The Duke’s Weekend Review

Imagine for a moment that you run F1. You wouldn’t put two Grands Prix on the same weekend would you?

Makes sense not to put two big events on at the same time. Try telling that to the masterminds who put Irish Champions Weekend on the same calendar date as the St Leger. Doncaster’s feature race of the year and the final English Classic of the season plays second fiddle to the races at Leopardstown.

Sure, the card in Ireland starts as things begin to wind down in Doncaster but it is still a massive issue. Let’s say Ryan Moore wins the St Leger. Can he stick around for a while, do some media interviews, celebrate? No. He’s on a helicopter halfway across the Irish Sea to get to his rides at Leopardstown.

It means the top jockeys miss at least the first half of the card in Ireland and Doncaster is left wondering where all the stars went. And unless you can hitch a ride in the chopper, you can’t go to both fixtures, splitting the Anglo-Irish racing fans over which meeting to go to. It’s absurd.

Having got that off my chest, the races are really rather good. The St Leger favourite is Lah Ti Dar.

Gosden and Dettori team up with this very well bred filly. She made her rivals look like snails at York and she is bred for a thorough test. Kew Gardens provides some stiff competition. He won a Group 1 in France and stays all day, so he has the ability to win this. The betting has him around 5/2, yet Old Persian beat him in the Great Voltigeur and is 9/1. That’s because there are doubts about whether he will stay the trip. I think Southern France and Nelson are overpriced outsiders given they come from the Ballydoyle yard.

For win purposes, Lah Ti Dar could be something quite special, so she looks a worthy favourite.

The Irish Champion Stakes is the feature at Leopardstown and another John Gosden-trained favourite with Roaring Lion.

He has looked so impressive this season particularly in the Juddmonte International at York a few weeks ago. Saxon Warrior could only manage fourth in that race and it’s hard to see how he can reverse the form. Study Of Man is a French Group 1 winner at a double figure price, so with eight in the race he will draw some each-way support.

It’s not an obvious one but Rhododendron could be a lively outsider at around 25/1. The bug that went round Aidan O’Brien’s yard hit some horses quite hard, so it’s possible she was badly affected. If she is back to her best, she could put this summer’s poor form behind her. She has won three Group 1s in her career including this season’s Lockinge.

While I think Roaring Lion is the one to beat, Rhododendron could be the surprise package.

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