Hill Portland Handicap. It is run over the intermediate distance of five and half furlongs and, on the prevailing good to soft ground, it is better to have a horse who stays six furlongs, rather than one who likes five and steps up.

Michael Dods’s Holmeswood has a tremendous chance. He has been running well all year and his last run at York behind El Astronaute has already worked out after that horse was just beaten in the Listed Scarborough Stakes on Town Moor on Thursday.

Silvestre De Sousa will have options, too, from stall nine:

One who could also be a little overpriced, though, is Open Wide. He doesn’t win that often but a big field handicap over this distance is perfect.

I rode him in to third place at Haydock in the summer, after which I told Amanda Perrett that he needs pulling back. He won next time out over five and has largely been kept to it.

He will benefit from the first-time headgear and he likes the hurly burly of a handicap. He should see little daylight as Doncaster is narrower than some of the other courses he has run at.

With sprinters, it is often the best time to catch them when something has changed. He will need to be produced in the final 100 yards, but at Doncaster there is no finer jockey than Andrea Atzeni, who has such a tremendous strike-rate.

Irish Champions Weekend:

Saturday’s card at Leopardstown looks special and Roaring Lion has really progressed and looks to have a great shout in the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes.

Much like his rider, Oisin Murphy, he has really come of age this season. It is as if they have come along together. Murphy needed to iron out a few kinks, but he is only 23 and has really benefited from riding more at the top level. He is a young man under a fair amount of pressure and has handled it well.

Seeing Alpha Centauri again in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes is also a bonus, and she has been one of the stars of the season. Colm O’Donoghue is an under-rated jockey, who has ridden all over the world.

Dale Gibson and Irene Rogers:

I have been to several racecourses during my recuperation from injury and I was at Thirsk the other day to see their new owners and trainers restaurant and bar.

They have fitted it out beautifully and it is up there with the best in the country. They have already revamped the weighing room for us jockeys and the facilities there are top of the range.

It was great to see the other day Dale Gibson take his last ride in the Doncaster Legends race. He has been a key part of the event, that has now raised over £1 million for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.

I have seen at first hand what that money can do, as I have been using Jack Berry House both to train in the past couple of weeks and will continue to do so during my physiotherapy sessions after my injury.

Lastly, I just want to say it was very sad news to hear that Irene Rogers has died, aged 63.

She was the secretary to the Professional Riders Insurance Scheme for 17 years and made sure jockeys did not feel any financial stress when they could not ride. She always was a lovely lady and very helpful.

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